Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

New Lizard Species Discovered

By Stehen Luntz

Australia’s place as a centre for reptile biodiversity has been confirmed with the identification of two new species.

“The world is rapidly approaching 10,000 reptile species, and Australia is rapidly approaching 1000,” says Dr Paul Doughty of the Western Australian Museum. As Doughty notes, that is an impressive proportion with 5% of the global land mass.

Along with a new species of worm lizard the WA Museum has revealed the cloudy stone gecko, Diplodactylus nebulosus. “The gecko differs from other species in that it has a pattern on its back resembling a cloud or nebula, instead of a straight line like its wheatbelt relatives,” Doherty says.

The cloudy stone gecko lives in the hills east of Geraldton, and prefers gravelly soils, leaving it relatively immune to human influences since these areas have not been heavily cleared. Doughty says the species “seems to be quite common where it lives” and its discovery is an indication of how little is known about reptiles in a sparsely settled country with so many local species.

Although one of the Museum’s specimens was collected up a tree, Doughty says the gecko is not able to climb vertical walls, having lost some of the distinctive gecko footpads. “There is massive diversity in the grippiness of geckos,” he says, “from those that are climbing vertical rocks or smooth-barked eucalyptus trees to some desert species that have lost the grip entirely and are left with just a claw. I guess if you spend your life in sand you don’t want it getting in your toes.”

The cloudy stone gecko is a generalist feeder, living on spiders, insects and cockroaches. “Related species sit a little way up a tree, head pointing down, and wait for something to come past and pounce on it,” says Doughty.