New species of Kangaroo Lizard discovered in India

A reduced fifth toe makes these reptiles poor climbers and hence do not climb trees like other lizards.

In the forests of India’s Western Ghats, a new species of tiny lizards that look like a cross between an Australian kangaroo and a diminutive dragon has been discovered.

Agasthyagama edge or the northern kangaroo lizard, which belongs to the Agamidae family, is known to have a maximum snout-vent length of 4.3 cm.

A reduced fifth toe makes these reptiles poor climbers and hence do not climb trees like other lizards. Instead, they are mostly terrestrial and found in areas with dense leaf litter cover.

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While they feed on small insects, this variety of kangaroo lizard run fast and hide within dry leaves to evade predators.

Image: A female kangaroo lizard from Mararmalai, Kanyakumari District (Photo: Vertebrate Zoology) and an Australian Kangaroo (Source: CANVA)

This Kangaroo Lizard has been discovered by Indian scientists who are working along an international team in the southern Western Ghats at Kulamavu in Idukki.

This new species is the second one of the Agasthyagama genus after A. beddomii or Indian kangaroo lizard that has been previously reported from Sivagiri hills in Tamil Nadu.

The findings of the new discovery have been reported in the scientific journal Vertebrate Zoology.

Image: Dr Sandeep Das, study’s lead author and a postdoctoral fellow at Calicut University (Source: Facebook)

Dr Sandeep Das, study’s lead author and a postdoctoral fellow at Calicut University, says the species was first sighted during an expedition in search of another evasive species, the Mahabali frog or the purple frog.

Image: Agasthyagama edge (Credit: Sandeep Das)

The new species of Kangaroo Lizard has a uniform dull olive-brown body with slightly darker head and a white throat with a broad dark brown stripe on its dewlap with brick yellow scales on the outside.

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Dr Das adds:

“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.”

Image: Agasthyagama edge in life: (A) an uncollected adult male from Kulamavu, Idukki district, Kerala, India; (B) an uncollected female from the same locality (Credit: Sandeep Das)

The new species has been named after the Evolutionary Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE) programme of the Zoological Society of London that has supported several researchers including Dr Das.

The other members of the research team include Dr K. P. Rajkumar of Aranyakam Nature Foundation; Saunak Pal of Bombay Natural History Society; Surya Narayanan of Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment; Dr K. Subin of Kerala Forest Research Institute; Dr Muhamed Jafer Palot, Zoological Survey of India; and Dr V. Deepak the University of Wolverhampton.

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