Dr. Aaron Bauer of the Villanova University and Dr. Paul Doughty of the Western Australian Museum report the discovery in a paper, published online yesterday in the journal Zootaxa.
The new species, named Cyrtodactylus kimberleyensis, is described on the basis of one female specimen measuring 45.1 mm (1.78”) in body length, with a tail about 53 mm (2.09”), and weighing 2.5 g.
“The new species is one of the smallest in the genus and is the first Cyrtodactylus known from Western Australia,” the researchers wrote in the paper.
The species name refers to the Kimberley, the region of its discovery in northern Western Australia.
“East Montalivet Island is more than 30 km off the coastline in the extreme north of the Kimberley, making it one of the most isolated islands of the region. The discovery of a Cyrtodactylus from such a location is especially surprising given that no Cyrtodactylus is known from the Kimberley mainland, or indeed from any areas within Australia outside of northern Queensland, on the other side of the continent.”
The researchers found this tiny bent-toed gecko in a vine thicket on a lateritic slope on the island.
They note that the collected female specimen carried only one egg measuring 9.4 mm x 5.3 mm.
“Like most gekkotans, Cyrtodactylus spp. typically produce two eggs per clutch,” the team wrote. “Single egg clutches are uncommon in the Gekkonidae, but do occur, chiefly in miniaturized lineages. If a single egg clutch is normal for C. kimberleyensis, it would be the first member of its genus known to do so.”
The island, on which C. kimberleyensis was discovered, harbors many other species of reptiles such as the gekkotan lizards Heteronotia binoei and Delma borea Kluge, the skinks Carlia johnstonei Storr, C. triacantha, Ctenotus inornatus, Eremiascincus isolepis, Lerista walkeri, and the elapid snake Parasuta nigriceps.