Most animals use some sort of natural camouflage to avoid predators, thanks to the characteristics of their skin or fur. However, a new gecko species from Madagascar has a unique way of escaping its predators by shedding its scales.
The newly discovered Madagascar gecko species, called Geckolepis, is the first new species to be discovered in the last 75 years. The lizards have large scale similar to those of fish. However, what makes them fascinating is the ability to shed them when they come in contact with high levels of friction such as a predator’s mouth or even a scientist’s hand.
By removing its scales, the new gecko species basically becomes naked and remains so for a few weeks until they regenerate. The scientific community was aware of the existence of such gecko species for around 150 years. However, they have proven quite difficult to study. Nonetheless, the researchers persevered and were able to study them in detail and the mechanism that triggers the shedding of their scales.
The official name of gecko species, Geckolepis megalepis, revealed in a study published in the journal PeerJ, on Tuesday. This species of gecko has the largest scales among its other members of the genus. According to the lead author of the study, Mark Scherz, a herpetology researchers from Germany, the gecko is able to escape from predators more easily due to the size of its scales. Gecko species with smaller scales have a much harder time evading predators.
Despite the excitement of the discovery of a new species of gecko, the animals are only threatened by the increased human activity on the island, which has led to major deforestation. The geckos live in small and fragmented regions on the island, and their survival depends on the preservation of its environment.
For their study, the researchers were able to capture three gecko specimens in the northern region of Madagascar known as the Ankarana Reserve. They were able to classify as an entirely new species after an extensive analysis of its size, shape, scales distribution, and other distinguishing features of its skeleton. They also discovered that regenerating the lost scales, comes at a high metabolic cost for the gecko.
Image source: Frank Glaw