Tuesday, May 1, 2018

[Herpetology • 2018] Lifting the Blue-headed Veil – Integrative Taxonomy of the Acanthocercus atricollis Species Complex (Squamata: Agamidae)

 Wagner, Greenbaum, Bauer, et al., 2018.

DOI: 10.1080/00222933.2018.1435833 

We present the first integrative review of the African agamid lizard Acanthocercus atricollis, a broadly distributed species found from Ethiopia through East Africa to Angola and South Africa. Since the original description of the species approximately 170 years ago six subspecies have been described, mainly on the basis of coloration characters. Our study presents new morphological and genetic data, which together suggest that A. atricollis is a complex of multiple species. External morphological characters and cranial osteology support some of the taxonomic differentiation implied by coloration. We also provide complementary 16S rRNA mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequence data analysed in the context of species delimitation. Our integrated data support several systematic and taxonomic changes, including (1) Acanthocercus branchi is part of the A. atricollis complex, (2) the subspecies A. gregoriiA. minutusA. ugandaensis, and A. kiwuensis merit species rank, (3) A. atricollis loveridgei is a synonym of A. a. gregorii, (4) Agama cyanocephalus, a former synonym of A. atricollis, is now recognized as full species distributed in Angola, Zambia and extreme northern Namibia. The distribution and diversity of the A. atricollis species complex supports the presence of a biogeographic arid corridor connecting eastern and southern Africa.

KEYWORDSSquamata, Agamidae, Acanthocercus atricollis, Acanthocercus cyanocephalus, Africa

Class REPTILIA Laurenti, 1768
Family AGAMIDAE Gray, 1827

Genus Acanthocercus Fitzinger, 1843

Acanthocercus atricollis (Smith, 1849: 14)

Acanthocercus branchi Wagner, Greenbaum and Bauer, 2012

Acanthocercus cyanocephalus (Falk, 1925)

Mythology: The Lunda people of north-western Zambia consider the blue-headed agama as poisonous and do not hunt or eat them (pers. observ. P. Wagner). They are relatively frightened to touch these lizards and the lizards are usually killed by children only. 

Acanthocercus gregorii (Günther, 1894: 86) 

Acanthocercus kiwuensis (Klausewitz, 1957: 167)

Acanthocercus minutus (Klausewitz, 1957: 170) 

Acanthocercus ugandaensis (Klausewitz, 1957: 169) 

Philipp Wagner, Eli Greenbaum, Aaron M Bauer, Chifundera Kusamba and Adam D Leaché . 2018. Lifting the Blue-headed Veil – Integrative Taxonomy of the Acanthocercus atricollis Species Complex (Squamata: Agamidae). Journal of Natural History. DOI: 10.1080/00222933.2018.1435833