Newly Discovered Gecko Species Named After Vincent van Gogh

A new species of spotted blue geckos has been named after Vincent van Gogh, as its coloration reminded researchers of the iconic painting “The Starry Night” (1889). The team of scientists affiliated with the Thackeray Wildlife Foundation discovered the species, now named Cnemaspis vangoghi, during a 2022 expedition into the Western Ghats in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

With a suggested common name of “Van Gogh’s Starry dwarf gecko,” Cnemaspis vangoghi is a tiny variant whose collected specimens measured in at less than three inches in length. Due to sexual dimorphism, only the male geckos resemble “The Starry Night,” with grayish-blue bodies covered in pale blue dots and stripes along their heads. A smudge of raw sienna starts at the base of their necks and fades toward the center of their abdomens, evoking the auras surrounding the shining stars in van Gogh’s painting. The female geckos are brown in color with a mosaic of cream, black, and deep brown spots all over their bodies.

For the most part, the Van Gogh’s Starry dwarf gecko tends to hang out on rocks and stones, and is primarily active during the cooler hours of the day. The painted gecko was named alongside the Cnemaspis sathuragiriensis, a similarly colored variant whose species was named after the Sathuragiri Hills, where it was discovered.

The research team, made up of Akshay Khandekar, Tejas Thackeray, Swapnil Pawar, Ishan Agarwal, Satpal Gangalmale, and Vivek Waghe, published their findings last month in ZooKeys, a peer-reviewed scientific journal for zoological taxonomy, phylogeny, and biogeography.

“Tamil Nadu is an exceptionally biodiverse state and we expect to name well over 50 new species of lizards by the time we are done [with our expeditions],” Agarwal said in a blog post about the find.

We can only hope that there are other masterpieces waiting to be discovered and named out there!

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