Thursday, July 19, 2018

[Herpetology • 2018] Selvasaura brava • Systematics of Neotropical Microteiid Lizards (Gymnophthalmidae, Cercosaurinae), with the Description of A New Genus and Species from the Andean Montane Forests

 Selvasaura brava
Moravec, Šmíd, Štundl & Lehr, 2018

Cercosaurine lizards (subfamily Cercosaurinae of the family Gymnophthalmidae) represent a substantial component of the reptile fauna in the Neotropics. Several attempts have been made to reconstruct the phylogenetic relationships within this group, but most studies focused on particular genera or regions and did not cover the subfamily as a whole. In this study, material from the montane forests of Peru was newly sequenced. In combination with all cercosaurine sequences available on GenBank, an updated phylogeny of Cercosaurinae is provided. Monophyly was not supported for three of the currently recognised genera (Echinosaura, Oreosaurus, and Proctoporus). The genus Proctoporus is formed by five monophyletic groups, which should be used in future taxonomic revisions as feasible entities. Recognition of two previously identified undescribed clades (Unnamed clades 2 and 3) was supported and yet another undescribed clade (termed here Unnamed clade 4), which deserves recognition as an independent genus, was identified herein. Selvasaura brava, a new genus and new species of arboreal gymnophthalmid lizard is described from the montane forests of the Pui Pui Protected Forest, Provincia de Chanchamayo, Región Junín, Peru. The new species is characterised by its small size (SVL 42.1–45.9 mm), slender body, smooth head shields, presence of paired prefrontal shields, fused anteriormost supraocular and anteriormost superciliary shields, transparent not divided lower palpebral disc, slightly rugose subimbricate rectangular dorsal scales in adults (slightly keeled in juveniles), distinctly smaller but non-granular lateral scales, smooth squared to rectangular ventral scales, and hemipenial lobes large, distinct from the hemipenial body. Phylogenetic affinities of the new genus to the other cercosaurine genera, as well as basal phylogenetic relationships between the other cercosaurine genera remain unresolved.

Keywords: Andes, arboreality, phylogeny, reptile diversity, Selvasaura gen. n., Selvasaura brava sp. n., taxonomy

Family Gymnophthalmidae Fitzinger, 1826
Subfamily Cercosaurinae Gray, 1838

Genus Selvasaura gen. n.
Unnamed clade 3 (in Torres-Carvajal et al. 2016)

Type species: Selvasaura brava sp. n.

Diagnosis: Phenotypic synapomorphies are not known for this genus. Morphologically, Selvasaura gen. n. can be distinguished from all other genera of Cercosaurinae by the combination of the following characters: lower palpebral disc transparent, not divided (divided in Andinosaura, Euspondylus, Gelanesaurus, Oreosaurus, Petracola, Riama, and most Anadia and Placosoma species; opaque in Pholidobolus); dorsal scales slightly rugose (smooth in Anadia; keeled in Cercosaura; strongly keeled and tuberculate in Echinosaura, Gelanesaurus, Neusticurus, Potamites; minute tubercles on posterior dorsal scales in Placosoma); lateral scales distinctly smaller than dorsal scales (lateral scales not distinctly reduced in size in Macropholidus); lateral scales adjacent to ventrals non-granular (granular in Proctoporus) (see e.g., Oftedal 1974; Cadle and Chuna 1995; Altamirano-Benavides et al. 2013; Kok et al. 2013; Torres-Carvajal and Mafla-Endara 2013; Echevarría et al. 2015; Borges-Nojosa et al. 2016; Chávez et al. 2017; Sánchez-Pacheco et al. 2017b). Genetically, the genus is differentiated from the other cercosaurines by distances given in Table 3 and 4.

Definition: (1) head shields smooth; (2) frontoparietal and parietal shields paired; (3) frontonasal, frontal and interparietal shields single; (4) prefrontal shields present; (5) lower palpebral disc transparent, not divided; (6) loreal shield present; (7) scale organs on labials present; (8) anteriormost supraocular and anteriormost superciliary shields fused; (9) dorsal surface of the tongue covered by scale-like papillae; (10) nuchal scales smooth; (11) dorsal scales rectangular, slightly rugose; (12) ventral scales squared to rectangular, smooth; (13) limbs pentadactyl, digits clawed; (14) femoral pores present in males, absent in females; (15) hemipenial lobes large, distinct from the hemipenial body.

Content: Selvasaura brava sp. n. and undescribed species of Unnamed clade 3 (sensu Torres-Carvajal et al. 2016) whose formal descriptions are underway (see Torres-Carvajal et al. 2016).

Distribution: Peru: Región Junín, Provincia de Chanchamayo, Pui Pui Protected Forest (Selvasaura brava sp. n.); Región San Martin, Provincia Mariscal Cáceres, Laurel (Cercosaurinae sp. 3; Torres-Carvajal et al. 2016). Ecuador: Provincia de Zamora Chinchipe, El Pangui (Cercosaurinae sp. 3; Torres-Carvajal et al. 2016); Provincia de Napo, Wildsumaco Wildlife Sanctuary (Cercosaurinae sp. 3; Torres-Carvajal et al. 2016).

Etymology: The generic name Selvasaura is derived from the Spanish noun ‘selva’ (forest) and the Greek noun σαύρα (lizard; saura is the feminine form) and refers to the habitat (montane rainforest) of the type species.

Figure 6. Holotype of Selvasaura brava sp. n. (MUSM 32738) in life. Photographs by E. Lehr. 

