Pregnant creature — with a ‘window’ in its eyelid — found in India is a new species

In a forest of southern India, a pregnant creature hid under a rock in some leaves.

The “cryptic” animal had been overlooked for years, but that was about to change. Visiting scientists spotted the creature — and discovered a new species.

Researchers visited hundreds of sites in Tamil Nadu between 2018 and 2023 in search of wildlife, according to a study published Jan. 19 in the journal Vertebrate Zoology. The large-scale search had one goal: find and identify a specific type of lizard.

While surveying the Gingee Hills area, researchers found a pair of “bronze” lizards, the study said. They took a closer look at the animals and realized they’d discovered a new species: Dravidoseps gingeeensis, or the Gingee leaf-litter skink.

Gingee leaf-litter skinks are considered “medium-sized,” reaching just over 4 inches in length, researchers said. They have “relatively slender” bodies with “short” heads and “short” limbs. On their lower eyelids, the skinks have a “transparent central window.”

Photos show two Gingee leaf-litter skinks. The lizards have a light brownish-gold coloring and “bronze tint.” A darker brown stripe runs along the sides of its body. The coloring appears to blend in well with the surrounding rocks.

Two Dravidoseps gingeeensis, or Gingee leaf-litter skink, including a pregnant one (top).
Two Dravidoseps gingeeensis, or Gingee leaf-litter skink, including a pregnant one (top).

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Gingee leaf-litter skinks were found in rocky forests. One lizard was seen eating a cockroach near a temple. Another was found pregnant with four babies, researchers said.

Unlike most lizards which reproduce by laying eggs, the new species is viviparous, meaning it reproduces by giving birth to live young, the study said.

Researchers said they named the new species after the Gingee Hills area where it was first discovered.

So far, Gingee leaf-litter skinks have been found in two nearby sites of eastern Tamil Nadu, the study said. The sites are about 1,500 miles southeast of New Delhi.

The new species was identified by its eyelids, reproduction method, scale pattern and DNA, the study said.

The research team included Ishan Agarwal, Tejas Thackeray and Akshay Khandekar. The team also discovered a new genus of skinks, Dravidoseps, and four more new species: a “dark brown” one, a “coconut brown” one, “bronze-brown” one and “dark bronze-brown” one.

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