The Cyrtodactylus and Hemiphyllodactylus geckos hail from just a 90 by 50 kilometer area of the country formally known as Burma.
Evolutionary biologist and herpetologist Dr. Larry Lee Grismer of La Sierra University led a team of researchers in Myanmar that led to the discovery of 12 bent-toed gecko species of the genus Cyrtodactylus and three dwarf geckos from the genus Hemiphyllodactylus.
All 15 species were found in limestone habitats in east-central and southern Myanmar, according to a news report in Fauna & Flora International. The researchers believe the reptiles are restricted to the Karst landscapes and limestone blocks in which they were found. These include caves, towers and hills.
“Although we already knew that some less mobile cave species such as snails and fish were restricted to just one cave or limestone hill, we now know that the same applies to some geckos,” Dr. Tony Whitten, FFI’s senior adviser said in a news report detailing the findings.
Grismer says the discovery is important because all 15 species are from an endangered microhabitat in a country that was cut off from the rest of the world due to decades of civil conflict and war. Some of the lizards were found in rebel-held territory, which is not the most ideal area for conservation efforts.
Grismer notes that the uniquely biodiverse karst habitats of these reptiles are under threat from quarrying by the cement industry and without effective species management, could endanger the animals.
“Hundreds of new species could face extinction without proper management,” Grismer told Fauna & Flora International, “but this [management] cannot happen unless these species are discovered and described – hence why we are ramping up our efforts in these regions.”
A paper describing and naming the new species is set to appear in the Journal of Natural History and the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society.