Discovering a new species for Bangkok

17 Jan

On the very first day I went herping in Bangkok, I found an unusual-looking gecko:

Sri Lankan House Gecko (Hemidactylus parvimaculatus)

It didn’t look like a Spiny-tailed House Gecko or a Flat-tailed House Gecko or a Stump-toed Gecko or any of the other species that I knew lived in the city. I showed the picture to a friend who is an expert on Bangkok’s herps, and he guessed that it might be a Spotted House Gecko, a species that is usually only found down in southern Thailand. But we weren’t sure.

Just a week or two later, I was searching again close to my home and I found more of the unusual geckos:

Sri Lankan House Gecko Hemidactylus parvimaculatus adult

Now I was sure – they were NOT spotted house geckos. I went to the Field Herp Forum, an internet site where people post their herping finds, and asked them what it might be. Several herpers thought it might be related to a Brooke’s Gecko, a species-group that is found over much of Africa and Asia, but not in Thailand. I looked at the pictures and realized they were on the right track. So I contacted Michael Cota at the Bangkok Museum of Natural History. He agreed that I had a new find for the city, and asked me to collect some samples. These girls were the lucky two:

Sri Lankan House Gecko Hemidactylus parvimaculatus adults and type specimens for description from Bangkok

Mr. Cota examined the lizards in the laboratory and determined that they were Sri Lankan House Geckos (Hemidactylus parvimaculatus), a species usually found on the island of Sri Lanka. They likely had gotten here accidentally by hiding in shipping containers of goods sent from Sri Lanka to Bangkok. By this time I’d found a couple dozen of the geckos near Oh Nut Soi 2, in Lumpani Park, and close to Sukhumwit Road Soi 60 – look on a map, and you can see the Khlong Toei docks are right in the middle of those three locations. In fact, I later found them close to Khlong Toei itself (as well as a couple new nearby locations), making it very likely that the docks were the original location and they spread out from there. I have yet to find these geckos anywhere more than 10 kilometers from the docks, despite extensive searching.

With the information we had, Mr. Cota and I were able to publish a scientific finding in the Herp Review journal, reporting the first ever discovery of Sri Lankan House Geckos in Thailand. The citation name is Cota, M. & J. Hakim. Hemidactylus parvimaculatus (Sri Lankan House Gecko). Geographical Distribution. Herpetological Review 42(2): 241.

Over time I realized that I nearly always found the geckos under pieces of concrete, usually on bare dirt. With five native species of geckos taking up most of the other space, it’s the only habitat niche that the Sri Lankan House Geckos have been able to make for themselves in Bangkok. It’s also a habitat niche that no one other than me was looking in – which is why no one else had found them, even though they’d probably been in Bangkok for a number of years. This shows how herping in even the most mundane of locales can lead to an exciting new discovery. Always keep your eyes open and photograph anything new that you see – and with a little luck, you might make your own notable discovery.


Posted by on January 17, 2014 in Herping adventures


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7 responses to “Discovering a new species for Bangkok

  1. April Anaya

    June 3, 2014 at 5:44 pm

    My husband found one in our yard are they poisonous

    • Asian Herp Blogs

      June 3, 2014 at 7:50 pm

      Nope! There are no poisonous or venomous geckos. Almost all geckos are completely harmless, though a big Tokay Gecko can give a painful (but not dangerous) bite.

  2. Matt

    August 23, 2014 at 7:35 am

    It. is hemidactylus turcicus, they have several color schemes. Origin from italy and greece but through ships they are world wide now.

    • Asian Herp Blogs

      August 23, 2014 at 11:00 am

      You are correct that these geckos superficially resemble turcicus. The H. brookii complex (which includes Hemidactylus parvimaculatus) and the H. turcicus complex are closely related. I trust the expert opinions I got and the laboratory examination (the species verification was made by Tanya Chan-ard)…but perhaps you noticed a telling ID trait that they didn’t notice?

      If it was H. turcicus, that would also be very interesting. Though H. turcicus is quite widespread, it is originally from Mediterranean climates and has not made the same introduction into tropical Asia that it has in other parts of the world. (The H. brookii complex, on the other hand, is widespread is much similar and closer habitats in Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh, Burma, etc., and was already known to have introductions to Malaysia, Indonesia, and southern Thailand) To this point H. turcicus is still unknown from Bangkok or anywhere else in Thailand. What makes you think H. turcicus rather than the H. brookii complex?

  3. Thomas Calame

    September 3, 2014 at 9:14 pm

    Congrats for the find. It is rewarding to make exceptional records especially when you don’t expect them.

    • Asian Herp Blogs

      September 3, 2014 at 10:48 pm

      Thanks Thomas! I may have a country record for Bangladesh to publish now too. And this one is probably a natural population, not an introduction. Just like the gecko find, it was right in the middle of a city, under a piece of concrete, herping probably where no one else would ever think to herp. (Also like the gecko find, it’s not the most spectacular species, but I’ll take anything.)

  4. Thomas Calame

    September 4, 2014 at 10:30 am

    Indeed there is no “trash species” as some birders like to call.


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