Wednesday, October 12, 2016

[Herpetology • 2012] Acanthocercus branchi • A New Species of the Acanthocercus atricollis complex (Squamata: Agamidae) from Zambia

Acanthocercus branchi  
      Wagner, Greenbaum & Bauer, 2012 

In the course of working on a taxonomic revision of the Acanthocercus atricollis complex, we discovered a population from the Luangwa and Zambezi valleys in Zambia and adjacent Malawi that is morphologically and genetically distinct from all described taxa of this complex. This population is described as a new species on the basis of morphological characters, including indistinct transverse rows of enlarged scales on the body, a large black patch on the shoulders, and a different pholidosis. It is morphologically similar to A. a. gregorii and A. a. loveridgei, but seems to be more closely related to the former.

Key words. Squamata, Agamidae, Acanthocercus atricollis, new species, Africa, Zambia, Malawi, Zambezi Valley, Luangwa Valley.

Figure 2. (a) Holotype of Acanthocercus branchi sp. n. (ZFMK 88682) in life from near Chipata (see text for details), Zambia. (b) Typical habitat of Acanthocercus branchi sp. n. near Chipata, Zambia. 

Distribution: The new species is known from localities within the Luangwa (Chipata, Chikowa, Sayiri Court) and Zambezi (Lusaka) valleys in Zambia.

Habitat and ecology: This new species is a tree dweller as it is typical for the A. atricollis complex (Reaney & Whiting 2003), although not for all subspecies (Wagner unpubl. data). In Chipata, it was collected in dense Miombo woodland with large trees and a structured canopy. In Lusaka, it was captured on a solitary tree. At both localities, other individuals were also observed, but it was not possible to identify them as males or females. Specimens from Pioneer Camp were observed while climbing on tree trunks.

Etymology: This new species is named in honour of our friend and colleague William Roy Branch, in recognition of his important contributions to our knowledge of African amphibians and reptiles over several decades, and in commemoration of his nominal retirement as curator of herpetology at the Port Elizabeth Museum (Bayworld).

 Philipp Wagner, Eli Greenbaum and Aaron Bauer. 2012. A New Species of the Acanthocercus atricollis complex (Squamata: Agamidae) from Zambia.
SALAMANDRA48(1); 21–30. 

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