An agile gecko found in India named after the legendary Jackie Chan



12 newly described gecko species get scientific names inspired by their features

Martial arts legend Jackie Chan may not be aware of this yet but some of his biggest fans are a group of adoring herpetologists from India. These scientists have named a newly identified gecko species, the Jackie’s day gecko (Cnemaspis jackieii), after Chan.

This lizard is one of 12 new gecko species found in India that researchers describe September 23 in Zoological Research. All 12 species are endemic to the Western Ghats, a biodiversity-rich mountain range threatened by deforestation and changing land use (SN: 3/18/19).

Working at mid-elevation in the Western Ghats, the team noticed an extremely agile gecko. “Whenever we attempted to catch it, it would spring from one rock to the other, and crawl into the smallest of crevices to escape us,” says Saunak Pal of the Bombay Natural History Society in Mumbai. Immediately, it reminded the researchers of the nimble-footed Chan, spurring them to name it after the martial artist.

“Naming a species in this manner helps people connect with it especially when it is a less popular class of animals like reptiles,” says coauthor Zeeshan Mirza of the National Centre for Biological Sciences in Bangalore. Mirza has identified nearly 60 new faunal species to date, including the now world-famous snake Salazar’s pit viper (Trimeresurus salazar), named after Salazar Slytherin, a character in the Harry Potter series.

Unique skin patterns inspired names for some of the other newly described gecko species. The golden-crowned day gecko (C. regalis), or royal day gecko, earned its regal name from the golden-yellow head of the male of this species.

Another with body coloration that bears an uncanny resemblance to a galaxy of stars led the team to name it the galaxy day gecko (C. galaxia). The clouded forest gecko (C. nimbus) has a prominent cloudlike pattern on the upper side and flank of the male of the species.

Mirza hopes the catchy names will draw attention that “will help in conserving these species as well as the landscape.”