Discovery of Agasthyagama Edge: A ‘Diminutive Dragon’ Unveiled in Western Ghats

Discovery of Agasthyagama Edge: A ‘Diminutive Dragon’ Unveiled in Western Ghats

The biodiverse forests of Western Ghats have recently revealed a fascinating discovery – a new species of tiny lizards. Researchers have identified this species as the “Agasthyagama edge” or the northern kangaroo lizard. Belonging to the Agamidae family, this diminutive dragon is characterized by a maximum snout-vent length of 4.3 cm.

Discovery and Location

A team of scientists from various institutions in India and abroad made this discovery in the southern Western Ghats at Kulamavu in Idukki. Notably, this species is the second within the Agasthyagama genus, with the first being A. beddomii, the Indian kangaroo lizard, reported from Sivagiri hills in Tamil Nadu.

Unique Features

The Agasthyagama edge exhibits distinct characteristics, such as a reduced fifth toe, making them poor climbers. Unlike other lizards, they do not climb trees and are predominantly terrestrial. These tiny lizards are often found in areas with dense leaf litter cover. While their diet consists of small insects, they are known for their fast running abilities and the habit of hiding within dry leaves to evade predators.

Study and Publication

The findings of this discovery have been documented in the scientific journal “Vertebrate Zoology,” published by the Senckenberg Museum in Germany. The lead author of the study, Sandeep Das, a national postdoctoral fellow at Calicut University, highlights the significance of the discovery in the context of biodiversity in the Western Ghats.

Naming and Recognition

The lizard has been named after the Evolutionary Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE) program of the Zoological Society of London. This program, which supports researchers, including Dr. Das and co-author K.P. Rajkumar of Aranyakam Nature Foundation, focuses on the conservation of unique and endangered species.

Expedition and Confirmation

The discovery of Agasthyagama edge was not initially intended. The researchers first encountered the lizard during an expedition in search of another elusive species, the Mahabali frog or the purple frog, around 2015. Subsequent analyses, morphological studies, and genetic examinations confirmed the distinct nature of the newly discovered species.

Physical Characteristics

The Agasthyagama edge exhibits a uniform dull olive-brown body with a slightly darker head. It possesses a white throat with a broad dark brown stripe on its dewlap, complemented by brick yellow scales on the outside.

Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs)

  1. What is the Agasthyagama edge?
    • A. A type of tree-climbing lizard
    • B. A new species of tiny lizard
    • C. A species of butterfly
    • D. A type of snake
    Answer: B. A new species of tiny lizard
  2. Which family does the Agasthyagama edge belong to?
    • A. Agamidae
    • B. Chameleonidae
    • C. Iguanidae
    • D. Gekkonidae
    Answer: A. Agamidae
  3. Where was the new lizard species discovered?
    • A. Amazon Rainforest
    • B. Western Ghats
    • C. Himalayan Mountains
    • D. Sahara Desert
    Answer: B. Western Ghats
  4. What makes Agasthyagama edge poor climbers?
    • A. Long tail
    • B. Reduced fifth toe
    • C. Sharp claws
    • D. Suction cups on feet
    Answer: B. Reduced fifth toe
  5. Which program supported the researchers and influenced the lizard’s name?
    • A. IUCN Red List
    • B. EDGE program
    • C. WWF Conservation Program
    • D. Greenpeace
    Answer: B. EDGE program