‘Cryptic’ creature — with ‘psychedelic eyes’ — discovered as new species in Australia

Walking through the woodlands of Australia, scientists spotted a “cryptic” creature with a spine-covered tail.

Peering into the animal’s mesmerizing “psychedelic eyes,” they soon realized they had discovered a new species.

The researchers made the “unexpected discovery” while searching the mulga woodlands in the southern part of Western Australia, according to a study published in the journal Records of the Western Australian Museum.

Hidden among the trees, shrublands and open rocky areas, researchers found several specimens of a “cryptic species,” the study said. Looking closer, they identified a new species of spiny-tailed gecko that was previously misclassified.

The new species was named Strophurus spinula, or the lesser thorn-tailed gecko, researchers said. The gecko’s name, “spinula,” means “little thorn” in Latin and was chosen because of its “comparatively small” tail spines.

Photos shared on Twitter by co-author Ian Brennan show the lesser thorn-tailed gecko’s light gray coloring. The creature has brown speckles across its body and lighter brown spines running from its neck to the tip of its tail, photos show.

The gecko has “psychedelic eyes,” Brennan said. Photos show its vertical pupil surrounded by mosaic-like gray irises and a brown-gold outer ring.

A photo taken at night shows the gecko is exceptionally skilled at blending in with tree branches.

The lesser thorn-tailed gecko ranges from about 2.4 inches to 3.6 inches in size, the study said.

The new species was morphologically distinct from other known gecko species based on the arrangement and size of its tail spines, the study said. DNA analysis confirmed the new species was genetically distinct with anywhere from about 8% to over 16% genetic variation from other geckos.

About 40 specimens of the new species were collected across the mulga woodlands area of Western Australia, a large region on the opposite side of the continent as Sydney and Melbourne, the study said. The geckos were found in a roughly triangular area between Yalgoo, Bungalbin and Laverton.

The research team included Ross Sadlie, Cecilie Beatson, Ian Brennan and Aaron M. Bauer.

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