Thursday, February 1, 2018

[Herpetology • 2018] Oligosoma hoparatea • A New Species of Scincid Lizard in the Genus Oligosoma (Reptilia: Scincidae) from the mid-Canterbury high country, New Zealand

Oligosoma hoparatea
Whitaker, Chapple, Hitchmough, Lettink & Patterson, 2018


New Zealand has a diverse, endemic skink fauna, which is recognised as the most species rich skink assemblage of any cool temperate region on earth. All native New Zealand skink species are assigned to a single genus, Oligosoma Girard. A new species of Oligosoma is described from screes in montane tussock grassland in the mid-Canterbury high country, New Zealand, where it is currently known from four sites on two mountain ranges. The new species (Oligosoma hoparatea sp. nov.) can be distinguished from all congeners by a combination of mid-body scale row and lamellae counts, scale morphologies, and a bold striped pattern with smooth-edged, dark lateral bands. It is part of the O. longipes Patterson species complex, and occurs in sympatry with its closest relative, O. aff. longipes ‘southern’. The species is currently highly threatened, and is listed as Nationally Critical in New Zealand. Predation by a suite of introduced mammals is assumed to be a major threat to its survival.

Keywords: Reptilia, Conservation, Oligosoma hoparatea sp. nov., morphology, taxonomy

   Oligosoma hoparatea sp. nov. photographed on screes at the type locality, Mt Harper, January 2010.
Photographs: Marieke Lettink

Oligosoma hoparatea sp. nov.

Etymology. The specific name is from the Maori hōpara, meaning belly or underside, and tea, meaning white, thus hōparatea or ‘white-bellied’ in reference to the uniquely uniform white ventral surface of many specimens of this skink. After consultation with the wider herpetological community, the Society for Research on Amphibians and Reptiles in New Zealand (SRARNZ) and the Department of Conservation revised the common name nomenclature for New Zealand reptiles in 2014. Here O. hoparatea sp. nov. was called the “Pukuma” skink. However in this paper the recommended common name is White-bellied Skink. This aligns with the wishes of the deceased author, AHW.

Tony Whitaker, David G. Chapple, Rodney A. Hitchmough, Marieke Lettink and Geoff B. Patterson. 2018. A New Species of Scincid Lizard in the Genus Oligosoma (Reptilia: Scincidae) from the mid-Canterbury high country, New Zealand. Zootaxa. 4377(2); 269–279. DOI:  10.11646/zootaxa.4377.2.7

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