Lurking among some rocks on a mountain in Australia, a creature with copper eyes waited for the night to fall. The animal with its patterned scales finally emerged, but neither its camouflage nor the surrounding darkness could keep it hidden.
Scientists hiked up several mountains in Queensland to study wildlife, according to a study published September 11 in the journal Zootaxa.
During the expeditions, co-author Conrad Hoskin began noticing an “other”-like lizard, he told McClatchy News.
Intrigued, researchers captured 17 of these lizards, the study said. Taking a closer look, they realized they had discovered a new species: Amalosia nebula, or the highland zigzag gecko.
The hill zigzag gecko is considered “moderate” in size, reaching about 4.4 inches, researchers said. It has a “narrow” head, “slender” body and copper eyes. Near the base of its tail are several “spurs,” or “large, pointed” spikes.
Photos show the highland zigzag gecko. It merges into the rock face with its brownish-maroon sides and lighter gray back. A spiky line runs down each side, forming a partially aligned zigzag pattern, photos show.
Researchers found the zigzag gecko in the hills in rocky “outcrops on ridges and mountain tops” between about 2,460 feet and about 3,900 feet in elevation. During the day, the geckos hide among the rocks. At night, they moved to the “rock surfaces and tree trunks” to hunt, the study said.
The new species was found in six mountainous areas of north-east Queensland, researchers said. This area, known as the Wet Tropics, is near Cairns, a city about 1,440 kilometers northwest of Sydney.
Researchers named the new species “nebula”, after the Latin word for “cloud”, because of its “elevated, cloudy habitat”. The animal’s common name, “opland”, also refers to its natural habitat.
The new species was identified based on its scale pattern, body shape, color, spores and elevated habitat, the study said. DNA analysis found that the new species had a “high genetic divergence” from other zigzag geckos. Hoskin said the species had “at least 25%” genetic divergence.
The research team included Conrad Hoskin and Patrick Couper. Researchers also discovered four new species of zigzag gecko: a “large” rock-dwelling gecko, a “large” forest gecko, a sap-licking gecko and a small “pale” gecko.
Zigzag geckos are an understudied group of lizards found “across eastern and northern Australia,” researchers said. The geckos are named for the distinctive zigzag pattern that runs down their back.
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