French scientists say they hatched a new gecko species from an egg plucked from its nest in a South Pacific island and carried it 12,000 miles to Paris in a box lined with Kleenex.
France's National Museum of Natural History said it was the first time a new lizard species has been catalogued based on an individual raised from an egg.
Given the Latin name Lepidodactylus buleli, the gecko makes its home near the tops of the trees that line the west coast of Espiritu Santo, one of the larger islands of the Vanuatu archipelago east of Australia, the museum said.
A 2006 expedition to Espiritu Santo to study the ecosystems of the forest canopy led to the discovery of the 3-inch-long gecko. The expedition included climbers who scoured the canopy for plant and animal samples.
Ivan Ineich, a reptile specialist at the museum, said he first noticed the little lizard when he saw a bloody carcass accidentally hacked in half by one of climbers.
"I said to myself 'this guy looks bizarre,' but I couldn't tell right away it was a new species because it had been so massacred," Ineich said in a phone interview.
Climbers then harvested a plant where female geckos had hidden nine minuscule eggs, Ineich wrapped them in wet Kleenex, packed them into a pillbox and carried them home to the French capital.
There, he gave the eggs to a friend who raises lizards as a hobby. Eight of the baby geckos died after temperatures in the terrarium plummeted during a power outage, but the ninth lived.