As darkness fell across Thailand, a striped creature with “large” golden eyes settled onto a tree trunk. The scaly animal was pregnant with two eggs.
Passing scientists spotted the mother-to-be — and discovered a new species.
Researchers ventured into a rocky forested area of Satun province at night on several field surveys between 2016 and 2022, according to a study published Sept. 14 in the journal ZooKeys.
Searching around a karst rock formation, researchers found eight golden-eyed lizards on tree trunks, shrubs and boulders, the study said. They looked closer at the animals and realized they’d discovered a new species: Cyrtodactylus sungaiupe, or the Thung Wa bent-toed gecko.
The Thung Wa bent-toed gecko can reach just over 9 inches in size, researchers said. It has “large” eyes, a “triangular” head and “well-developed” claws.
A photo shows the Thung Wa bent-toed gecko. It has golden eyes and a ring of yellow scales around its eyes that almost look like eyelashes. Alternating bands of light brown and dark brown stretch across its back outlined by thin white-yellow lines.
The Thung Wa bent-toed gecko has only been found in the Thung Wa District, a karst forest “surrounded by rubber plantations,” in Satun province the study said. Here, researchers found a pregnant gecko with two “externally visible” eggs.
Researchers said they named the new species “sungaiupe” after “the old name of Thung Wa District (Sungai Upe District).”
While surveying another area of Satun province in 2019, researchers found 12 jade-eyed lizards around a karst rock formation, the study said. Taking a closer look, they realized they’d discovered a second new species: Cyrtodactylus wangkhramensis, or the Wangkhram bent-toed gecko.
The Wangkhram bent-toed gecko can reach about 8.6 inches in size, researchers said. It has “well-developed” claws and a “triangular” head with “large” eyes. The gecko has small bumps scattered across its body.
A photo shows the Wangkhram bent-toed gecko. It has jade green eyes and a ring of yellow eyelash-like scales around its eyes. Thick bands of various shades of brown stretch across its body with dotted white lines in between.
Researchers only found these geckos at night near a rock formation in Tham Wangkhram, the study said. The lizards were perched on boulders, a nearby termite mound and concrete poles as well as a rocky crevice and a vine inside a nearby cave.
The Wangkhram bent-toed gecko was named after the area where it was discovered, researchers said.
Tham Wangkhram and Thung Wa are neighboring districts in Satun province. This province is about 570 miles southwest of Bangkok and along the Thailand-Malaysia border.
The new species were identified by their coloring, scale patterns and size, the study said. DNA analysis found the new species had about 7% genetic variation from each other and at least about 8% genetic variation from other bent-toed geckos.
The research team included Korkhwan Termprayoon, Attapol Rujirawan, L. Lee Grismer, Perry Wood Jr. and Anchalee Aowphol.