A research team led by University of Calicut scientists has described a new species of agamid lizard from the Indian state of Kerala.
The newly-identified species belongs to Agasthyagama, a previously monotypic genus of diurnal, terrestrial, insectivorous lizards in the family Agamidae.
This genus also includes the Indian kangaroo lizard (Agasthyagama beddomii) from the Indian states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
“Terrestrial agamids from the forests of southern India and Sri Lanka are now classified into two separate genera, Agasthyagama and Otocryptis on genetic and morphological grounds,” said University of Calicut researcher Sandeep Das and colleagues.
“After a long gap, an additional species, Otocryptis nigristigma was described from the dry forests of Sri Lanka.”
“In 2018, scientists showed that the kangaroo lizards from Sri Lanka were paraphyletic with those in the Western Ghats.”
“This prompted them to erect the monotypic genus Agasthyagama, to accommodate Indian Otocryptis beddomii, although without any molecular data for Otocryptis nigristigma.”
Named Agasthyagama edge, the new species is a small-sized agamid lizard between 3 and 4.3 cm in length.
“Agasthyagama edge is the second species from the genus Agasthyagama,” the researchers said.
“It is superficially similar to Agasthyagama beddomii in overall shape, size and color but can be distinguished by combination of characters.”
Agasthyagama edge is currently known only from evergreen forests of Idukki district, Kerala, India. All records of the species are between 636-835 m elevation.
“A greater number of individuals were encountered during March-May months,” the scientists said.
“In disturbed habitats like roadside vegetation, and plantation areas, the numbers were smaller compared to undisturbed vegetation types.”
“Males had a creamy throat patch during the breeding months of March to May. Young ones were observed during June and July.”
“The discovery of a second species of Agasthyagama adds to the ever-increasing reptile diversity in the Western Ghats,” they added.
“Agasthyagama beddomii inhabit various habitat types in its range including myristica swamps, southern hilltop tropical evergreen forests, west coast tropical evergreen forests and west coast tropical semi-evergreen forests and southern secondary moist mixed deciduous forests whereas Agasthyagama edge is so far recorded only from tropical semi-evergreen and evergreen forests.”
“Our study shows that the two species are also geographically separated by approximately 80 km straight line distance.”
The discovery of Agasthyagama edge is described in a paper published in the journal Vertebrate Zoology.
S. Das et al. 2024. Discovery of a new species of kangaroo lizard (Squamata: Agamidae: Agasthyagama) from the southern Western Ghats of India. Vertebrate Zoology 74: 151-168; doi: 10.3897/vz.74.e113084