A bizarre leaf-tailed gecko discovered more than 20 years ago in Madagascar is a previously unknown species. This is reported by a research team led by the Munich scientist Frank Glaw from the Munich State Zoological Collection after many years of work in the specialist journal “Salamandra”.

“When we first discovered the animals in 2000, we already suspected that it was an unknown species,” Glaw is quoted as saying in a statement from the state collection. ‘But describing them scientifically proved difficult. It took many years before we collected enough information to identify them with certainty as a new species.’

Of similarities and differences

One challenge was said to be that the new gecko, scientifically named Uroplatus garamaso, closely resembles another species, Uroplatus henkeli. “This is often the case with the reptiles of Madagascar,” says co-author Jörn Köhler from the Hessian State Museum in Darmstadt. “There are many so-called ‘cryptic species’.”

Important differences: The tip of the tongue is blackish in the previously known species, whereas it is pink in the new species. In addition, the new species is around 20 centimeters long and has a narrower tail. The researchers collected extensive information on the genetics and distribution of the animals and also undertook several expeditions to northern Madagascar.

According to Glaws, leaf-tailed geckos are masters of camouflage and usually look very peculiar. During the day, they rest upside down on tree trunks with their flaps of skin spread out and blend in so seamlessly with their surroundings that they are almost impossible to spot. They wake up at night and roam the branches in search of prey.