Story by, Dr Nikolay A. Poyarkov, Professor of Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Biological Faculty, M. V. Lomonosov Moscow State University, Moscow 119234, Russia
Meet Cyrtodactylus raglai – another new species of bent-toed geckos discovered from Vietnam we just described yesterday!
This paper is a wonderful example of a cooperation between citizen scientists and taxonomists. The new gecko was first spotted by Andy Nguyen, Tour leader of Vietnambirds.net, a part of Vietnambirds foundation.
Andy Nguyen is a naturalist from Ho Chi Minh City in southern Vietnam, a wonderful nature and wildlife photographer and birdwatcher, he participates in all different type of surveys in southern Vietnam and his interests lie far outside bird-watching, and also include the local herpetofauna. Last year during the survey in the Song Giang River Valley, in Khanh Hoa Province on the southeastern coast of Vietnam, Andy and his team spotted an unusual gecko. A mostly tree-dwelling species C. yangbayensis was common in this area, but on huge granite boulders in the river bed Andy noticed a much larger Cyrtodactylus, which was quite difficult to catch, since it was much less abundant and quickly hidden in the small caves between the boulders. During several surveys Andy managed to get just three specimens – two males and one female, which superficially resembled another large species, Cyrtodactylus kingsadai, but he recognized them as likely a new taxon. So Andy contacted me about his discovery, and here our team comes onstage, at Vietnam National Museum of Nature, did molecular and phylogenetic analysis of Andys’ samples, and based on the morphological and molecular data we completed the new species descriptions led and supervised by Dr. Lee Grismer.
The name of the new species – “Cyrtodactylus raglai” is given to honor the local minority tribe, the Raglai people. This small nation is related to the Cham people, but live mostly in the montane forests of Khanh Hoa Province. Usually when you name a species for a nation you have to use genitive plural for the species name (i.e. “raglaiorum“), but we decided just to use a shorter “raglai”, because this word in their native language means two things: the name of the tribe, and also it means “forest”. The Raglai forests of the Song Giang River Valley, to which the new species is likely endemic, are threatened by the construction of a hydropower station which will negatively impact the surrounding ecosystem. I am very grateful to Andy for inviting us to join this project, and to Tang and Lee for all their enormous efforts! Thank you guys.
The paper is available here
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