May 19, 2024

Hidden in the bushes along a road in China sat a “cryptic” creature with a bright orange tongue. The spiny animal was trying to go about its day, but its efforts were unsuccessful.

Visiting scientists found the mysterious animal — and discovered a new species.

Researchers visited the mountains of Yunnan Province as part of a wildlife survey in November 2023, according to a study published March 7 in the peer-reviewed journal Animals. The region was known to have a “high biodiversity.”

During their surveys, researchers found four spiny lizards hiding in the bushes that didn’t match any known records, the study said. They took a closer look and realized they’d discovered a new species: Pseudocalotes jingpo, or the Jingpo false garden lizard.

Jingpo false garden lizards can reach 6.5 inches in length, the study said. They have “relatively large” heads with pale blue lips and a bright orange tongue. A row of spikes runs down their backs.

A close-up photo shows the mouth of a Pseudocalotes jingpo, or Jingpo false garden lizard.A close-up photo shows the mouth of a Pseudocalotes jingpo, or Jingpo false garden lizard.

A close-up photo shows the mouth of a Pseudocalotes jingpo, or Jingpo false garden lizard.


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A photo shows a Jingpo false garden lizard perched on a branch. Overall, it has a light brown coloring with a mosaic of darker and lighter brown patches. Its coloring blends in well with its surroundings.

Jingpo false garden lizards can change color, shifting between a “light phase” and “dark phase,” researchers said. Their “overall color pattern” is similar between the two phases but the dark brown markings become less pronounced in the dark phase.

Researchers found Jingpo false garden lizards “on a clear day in the bushes by the roadside,” the study said. The lizards live in a mountainous rainforest and have a “cryptic lifestyle.” No male lizards were found.

A Pseudocalotes jingpo, or Jingpo false garden lizard, perched on a branch.A Pseudocalotes jingpo, or Jingpo false garden lizard, perched on a branch.

A Pseudocalotes jingpo, or Jingpo false garden lizard, perched on a branch.

Researchers said they named the new species after the Jingpo ethnic group, a minority group who lives in the area where the new species was discovered.

So far, Jingpo false garden lizards have only been found in Yingjiang County but might live in nearby areas, the study said. Yingjiang County is in Yunnan Province, about 2,000 miles southwest of Beijing and along the China-Myanmar border.

The new species was identified by its scale pattern and coloring, the study said. DNA analysis found that the new species had at least 14% genetic divergence from other species of garden lizard.

The research team included Yuhao Xu, Yanan Gong, Mian Hou, Shiyang Weng, Shuo Liu, Jundong Deng, Junkang Hu and Lifang Peng.

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