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Page last updated at 12:14 GMT, Wednesday, 24 March 2010
New cryptic gecko species is discovered in Cambodia
By Matt Walker
Editor, Earth News

Cnemaspis neangthyi gecko
Cnemaspis neangthyi reveals itself

A new and extremely well camouflaged species of gecko has been discovered hiding in the forests of Cambodia.

Scientists working for Fauna & Flora International found the olive-green coloured gecko in the foothills of the Cardomom Mountains.

Called Cnemaspis neangthyi, the gecko is only the second species of its kind known to live in the country.

Scientists suspect it has lain hidden for so long due to its camouflage and habit of foraging in rocky crevices.

The new species was found during a reptile and amphibian survey led in June 2007 by Dr Lee Grismer of La Sierra University in Riverside, California, US and conservation organisation Fauna and Flora International (FFI).

Since then, scientific studies have revealed it to be a species new to science, due to its unique combination of colour pattern and scale characteristics.

Gecko (Robert Full/UC Berkeley/PNAS)

There are currently 75 species of Cnemapsis known to science, of which 30 live in South East Asia, with only one other species present in Cambodia.

They have a relatively ancient body plan characterised by a broad flattened head, large forward and upward directed eyes, flattened body, long widely splayed limbs, and long inflected digits that help them to climb trees and rock faces and seek refuge within crevices.

Cnemaspis are diurnal species that usually go unnoticed because of their cryptic coloration and habit of foraging on the shaded surfaces of trees and overhanging rock faces.

Cnemaspis neangthyi was found living in the rocky foothills of Cambodia's Cardamom Mountains, and is thought to live nowhere else.

The new species is olive-green with light coloured blotches containing a central black dot.

It also has a distinct light green chevron marking on its nape and a head with a distinct black parietal spot and radiating black lines extending from its eyes.

Its digits also have light yellow and black bands.

The Cardomom Mountains support one the largest and mostly unexplored forest regions in southeast Asia, which are thought to shelter at least 62 globally threatened animal and 17 globally threatened tree species, many of which are endemic to Cambodia.

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