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A new locality and microhabitat usage by Calodactylodes aureus (Beddome, 1870) from Tamil Nadu, Eastern Ghats, Southern India/Una nueva localidad y uso de microhabitat por Calodactylodes aureus (Beddome, 1870) de Tamil Nadu, Eastern Ghats, Sur India.

INTRODUCTION

The Eastern Ghats represent broken and isolated hills of the Deccan plateau. These hills extend over 1750 km from south of the Chota Nagpur plateau, Odhisha, to southwestern peninsula in Tamil Nadu (Mani 1974). They are included under 6C eastern highlands of the Deccan plateau, one of the biologically richest biogeographic zones of India (Rodgers etal. 2008). Studies on the distribution of reptiles in the Eastern Ghats are scanty, in contrast to those in the Western Ghats (Daniels and Ishwar 1994, Daniels and Kumar 1998).

Geckos are found throughout the world and belong to one of the most species-rich lizard families, second only to skinks (Daniel 2002; Das 1994, 2001; Pough et al. 2004). Gekkonidae are a basal lineage (Vidal and Hedges 2005) and the genus Calodactylodes consists of large, distinctive geckos endemic to rocky habitat in Peninsular India and Sri Lanka (Bauer and Das 2000). The genus Calodactylodes consists of two species, the Indian Golden Gecko Calodactylodes aureus (Beddome 1870) and the Sri Lankan Golden Gecko Calodactylodes illingworthorum (Deraniyagala 1953). The Indian Golden Gecko was discovered in Tripatty (= Tirupati) hills in North Arcot District, Madras Presidency (Beddome 1870, Boulenger 1890) and rediscovered after 115 years in Tirupati Hills, Chittor District, Andhra Pradesh (Daniel and Bhusan 1985, Daniel et al. 1986).

In Andhra Pradesh this species is found at the following sites: Papikonda hills (Perantalapally) in Khammam district, Maredumilli in East Godavari District, Araku valley and Ananthagiri Hills in Vishakapattinam district (Javed et al. 2007, Sreekar et al. 2010, Chettri and Bhupathy 2011), Niyamgiri hill ranges of Rayagada, Kalahandi districts in Odhisha (Dutta et al. 2005), and one unconfirmed record from Castle Rocks, Karnataka, Western Ghats (Bauer and Das 2000).

In Tamil Nadu, the Indian Golden Gecko was only known from Vellore Hill Fort and Balamathi Hill (Bauer and Das 2000) and it has subsequently been recorded in Otteri, Vannankulam, Kulavimedu, Nayaganeri, Kanyakapuram and Chennai highway rock boulders in the Vellore District (Rajasekhar and Nandakumar 2007). The Indian Golden Gecko is a protected species included under Schedule-I (Part II) of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. Furthermore, the genus Calodactylodes is of interest, being of Gondwanan origin (Bauer and Das 2000). In this paper, we provide new locality and microhabitat information for the Indian Golden Gecko from Tamil Nadu.

MATERIALS AND METHODS

Study Area. The study took place on four hills in Tamil Nadu (Fig. 1). Sathgar Hill (12[degrees]57'N and 78[degrees]44'E, elevation 620 m a.s.l) and Valli Malai (13[degrees]04'N and 79[degrees]15'E, elevation 366 m a.s.l) in Vellore District, Shyed Basha Malai (12[degrees]32'N and 78[degrees]12'E, elevation 700 m a.s.l) in Krishangiri District and Nedumkunam Hill (12[degrees]28'N and 79[degrees]23'E, elevation 244 m a.s.l) in Tiruvanamalai District. The vegetation of Sathgar Hill is dominated by Euphorbia sp., Lantana camara and Annona squamosa. A thorny scrub forest with large rock boulders covers Valli Malai and Nedumkunam Hills. Krishnagiri, Shyed basha hill, is also dominated by Euphorbia sp. with historical forts and sacred temples (Fig. 2). All these hills are chiefly connected with Palar, Thenpennai and Ponnai River.

[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]

Methods. This paper is mainly based on the data collected by the authors from October 2011 to March 2012, during opportunistic field visits to the Eastern Ghats of Tamil Nadu. We located Golden Geckos by identifying their vocalization and egg deposition sites (Rajashekhar and Nandakumar 2007). Furthermore, we spotted geckos using powerful flash-lights and geckos were visually identified in the field based on their characteristic digits, overall body shape and size, as well as color pattern.

