Shocking discovery by Iranian herpetologists

May 23, 2016

TEHRAN — Iranian herpetologists have made the remarkable discovery of new genus and species of gekkonid from two gravid specimens which were found within Koh-e Homag protected area, Hormozgan Province, Southern Iran.

By Farnaz Heidari, M.Sc. of Environmental Science Engineering 

TEHRAN — Iranian herpetologists have made the remarkable discovery of new genus and species of gekkonid from two gravid specimens which were found within Koh-e Homag protected area, Hormozgan Province, Southern Iran.

Even more significantly, these specimens distinguished as a new genus that scientifically described by Iranian scientists not just by solo foreign researchers. Description of new genus is a unique phenomenon.

Appreciating the importance of discovery

With a greater human population density and corresponding development, Iran reptiles declines more and more. Geckos has the greatest number of species and genera in the Palaearctic Realm and equally so in Iran where there are 40 species in 12 genera.

In recent years the number of reptile species of Iran has increased rapidly and descriptions of new species continue to be published. Thirty new lizards have been added between 2000 and 2015, among which are nine species of gekkonids.

Barbod Safaei Mahroo is an Iranian pathfinder herpetologist who leads this project by collaboration of Dr. Hanyeh Ghaffari and his colleague, Professor Steven C. Anderson.

Safaei Mahroo told the Tehran Times that “to appreciate the importance of any given discovery, we must consider it in its scientific context.”

“Herein we describe a new genus and species of gecko from southern Iran, easily distinguishable from all other genera of gekkonid lizards by a unique combination of characters, although we have not identified any autapomorphies,” he noted.

He went on to say that “ordinarily we would be reluctant to name a new monotypic genus; however, assigning this new, distinct species to any existing genus would be arbitrary and would artificially broaden the concept of such a genus without justification.”

Where and how

Field surveys were conducted in June 2015 in Koh-e Homag protected area, between Bandar Abbas and Haji Abad County, Hormozgan Province, Iran.

Holotype is a single physical example or illustration of an organism, known to have been used when the species or lower-ranked taxon, was formally described. The holotype was collected at dusk and the para-type which is a specimen of an organism that helps to define scientific name or taxonomic classification was collected during the night.

Remarkable feature

Geckos are among the smallest lizards and therefore a principal prey species, so their presence is vital for ecosystem. A feature that distinguishes geckos from other lizards and most other reptiles is voices. Geckos can squeak and growl, make rolling trills and issue quite unsettling barking sounds, among other vocalizations.

Inevitably this is part of their nocturnal life and their specific adaptation that has made geckos so successful. Safaei Mahroo and his colleagues’ surveys confirmed that Parsigecko genus is the only endemic genus of Gekkonidae in Zagros Mountains.

Zagros Mountains forest steppe contains numerous endemic lizards but Parsigecko found in an isolated patch of the habitat. Among seven endemic geckos of the Zagros, the new species was found at the highest altitude of 1596–1697 meters. Other geckos occur mostly from 500 to 1500 meters elevation, and Cyrtopodion hormozganum was reported from only 70 meters.

Mission impossible in vertebrate field

During the last 100 years there were no similar gain in zoology field for Iranian researchers. It is also spectacular in the family of Gekkonidae because similar discovery occurred in 1914 and 1957. 

The genus Parsigecko and its sole species, P. ziaiei, can be distinguished from other genera by some specific identification keys such as dorsal scales, post-mental scales, abdominal scales, nasal scales and so on.

The sole species has been named in honor of Iranian famous ecologist Hooshang Ziaiei. He is one of the establishers of Department of the Environment (DoE) and the writer of magnificent field guidebook of “Mammals of Iran”. As a university lecturer, Ziaie has trained many students in the field of wildlife conservation.

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