Landing on the sandy beach, a team of researchers headed into the rainforest of an uninhabited island off the coast of Australia. Scouring the rocky terrain, they soon discovered an unfamiliar creature.
Conrad Hoskin led the reptile survey to Scawfell Island, a rugged island with a rainforest canopy and numerous boulders, James Cook University said in a Friday, March 3, news release. He set out with a goal in mind.
“I went to that island in the hopes of finding some interesting reptile species,” Hoskin told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). “One thing I really hoped for was that there could be one of these incredible leaf-tailed geckos.”
Leaf-tailed geckos are a type of lizard found along the east coast of Australia, Hoskin wrote in a study published Feb. 20 in the journal Zootaxa.
As night fell on Scawfall Island, Hoskin spotted something. “It looks like a little dragon or something,” Hoskin told The Guardian.
The creature had “spindly legs” and a “spiny tail,” the release said. Hoskin quickly realized he was looking at a previously undiscovered species.
He identified the new species as the Scawfell Island leaf-tailed gecko, or phyllurus fimbriatus, the study said. The gecko’s scientific name, fimbriatus, is Latin for “fringed” and refers to the texture of its tail.
The newly-discovered gecko is about 6 inches long, the study said. It has a knobby, leaf-shaped tail with a V-shaped white band.
“They’re big, they’re quite prickly,” Hoskin told the ABC. “They’ve got this lovely, beaky, almost dragon like face and really, really long spiderery, spindly legs.”
The gecko is “perfectly camouflaged” for its environment, the release said. Photos show its brown body and blotched coloring blending into the rocks.
Hoskin found about 30 Scawfell Island leaf-tailed geckos deep within the island’s boulders, the university said. The creatures retreat into the rocks during the day and only emerge at night to feed, according to the study.
“It is incredible to still find large and spectacular new species in this day and age,” Hoskin told the university. “The fact that this gecko remained undiscovered to science shows that there are still areas of Australia with hidden secrets.”
Hoskin plans to lead another expedition to Scawfell Island to further study the newly-discovered gecko species, ABC reported. He hopes to develop a better understanding of the lizard’s population size and possible threats to its existence.
Scawfell Island is along the northeastern coast of Australia and about 30 miles from Mackay, the closest mainland city. Mackay is in the state of Queensland and about 1,020 miles northwest of Sydney.
‘Mysterious’ creature seen hopping along rainforest river for first time in 24 years
Rare critter eluded Kansas biologists for years. A sardine dinner proved irresistible
‘Massive’ Arctic creature spotted for first time in 25 years along coast of Scotland