Described as a particularly colourful species, the Musandam leaf-toed gecko (Asaccus caudivolvulus) is a slender, medium-sized gecko with a relatively flattened head, broad snout and distinctive, heart-shaped toes (2). Like other geckos, its skin is soft, with small scales, and the eyes are large, with pupils that contract to vertical slits in bright light (2)(3). The toes of this species each have a pair of specialised scales, known as ‘scansors’ (2), which are covered in thousands of microscopic hair-like structures called setae. Each of these in turn branches into hundreds of saucer-shaped tips, creating an enormous surface area in contact with the ground, giving the gecko remarkable grip and enabling it to climb even smooth, vertical surfaces (2)(3).
The Musandam leaf-toed gecko was only described as a separate species as recently as 1994 (4). The body of this species is pinkish in colour, almost translucent, with darker bands running down the body and onto the tail, and small tubercles covering the back.
The Musandam leaf-toed gecko is active at night (2) and, like most other geckos, is likely to feed on a variety of insects and other small invertebrates(3). This species lays a single, hard-shelled, spherical egg, which is glued to rock deep within crevices in caves or cliffs. A number of individuals may lay their eggs in the same traditional, communal laying sites. In captivity, one egg may be laid around every three to four weeks (2).
Relatively little is known about the threats faced by the Musandam leaf-toed gecko, but it may be locally threatened in parts of its range by quarrying activities (1). General threats to the region’s wildlife include habitat loss due to increasing urbanisation and development, as well as overgrazing by livestock, mining, pollution, and over-extraction of ground water (6)(7).
Although the mountains of the United Arab Emirates have so far not been subject to the same degree of habitat loss as many lowland regions, the available habitat in these areas is limited, and some isolated reptile populations may potentially be threatened. Of particular concern is a population of the Musandam leaf-toed gecko in Jebel Ras, south of Khor Fakkan in the United Arab Emirates. This area has been subject to high levels of urban and industrial development, and the continued survival of this small population is uncertain (8).
There are no known specific conservation measures currently in place for the Musandam leaf-toed gecko. However, it occurs in a number of protected areas, which may offer it some protection. Further studies are needed into the distribution, abundance and biology of this gecko, as well as into the potential threats it faces (1).
The Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi (EAD) is working within the United Arab Emirates to protect and conserve the region’s valuable biodiversity (9), while the use of traditional, protected, livestock-free areas by local people in some parts of the Hajar Mountains may help to slow habitat loss to some degree (7).
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