If Geckolepis megalepis sounds like the name of a magical, otherworldly creature, that's because it is. The fish-scale gecko — as it's known in its genus — is covered head to tail in iridescent, mermaid-like scales.
And scientists just found a new species of fish-scale gecko that can literally slip out of its skin when predators attack, Phys reports.
It wouldn't be radical to call geckos masters of escape. Many kinds of lizards can shed their tails when attacked by predators, thus leaving behind a juicy part of themselves but keeping their lives in the process.
But fish-scale geckos pioneered their own specific escape toolkit. Instead of leaving behind a segment of tail, they leave behind an unappetizing mound of scales.
This escape tactic does beg one obvious question: What does a fish-scale gecko look like without its scales? The answer: more or less like a naked mole rat.
The newly discovered Geckolepis megalepis loses both its scales and skin when it escapes the jaws of a predator. (Photo Credit: Frank Glaw)
Underneath all their gorgeous scales, the geckos look waxy, pink and pearly. And even though they look incredibly vulnerable in their descaled state, the geckos can grow back their scales within weeks. The shedding process is called sloughing.
So how can fish-scale geckos shed their skin so easily? It all has to do with their special scales. Larger than normal, fish-gecko scales are only attached to the gecko on an edge. Plus, the gecko's skin is divided into predestined splitting regions.
So it's only a matter of seconds for the gecko to rid its newly nude body from its cage of scales and scamper off unscathed. Well, relatively unscathed.
Geckolepis megalepis lives in Magadascar, and scientists just confirmed the species as distinct after a series of bone scans revealed its unique skeleton.
Fish-scale geckos have been historically exhausting to identify because all attempts at capture generally resulted in sloughing, meaning scientists were left with handfuls of slimy pink geckos that, by all accounts, looked pretty much the same.
With such a generous habit of shedding its scales, just call Geckolepis megalepis the rainbow fish of the reptile kingdom.