Data set was collected during day time and the following data were noted: number of individuals, number of live (unhatched) eggs, number of egg deposition sites, nearest water source (seasonal water pools, ponds and channels of river). The presence of other lizard species present with Golden Gecko were also noted, and we identified them by using key provided in Smith (1935), Agarwal et al. (2011), and Das and Bauer (2000). Geckos were photographed using a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ 10 digital camera. Geographic coordinates and altitude (in meters above sea level) were taken from Google Earth, version 6.2 beta.

[FIGURE 2 OMITTED]

RESULTS AND DISCUSSION

A total of 70 Calodactylodes aureus were recorded in 20 rocky caves. Of these, 11 were bright golden yellow in color (Fig. 3). The highest numbers of geckos were recorded from Valli Malai, followed by Shyed Basha Malai and Sathgar Hill (Table 1). The geckos were found in both vertical and horizontal crevices in the rocks and caves, and temperature was slightly less and more humid than rocky surface areas compared to caves and crevices, as reported by Rajashekhar and Nandakumar (2007). This gecko prefers rocky areas with deep stream valleys (Sreekar et al. 2010). We also found them residing in nearby perennial water sources on the hill tops such as naturally generated water from the rocks and small water pools. The distance from nearest water source was found to be 0.1-180 m, with an average of 64.6 m. The geckos were encountered at an elevation range of 185 -702 m a.s.l. The Golden Gecko is found to extend the altitudinal distribution up to 1000 m a.s.l in the Araku Valley and the border area between Andhra Pradesh and Odhisha (Chettri and Bhupathy 2010).

[FIGURE 3 OMITTED]

The gecko has been reported to lay eggs in communal egg deposition sites (Bauer and Das 2000, Javed et al. 2007) on rocky surfaces. In the present survey, 72 egg deposition sites were recognized with hatched and unhatched eggs (Fig. 4). The number of egg deposition sites varied from 2-8 in the surveyed caves. A total of 477 unhatched active eggs were observed during the study. The species was found to lay eggs both horizontally and vertically inside the caves and eggs are well protected from sunlight and heavy rain. In Valli Malai, the crevices of cave temple were blocked with cement, and Golden Geckos were found to lay eggs in gaps between the fluorescent tube lamp frames. The habitat characteristics of Calodactylodes aureus appear similar to that of the Sri Lankan Golden Gecko, Calodactylodes illingworthorum, which also inhabits granite rock caves and is restricted to eastern and south-eastern parts of the dry zones of Sri Lanka, between circa 125 to 800 m a.s.l (Karunarathna and Amarasinghe 2011).

Psammophilus dorsalis is the most commonly encountered lizard species, and Cnemaspis otai and Hemidactylus graniticolus are also found to reside along with Golden Geckos. Apart from that, a bat Rhinopoma hardwickii was found to roost in the caves of Shyed Basha Malai and Valli Malai, where the Golden Geckos were encountered.

The Indian Golden Gecko is facing various anthropogenic threats, such as mining activities in Niyamgiri Hills of Odhisha (Dutta et al. 2005) and construction of dams in the Papikonda Hills (Javed et al. 2007). In Tamil Nadu, Rajashekhar and Nandakumar (2007) found that rock boulders are being blasted for construction of roads and for buildings near Vellore town. They also mentioned two large metal manufacturing industries, namely Kalai Blue Metals and VCE metals, destroying the Golden Gecko habitat in Vellore. Shyed Basha Hill is under Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), but its foothills are surrounded by human habitations. In this hill, caves are polluted with polythene bags and in one instance it was found that visitors had written their names on a previous egg-deposition site (Fig. 5) while surrounding rock boulders are being blasted for developmental activities. Valli Malai also comes under the Archaeological Survey of India. Most of the crevices in cave temples in this hill were sealed with cements where geckos were found. At Sathgar Hill and Nedumkunam Hill the major threat of the habitat is cattle grazing and disturbances due to human activity such as man-made fires. Trade was considered to be a major threat to the Indian Golden Gecko (Molur and Walker 1998), but we did not come across any of these circumstances during the surveyed period. The distribution of the Indian Golden Gecko is restricted to the Eastern Ghats of Andhra Pradesh, Odhisha and Tamil Nadu, and the present paper gives the distribution hill ranges nearby Karnataka state. Further surveys are needed to reveal many interesting facts about this species.

