California Academy of Sciences study finds 28 new gecko species

ByDan Ashley and Tim Didion KGO logo
Tuesday, January 17, 2023
California Academy of Sciences study finds new gecko species
A new California Academy of Science paper identifies 28 new gecko species despite growing concern over lack of biodiversity in the wild.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The new species documented by the California Academy of Sciences for 2022, run the gamut -- from crusty marine creatures like clam and sea stars, to colorful toads and tiny scorpions. But they say one species of reptile, the humble gecko, jumps out for its biodiversity.

"So what was interesting to me about these, as we described 28 new species in one paper. And that's, that's a rarity. For vertebrates. You might get mites or something where you get that many but to have a vertebrate, where you have that many new species is really exceptional," says Academy research associate Dr. Aaron Bauer.

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Bauer has been working for decades around the island nation of New Calendonia, near Australia. He says that nearly every mountain and valley has its own unique species of the native gecko. But that biodiversity could be facing a specific threat, because New Caledonia's economy is centered heavily on mining. Sparking concerns similar to countries like Brazil where gold mining and deforestation are also adding to pressures on the Amazon habitat, and the species that rely on it.

"Every single place in the island has its own unique species. So you can't go in as a mining company anymore and shave the top off one mountain and sort of say, It's OK, because we've left the rest behind every single place really has its own unique species," he explains.

He says the geckos have evolved independently to survive in the diverse micro-habitats on the island. And researchers believe the discovery of so many species could help inform the way we view other organisms around the planet that rely on genetic diversity for survival.

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"And if we don't know what that real biodiversity is, if we underestimate that biodiversity, it's not just an inconvenience or an incorrect number in a list someplace. So it really truly affects the way in which resources are going to be applied to conserve these things."

And perhaps, our ability to protect world's diverse creatures and their habitats in the future.

In total, researchers with the California Academy of Sciences documented 146 new species of animals, plant and fungi for 2022.

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