Saturday, November 5, 2016

[Herpetology • 2014] Agama hulbertorum • A New Cryptic Species of the Agama lionotus complex from south of the Ngong Hills in Kenya

 Agama hulbertorum Wagner, 2014 

East Africa, especially if including the Horn of Africa, is a centre of diversity for African Agamid lizards and harbours the endemic lineage of the Agama lionotus complex, which currently comprises nine species. Species of the complex are mainly characterized by their throat pattern in adult males, which can be used for species identification. Among them, Agama lionotus and Agama dodomae show a very distinct colouration of a blue body and a white/blue annulated tail – a colour pattern that is otherwise only known from the southern African Agama kirkii. Within the complex, Agama lionotus is the most widely distributed taxon, ranging from Ethiopia to northern Tanzania and being replaced by Agama dodomae farther south in Tanzania. Other taxa of the complex are more restricted in their distribution. In this study, specimens from a larger area south of the Ngong Hills are examined and compared with other members of the complex, because they show an overall similarity to Agama lionotus, but are distinctly smaller. Examining the morphological (62 characters) and genetical (16S, ND4, CMOS) data indicates that these specimens represent a new species. Furthermore, phylogenetic analyses support the new taxon as not closely related to Agama lionotus itself, but as a member of the complex. The new species is especially characterized by its small size. Adult males have a vertebral stripe, a blue body colouration and an annulated white/blue tail. Further typical characters are the low number of scale rows around midbody, the pear-shaped and keeled
nasal scale, the minute nuchal crest, and the feebly keeled vertebral scales, followed by dorsal and lateral keeled scales. The results of this study improve our understanding of the diversity of agamid lizards in East Africa and support the value of adult male throat coloration for the identification of species within the Agama lionotus complex.

Key words. Agamidae, Agama, Agama dodomae, new species, East Africa, Tanzania.

Agama hulbertorum sp. n. 

Diagnosis: A small Agama of the A. lionotus complex. It can be identified by the following combination of characters: nasal scale pear-shaped, keeled and tubular; nasal scale in contact with the first canthus scale; nuchal crest minute, consisting of few, indistinctly raised scales; ear opening surrounded by five tufts of spiny scales, with two additional tufts on the neck; vertebral scales feebly keeled, dorsal and lateral scales keeled, ventral and gular scales smooth; dorsal and lateral caudal scales keeled, ventral caudal scales smooth; and males with one discontinuous row of precloacal pores. Males in nuptial colouration exhibit a red throat, without any pattern, a vertebral stripe, and a narrowly annulated blue and white colour pattern on the tail.

Etymology: This species is named in honour of Andrea and Felix Hulbert, in recognition of their contributions to the captive breeding of African reptiles and, of course, our glorious friendship

Ecology: A rupicolous lizard with individuals inhabiting rocky outcrops or solitary larger stones and rocks in an arid landscape with Acacia shrub vegetation. It is diurnal and lives in harem groups of one dominant male and several females and juveniles (A. Burmann, pers. com. 2006). Specimens at the Ngong Hills were active around noon at temperatures of about 27°C and a humidity of 60% (Burmann 2006).

Philipp Wagner. 2014. A New Cryptic Species of the Agama lionotus complex from south of the Ngong Hills in Kenya. SALAMANDRA50(4); 187–200.

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