Many Lizards in Laos and Vietnam Remain Unknown to Science


A new scientific research article suggests that remote parts of Laos and Vietnam are home to a large number of geckos which remain undescribed by scientists. 

In the last 40 years, the number of known species in the genus Gekkonidae Cyrtodactylus, the bent-toed geckos, has increased by more than 400%. This new study of geckos in the region suggests that the area’s 71 known species are just a fraction of the bent-toed geckos which exist in Vietnam and Laos. 

Scientists completed 9 years of field work to take samples of the animals, which were then analyzed by their morphology (or shape) and by their DNA. 

Because these lizards are highly adaptable, with some evolving to live in limestone caverns and others evolving to live in evergreen forests, they are quite diverse, and are a good example of the biodiversity which exists in the more remote regions of Northern and Southern Laos and Vietnam. The Annamite mountain range is especially rich in these animals, as well as under-studied. 

The researchers who authored the study highlighted the fact that the gap in knowledge of these lizards is evidence of the need for more taxonomy (naming and describing of species) in the area. That taxonomy, they say, is a necessary step toward conserving these lizards which are increasingly threatened by continued development and other human factors. Several species from the genus are already considered critically endangered, making their conservation an urgent issue. 

The research team involved the cooperation of the National University of Laos, the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology, the Vietnam National Museum of Nature, the Vietnam National University of Forestry, and the Alexander Koening Zoological Research Museum in Bonn, Germany.