[FIGURE 4 OMITTED]

Received / Recibido: 26 JUN 2012

Accepted / Aceptado: 09 JUL 2012

Published / Publicado: 15 DEC 2012

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

We first thank M.S.Chaitra, Aarohi, Bangalore and R. Marimuthu, B.A. Daniel, Zoo outreach organization, Coimbatore and K.V. Sudhakar, Madras Naturalists Society, Chennai. We would also like to thank Brawin Kumar, Thiruvel and Shek Dhavooth Ali for their kind help and support during the study. We are also thankful to D.M.S. Suranjan Karunarathna for his continuous support and encouragement during manuscript preparation and A.A. Thasun Amarasinghe for providing literature.

REFERENCES

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Bauer, A.M. and I. Das. 2000. A review of the Gekkonid genus Calodactylodes (Reptilia: Squamata) from India and Sri Lanka. Journal of South Asian Natural History 5(1):25-35.

Beddome, R.H. 1870. Description of some new lizards from the Madras Presidency. Madras. Monthly Journal of Medical Science 1:30-35 (Reprinted in Journal of Bombay Natural History Society 59:430-436).

Boulenger, G.A. 1890. The Fauna of British India, including Ceylon and Burma. Reptilia and Batrachia. Taylor and Francis, London xviii + 541pp.

Chettri, B. and S. Bhupathy. 2010. Three little known reptile species from the Araku Valley, Eastern Ghats with notes on their distribution. Journal of Threatened Taxa 2(8):1109-1113.

Daniel, J.C. and B. Bhushan. 1985. The Golden gecko of Tirumalai Hills. Hornbill 1985 (3):1718+1 pl.

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the Golden Gecko Calodactylodes aureus (Beddome) in the Eastern Ghats of Andhra Pradesh. Journal of Bombay Natural History Society 83:15-16.

Daniel, J.C. 2002. The Book of Indian Reptiles and Amphibians. Bombay Natural History Society and Oxford University Press, Bombay. 238 pp.

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Daniels, R.J.R and M.V.R. Kumar. 1998. Amphibians and reptiles of Kolli hills. Cobra 31:3-5.

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Dutta, S.K., B. Mohanty and P.P. Mohapatra. 2005. Niyamgiri unraveled. Sanctuary Asia 25(5):56-57, 59.

Javed, S.M.M., A. Waran and F. Tampal. 2007. On the occurrence of Golden Gecko Calodactylodes aureus in Papikonda Hills, Eastern Ghats, India. Zoo's Print Journal 22(6):2727-2729.

Karunarathna, D.M.S.S. and A.A.T. Amarasinghe. 2011. Natural history and conservation status of Calodactylodes illingworthorum Deraniyagala, 1953 (Sauria: Gekkonidae) in south-eastern Sri Lanka. Herpetotropicos 6(1-2):5-10

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Sreekar, R., C. Srinivasulu, M. Seetharamaraju and C.A. Srinivasulu. 2010. Selection of egg attachment sites by the Indian Golden Gecko Calodactylodes aureus (Beddome, 1870) (Reptilia: Gekkonidae) in Andhra Pradesh, India. Journal of Threatened Taxa 2(11):1268-1272.

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AYUTHAVEL KALAIMANI (1, 2, 4) and ANUKUL NATH (1, 3)

(1) Department of Wildlife Biology, A.V.C. College, Mannampandal, Mayiladuthurai, Tamil Nadu, India.

(2) Aarohi, Jayanagar, Bangalore, Karnataka, India.

(3) Aaranyak, a society for biodiversity and conservation, Assam, India.

(4) Send correspondence to / Enviar correspondencia a: manikalai16@yahoo.com; anucool.nath5@gmail.com
TABLE 1. Number of individuals, previous egg marks and altitudinal
records of Calodactylodes aureus in Krishnagiri, Vellore and
Tiruvanamalai Districts, Tamil Nadu, India, during October 2011 to
March 2012. Number of individuals (Ind.). Number of previous egg
marks approx. (E. Marks). Number of live eggs (E. live) and
Elevation in meters a.s.l. (Elev.).

