Thursday, March 9, 2023


Mackay and Whitsunday Life

Gecko Discovered Off Mackay

A large gecko with a ‘beaky’ face, spindly legs and a spiny tail has been discovered on Scawfell Island, about 50km offshore from Mackay.

James Cook University’s Dr Conrad Hoskin discovered the gecko on the rugged, boulder-strewn island during a survey with Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service & Partnerships.

In a paper just released in the journal Zootaxa, it has been named the Scawfell Island Leaf-tailed Gecko (Phyllurus fimbriatus), with the species name referring to the fringe of spines around the leaf-shaped tail.

Dr Hoskin said the gecko is perfectly camouflaged to the rocks on the uninhabited island, where it lives deep in piled-up boulders during the day and emerges at night.

“It is incredible to still find large and spectacular new species in this day and age,” said Dr Hoskin.

“The fact that this gecko remained undiscovered to science shows that there are still areas of Australia with hidden secrets.”

Ranger in Charge of the Whitsundays region Brett Turnbull was on the trip when the species was discovered.

“This is an exciting discovery, and an important one, because we base our management of these islands on their biodiversity values,” Mr Turnbull said.

“Knowing which species occur where, and finding species restricted to single islands, informs our management of fire, invasive species and other threats.”

Much is still unknown about the flora and fauna of the islands off Mackay and throughout the Great Barrier Reef, with Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service Manager of the Ecological Assessment Unit Dr Rhonda Melzer saying that more surveys were required to understand the biodiversity of Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef islands.

“We know some islands well but this discovery highlights that some of our islands remain under-surveyed,” she said.

“We are working with researchers like Conrad, and QPWS staff, to better understand and conserve these islands.”

Dr Hoskin said it’s very hard to know how big the population is, but there are at least 30 individuals and more work needs to be done before scientists can say if the geckos are endangered or not.

“Some habitats on the island naturally burn, but the rocks are probably pretty good protection from fire,” he said.

“Another potential threat is the invasive Asian House Gecko and poachers - we know of at least two poaching events of a leaftail gecko near Townsville.”

The newly discovered Scawfell Island Leaf-tailed Gecko

Dr Conrad Hoskin on Scawfell Island. Photos supplied

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