Vincent van Gecko: Colorful new lizard species named after the famous painter

Cnemaspis vangoghi Akshay Khandekar
Cnemaspis vangoghi Akshay Khandekar
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

When the Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh painted "The Starry Night" in 1889, he did so while staring out a window from his mental asylum room in the French town of Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. More than a century later, a team of scientists discovered a yellow-and-blue patterned lizard and were reminded of the same visual scene that once inspired one of history's most renowned painters.

Therefore, the team of Akshay Khandekar, Tejas Thackeray did Ishan Agarwal the only logical thing: They named the newly-discovered gecko after van Gogh, dubbing it with the scientific name Cnemaspis vangoghi. For people who prefer to use a common term, the authors suggest "Van Gogh’s starry dwarf gecko."

The Van Gogh's starry dwarf gecko can reach 3.4 cm in length, with light blue spots on its back as well as a yellow collar and forebody. They are indigenous to the Southern Western Ghats in Tamil Nadu, India, where they can be found on the rocks, in the trees and even on the sides of buildings. The region is apparently thick with lizards: Because Tamil Nadu is very biodiverse, the researchers predict that they will have identified more than 50 new species before their expedition is complete.

The research itself was conducted in the field, with the scientists spending long hours waiting to spot new animals before carefully capturing them. It was described alongside another new species, Cnemaspis sathuragiriensis, which was named for its type locality the Sathuragiri Hills. Their analysis was published in the journal ZooKeys.