TABLA 1. Numero de individuos, huevos previamente marcados y
registros altitudinales de Calodactylodes aureus en los Distritos
Krishnagiri, Vellore y Tiruvanamalai, Tamil Nadu, India, durante
Octubre 2011 a Marzo 2012. Numero de individuos (Ind). Numero de
huevos previamente marcados (E. marks). Numero de huevos vivos (E.
live) y Elevacion en msnm (Elev.).

District Place GPS location

Krishnagiri Shyed Basha Malai
 Cave 1 12[degrees]32'07.66"N
 78[degrees]12'48.53"E
 Cave 2 12[degrees]32'10.05"N
 78[degrees]12'46.45"E
 Cave 3 12[degrees]32'13.00"N
 78[degrees]12'46.60"E
 Cave 4 12[degrees]32'14.42"N
 78[degrees]12'48.50"E
Vellore Sathgar Hill
 Cave 1 12[degrees]57'42.49"N
 78[degrees]44'06.63"E
 Cave 2 12[degrees]57'43.26"N
 78[degrees]44'11.44"E
 Cave 3 12[degrees]57'42.27"N
 78[degrees]44'14.41"E
Vellore Valli Malai
 Subramanya Temple cave 13[degrees]04'24.40"N
 79[degrees]15'38.14"E
 Cave 1 13[degrees]04'26.11"N
 79[degrees]15'34.52"E
 Cave 2 13[degrees]04'29.10"N
 79[degrees]15'35.69"E
 Cave 3 13[degrees]04'29.59"N
 79[degrees]15'37.17"E
 Cave 4 13[degrees]04'30.40"N
 79[degrees]15'38.42"E
 Cave 5 13[degrees]04'30.85"N
 79[degrees]15'39.54"E
 Cave 6 13[degrees]04'33.64"N
 79[degrees]15'36.37"E
 Cave 7 13[degrees]04'34.26"N
 79[degrees]15'35.32"E
 Suriyan Kana Sunai 13[degrees]04'38.45"N
 79[degrees]15'31.44"E
Tiruvanamalai Nedumkunam Hill
 Cave 1 12[degrees]28'01.40"N
 79[degrees]23'03.68"E
 Cave 2 12[degrees]28'01.20"N
 79[degrees]23'06.48"E
 Cave 3 12[degrees]27'59.95"N
 79[degrees]23'05.06"E
 Cave 4 12[degrees]27'59.59"N
 79[degrees]23'07.77"E

District Place Ind. E. marks

Krishnagiri Shyed Basha Malai
 Cave 1 1 150

 Cave 2 0 1500

 Cave 3 14 2000

 Cave 4 2 2500

Vellore Sathgar Hill
 Cave 1 0 1200

 Cave 2 4 150

 Cave 3 9 2500

Vellore Valli Malai
 Subramanya Temple cave 0 300

 Cave 1 2 860

 Cave 2 8 800

 Cave 3 2 600

 Cave 4 4 300

 Cave 5 6 150

 Cave 6 2 800

 Cave 7 0 60

 Suriyan Kana Sunai 3 600

Tiruvanamalai Nedumkunam Hill
 Cave 1 2 450

 Cave 2 0 1500

 Cave 3 8 85

 Cave 4 3 200

District Place E. live Elev.

Krishnagiri Shyed Basha Malai
 Cave 1 0 540

 Cave 2 0 574

 Cave 3 3 683

 Cave 4 0 702

Vellore Sathgar Hill
 Cave 1 0 520

 Cave 2 0 588

 Cave 3 0 620

Vellore Valli Malai
 Subramanya Temple cave 0 305

 Cave 1 15 322

 Cave 2 0 328

 Cave 3 0 331

 Cave 4 0 336

 Cave 5 0 350

 Cave 6 0 358

 Cave 7 7 362

 Suriyan Kana Sunai 450 + 366

Tiruvanamalai Nedumkunam Hill
 Cave 1 0 185

 Cave 2 0 212

 Cave 3 0 235

 Cave 4 0 244
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Author:Kalaimani, Ayuthavel; Nath, Anukul
Publication:Herpetotropicos: Tropical Amphibians & Reptiles
Date:Jan 1, 2012
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