Figure 7. Paratypes of Selvasaura brava sp. n. 
Dorsal (A) and ventral (B) view of adult male (NMP6V 75653) with a detail of an everted hemipenis (C)
D adult female (MUSM 32718) E – juvenile (NMP6V 75655). Note the generally uniform colouration of the female compared to the male and juvenile specimens. Photographs by J. Moravec.

Selvasaura brava sp. n.
 Suggested English name: Brave forest microtegu 
Suggested Spanish name: Microtegu selva brava

Diagnosis: A small gymnophthalmid (SVL 42.1–45.9 mm, n = 4), which can be characterised by the following combination of characters: 1) body slender, slightly depressed, maximum SVL 45.9 mm in males, 42.1 mm in a single female; 2) head relatively short, pointed, about 1.5 times longer than wide; 3) ear opening distinct, moderately recessed; 4) nasals separated by undivided frontonasal; 5) prefrontals, frontal, frontoparietals, parietals, postparietals and interparietal present; 6) parietals slightly longer than wide; 7) supraoculars four, anteriormost fused with anteriormost superciliar; 8) superciliar series complete, consisting of four scales; 9) nasal shield divided above and below or behind the nostril; 10) loreal separated or in contact with second supralabial; 11) supralabials seven; 12) genials in four pairs, first and second pair in contact; 13) collar present, containing 9–11 enlarged scales; 14) dorsals in 33–36 transverse rows, rectangular, nearly twice as long as wide, subimbricate, rugose in adults, slightly keeled in juveniles; 15) ventrals in 22–25 transverse rows, squared to rectangular, smooth, juxtaposed; 16) scales around mid-body 32–34; 17) lateral scales at mid-body reduced in 4–7 lines; 18) limbs pentadactyl, all digits clawed, forelimb reaching anteriorly to third supralabial; 19) subdigital lamellae under Finger IV 14–16, under Toe IV 18–22; 20) femoral pores in males 7–9; 21) four large preanal plate scales; 22) tail about 1.5–1.7 times longer than body (in juveniles); 23) caudals subimbricate, rugose to slightly keeled dorsally in adults, slightly keeled in juveniles, smooth ventrally; 24) lower palpebral disc transparent, undivided; 25) in life, dorsal surface of head, body and limbs light brown with fine dark brown speckling, dorsal surface of tail light brown with a reddish tint or reddish-brown markings; a tan or yellowish brown vertebral stripe bordered laterally by dark brown, vertebral stripe extends on head anteriorly and on tail caudally (inconspicuous in the female); a narrow dirty white to tan dorsolateral line extending on each side from above the tympanum to pelvic region (discontinuous caudally from the level of forelimbs in adults, reaching posterior edge of orbit in some individuals); a narrow dirty white to tan stripe running from above the orbit across parietals and first postparietals up to the neck (connected with the dorsolateral line in some individuals); a narrow white stripe extending from below of orbit to insertion of forelimbs (bordered dorsally by black in juveniles and some adults); minute ocelli-like white spots on flanks (most conspicuous at forearm insertion, absent in some adults); ventrolateral parts of flanks whitish brown; throat and belly creamy white with fine dark grey speckling inside the individual scales (yellowish white with black speckling in juveniles); ventral surfaces of limbs, anal area and tail yellowish white in males and juveniles, white in the female; iris tan with orange tint in males, tan in the female.

Etymology: The species epithet brava is derived from the Spanish adjective bravo (brave, courageous, wild; brava the feminine form) and refers to Río Bravo, the largest river in the area of occurrence of the new species, as well as to the fearless nature of the lizard to share shelter with people.

Distribution, natural history, and threat status: Selvasaura brava sp. n. is known from two localities lying at the northeastern border of the Pui Pui Protected Forest, ca. 18 km (straight airline distance) NW of the town of Satipo (Fig. 1). Both localities are located in the valley of the tributary of Río Bravo (on opposite banks of the tributary) about 500 m (straight distance) from each other. The valley and its slopes are covered by a primary montane rainforest characterized by 15–20 m high canopy and frequent occurrence of bromeliads, ferns, and epiphytic mosses (see also Lehr and Moravec (2017). All specimens of S. brava sp. n. were collected during the day within roofs of provisional camp shacks consisting of dried palm leaves and built by locals on small forest clearings (Fig. 8; MorphoBank picture: M485681). The roofs of the shacks were placed on 1.5–4 m pillars made of tree trunks and stood in an open space fully exposed to sun. The activity of all observed specimens seemed correlated with the intensity of solar radiation. During the sunny hours, the animals emerged from their shelters in the leaf layer, climbed and basked on the roof surface and searched for prey. As agile climbers, the lizards were able to climb up thin vertical tree trunks and jump between the palm leaves. These observations indicate that S. brava sp. n. represents an arboreal heliothermic species. Other gymnophthalmid species found at the type locality in sympatry with S. brava sp. n. included Potamites sp. (not included in the genetic analyses), which inhabited banks of small forest brooks, and Proctoporus sp. 4 (sensu this publication, Fig. 3) collected on the ground in the open clearing. With respect to the sparse data available, we suggest classifying S. brava as “Data Deficient” according to the IUCN red list criteria.

Figure 8. Type locality of Selvasaura brava sp. n. The lizards were active during the day basking and foraging in the leaves of the roof and on the shack pillars. They used the leaves on the roof as a refuge to hide in. Photograph by J. Moravec.


Jiří Moravec, Jiří Šmíd, Jan Štundl and Edgar Lehr. 2018. Systematics of Neotropical Microteiid Lizards (Gymnophthalmidae, Cercosaurinae), with the Description of A New Genus and Species from the Andean Montane Forests. ZooKeys. 774: 105-139.  DOI: 10.3897/zookeys.774.25332

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