Scientists Discover A “Cryptic” New Species in Central Africa


Nestled within the lush woodlands of Uganda, a peculiar creature resembling a "dwarf" caught the attention of passing scientists. This pregnant animal sought refuge on a tree trunk, though its attempts were not entirely successful. To the astonishment of the researchers, this encounter led to the discovery of a previously unknown species, shrouded in mystery.

Throughout the year 2015, these dedicated scientists embarked on multiple expeditions into the woodlands of the Karamoja region, situated in the heart of the African continent. Their remarkable findings have been documented in a study published on September 23rd in the prestigious Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society.

According to the study, while conducting their fieldwork, the researchers stumbled upon an intriguing sight - seven lizards gracefully perched on tree trunks. This unexpected encounter piqued their curiosity, prompting them to delve deeper into the characteristics of these reptiles. To their astonishment, they uncovered a previously unknown species, which they named Lygodactylus karamoja, or the Karamoja dwarf gecko.

the Karamoja dwarf gecko

The Karamoja dwarf gecko, as described in the study, can be classified as "large" in comparison to its counterparts, measuring approximately 3 inches in size. Its physique is characterized by a slender body, complemented by a rounded snout. Moreover, the gecko boasts several distinctive "chevrons" adorning its throat, adding to its unique allure.

Captivating photographs of the Karamoja dwarf gecko reveal its distinctive features. Its body is adorned with a rich brown hue, accentuated by white spots running along its back. In some instances, a lighter-colored gecko showcases an almost marbled pattern on its scales. The gecko's eyes, a mesmerizing shade of brown, are adorned with a striking black circular pupil.

the Karamoja dwarf gecko's belly

Underneath its body, the gecko's belly and groin exhibit an array of yellow shades, as depicted in the photographs. A captivating pattern of U and V-shaped stripes adorns its throat, adding to its allure. Researchers have aptly described the Karamoja dwarf gecko as possessing a "cryptic nature." These enchanting creatures are consistently found dwelling on trees and exhibit heightened activity during daylight hours. Interestingly, one pregnant gecko was discovered during the night, adding to the intrigue surrounding this species.

The Karamoja region, situated in northeastern Uganda, shares borders with South Sudan to the north and Kenya to the east. This unique habitat serves as the natural home for the Karamoja dwarf gecko, further emphasizing the significance of this discovery.

According to the study, the new species of gecko was identified based on its distinct size, color pattern, scale pattern, and other noteworthy physical characteristics. The research team, consisting of scientists such as Javier Lobón-Rovira, Aaron Bauer, Pedro Vaz Pinto, Jean-Francois Trape, Werner Conradie, Chifundera Kusamba, Timóteo Júlio, Garin Cael, Edward Stanley, Daniel Hughes, Mathias Behangana, Franck Masudi, Olivier Pauwels, and Eli Greenbaum, employed DNA analysis to determine that this newly discovered gecko exhibits a genetic divergence ranging from approximately 6% to 16% when compared to other dwarf geckos.

the Karamoja dwarf gecko

In addition to this groundbreaking finding, the researchers have also unveiled the existence of four more previously unknown species of dwarf geckos. Among these remarkable discoveries are a gecko inhabiting mountainous regions of considerable size, a gecko adorned with a captivating leopard-like pattern, a gecko thriving in a truly unique habitat, and a large forest-dwelling gecko.

This significant research not only expands our understanding of the diverse gecko species but also highlights the importance of genetic analysis in identifying and classifying new species. The meticulous examination of physical attributes and genetic variations has allowed us to unravel the existence of these fascinating geckos, shedding light on the intricate biodiversity of our natural world.


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