The Madagascar-endemic genus Uroplatus (Gekkonidae) consists of the unique nocturnal forest dwelling leaf-tailed geckos,
all of which display bizarre shapes and appearances that camouflage these animals. Currently containing 14 recognized species, this genus is represented by species that are distinguishable from other geckos by their
rather flat or laterally compressed body, triangular head, and a leaf-shaped tail.
Based on morphology and molecular phylogenies the genus Uroplatus can be divided in several species groups. Uroplatus phantasticus (in the photo), together with U. malama, U. ebenaui, U. finiavana, U. cf. phantasticus, and U. aff. ebenaui, comprise the Uroplatus ebenaui group.
This is Breaking, or Break for short, she is a female U. Phantasticus.
Breaking is an unusual animal because her tail is all red with that charcoal tip. Why is that unusual? Well, it wasn’t that color when I bought her, but it has changed over time. This is also her original tail, she has never dropped it (as Phants cannot regenerate tails anyway). Her tail continues to change color gradually.
So I was sitting at my desk at the Zoologische Staatssammlung München today, looking at my frog. And I looked up at the book shelf. It’s got loads of old books, and is part of the museum’s library. I got up to browse it, and my eyes fell upon an old brown book spine with a few small gold embossed words:
‘Die Reptilien und Amphibien von Madagascar’
My jaw dropped.
This book was published in 1879. It was the last thing I expected to find on my shelf.
It contains the original description of, among many other species, Uroplatus (at the time this was Uroplates) ebenaui.
THESE ARE THE ORIGINAL PLATES. BOETTGER HIMSELF MIGHT HAVE TOUCHED THEM.
Endemic to Madagascar, the Giant Leaftail Gecko or Common Flat-tail Gecko, Uroplatus fimbriatus (Gekkonidae) can reach a total length of 330 mm. This large nocturnal gecko, is found in eastern Madagascar and on the islands Nosy Bohara and Nosy Mangabe.
There is uncertainty about the number of species represented under the names Uroplatus fimbriatus and U. giganteus (F. Glaw and M. Vences pers. comm. January 2011). Raxworthy et al. (2008) consider U. giganteus to be a synonym for U. fimbriatus; however it has also been argued that additional undescribed species may be revealed within U. giganteus and/or U. fimbriatus by future molecular study (F. Glaw pers. comm. January 2011).
The scheme followed here is that of Glaw et al. (2006), which considers this group to consist of two species, U. fimbriatus and U. giganteus, which correspond to the southern and northern clades of U. fimbriatus respectively (Raxworthy et al. 2008; F. Glaw, pers. comm. January 2011).
Due to the geographical proximity of the U. fimbriatus type locality, Nosy Mangabe, to genetic U. giganteus, further research is needed to establish whether the assignment U. fimbriatus to the southern clade treated here under that name is valid, or whether this name should instead be applied either to a single species including both presently recognized clades, or to a northern form presently included under the name U. giganteus (C. Raxworthy pers. comm. January 2011).