New velvet gecko discovered on one of Australia’s northern islands

Scientists from Griffith University, the Queensland Museum, University of Melbourne and the Northern Territory Government have described a colourful new velvet gecko in the Northern Territory.

This species only occurs in the top end on Groote Eylandt, Australia’s third largest offshore island in the Gulf of Carpentaria.

The Groote Eylandt Velvet Gecko, Oedura nesos, is a large and colourful species with white bands and yellow spots that lives in rock crevices.

The young of the species are even more striking than the adults, with black and bright white bands.

Lead researcher Dr Paul Oliver from the School of Environment and Sciencesaid: “This species was formerly confused with another similar gecko we described in 2016, but we had some clues that it might not be the same.”

“Fortunately, we were able work with researchers from the Northern Territory Government and Traditional Owners and rangers from the Anindilyakwa Land Council to get material for genetic analyses and pictures of the animal in life.”

Dr Graeme Gillespie, from The NT Department of Environment and Natural Resources, who led the work on Groote Eylandt, emphasises that these discoveries highlight the biological significance of Northern Australia’s Islands.

“These islands are critically important refuges for many threatened species like northern hopping mouse and brush-tailed rabbit rat, that are declining on the mainland.”

“We are now discovering that many of them also have their own endemic species that are found nowhere else, and have been completely overlooked until now.”

Chris Jolly from University of Melbourne further emphasised how our understanding of lizard diversity in the top end is continuing to improve.

“I am writing a field guide on reptiles of the Northern Territory, and the list of species is growing so rapidly, I’m struggling to keep up!”

“In the past year alone, nine new species have been described from the Northern Territory.”

“It’s both exciting, and really important, because it means we are continually improving our understanding of the region’s biodiversity.”