New gecko discovered on deforested island off Vietnamese coast

  • Six species of Dixonius have now been found distributed across Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand.

  • Tao’s gecko, described in a paper published by the journal Zootaxa, could already be in a precarious position, as the island it calls home has already been deforested for agriculture.

  • The gecko is not yet considered endangered because we don’t have enough data about threats to the species or its population status.

Meet Dixonius taoi, a small gecko recently discovered on a deforested island off the coast of Vietnam.

Dixonius taoi — or Tao’s gecko, named in honor of Dr. Nguyen Thien Tao of the Vietnam National Museum of Nature in Hanoi — is restricted to Phu Quy Island, which lies less than 100 kilometers off the Vietnamese coast.

Members of the genus Dixonius are small, nocturnal and insectivorous, with terminal toe-pads and the typical gecko physique. Counting Tao’s gecko, six species of Dixonius have now been found distributed across Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand.

Though we’ve only begun to get to know the species, Tao’s gecko, described in a paper published by the journal Zootaxa, could already be in a precarious position.

“Most of the forests in this area have been destroyed, and only a few small patches are left along the coast,” according to the Zootaxa report. The deforestation of Phu Quy Island was done mostly for agriculture, but even the remnants left along the coast are now threatened by a growing tourism industry.

The gecko so far seems to have adapted, and can usually be found in disturbed habitat such as secondary forest, plantations or near residential areas, Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology’s Truong Nguyen, one of the authors of the paper, told Mongabay. But Tao’s gecko “always need some forest canopy and rock/shelter for hiding,” he added.

The gecko is not considered endangered because we don’t have enough data about threats to the species or its population status, Nguyen says. It’s possible Tao’s gecko can be found on the mainland or on other islands, for instance, and we just haven’t come across them yet.

“However, if this species is endemic to the island and its population is under threat of habitat loss/degradation, it may be considered to be listed in the IUCN Red List in future,” Nguyen said.

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Dixonius taoi on Phu Quy Island, Vietnam. Photo by Trung My Phung.
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Dixonius taoi on Phu Quy Island, Vietnam. Photo by Trung My Phung.
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Natural habitat of Dixonius taoi on Phu Quy Island, Vietnam. Photo by Trung My Phung.

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