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Off the scale: a new species of fish-scale gecko (Squamata: Gekkonidae: Geckolepis) with exceptionally large scales Project ID: 00000C302 Public
6 Media · 6 Specimens · Managed by: Mark D. Scherz

The gecko genus Geckolepis, endemic to Madagascar and the Comoro archipelago, is taxonomically challenging. One reason is its members ability to autotomize a large portion of their scales when grasped or touched, most likely to escape predation. Based on an integrative taxonomic approach including external morphology, morphometrics, genetics, pholidosis, and osteology, we here describe the first new species from this genus in 75 years: Geckolepis megalepis sp. nov. from the limestone karst of Ankarana in northern Madagascar. The new species has the largest known body scales of any gecko (both relatively and absolutely), which come off with exceptional ease. We provide a detailed description of the skeleton of the genus Geckolepis based on micro-Computed Tomography (micro-CT) analysis of the new species, the holotype of G. maculata, the recently resurrected G. humbloti, and a specimen belonging to an operational taxonomic unit (OTU) recently suggested to represent G. maculata. Geckolepis is characterized by highly mineralized, imbricated scales, paired frontals, and unfused subolfactory processes of the frontals, among other features. We identify diagnostic characters in the osteology of these geckos that help define our new species and show that the OTU assigned to G. maculata is probably not conspecific with it, leaving the taxonomic identity of this species unclear. We discuss possible reasons for the extremely enlarged scales of G. megalepis in the context of an anti-predator defence mechanism, and the future of Geckolepis taxonomy.

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  ID Part Object Taxonomy Type Date Added Publication Status  
000020832 zsm:289/2004 Geckolepis megalepis CT Image Series 2017-01-08 Open Download  
000020796 zsm:1520/2008 CT Image Series 2017-01-05 Open Download  
000020792 zsm:2126/2007 Geckolepis megalepis CT Image Series 2017-01-05 Open Download  
000020804 Skull scan zmb:9655 Geckolepis maculata CT Image Series 2017-01-05 Open Download  
000020828 zsm:81/2006 Geckolepis humbloti CT Image Series 2017-01-06 Open Download  
000020791 zsm:80/2010 Geckolepis humbloti CT Image Series 2017-01-05 Open Download  
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