Sunday, December 2, 2018

[Herpetology • 2018] The Rediscovery of Rurk’s Cat Skink Ristella rurkii Gray, 1839 (Reptilia: Ristellidae) with Remarks on Distribution and Natural History

Ristella rurkii Gray, 1839
in Ganesh, 2018.

The description of Rurk’s Cat Skink Ristella rurkii is expanded herein based on recent field sightings and a voucher specimen.  Three individuals comprising an adult male, an adult female, and a juvenile were encountered in Kodaikanal, Palni Hills of the southern Western Ghats.  Morphological and ecological notes on the voucher specimen and these live sightings are elaborated to enrich the current knowledge on this little-known species.  This species is also illustrated in life herein for the first time.  The current report forms the rediscovery of this species after nearly 90 years and after a lapse of 175 years since its original description.  A review of its past distribution records is compiled and further surveys are recommended to revise the geographic range and conservation status of this Data Deficient species.

Keywords: distribution, morphology, Palni hills, scientific obscurity, skink

Image 1. Ristella rurkii. a - reproduction of type drawing from Boulenger (1887), b - live adult - dorsolateral view, c - live adult - ventral view, d - live juvenile. © S.R. Ganesh

Ristella rurkii Gray, 1839 
Ateuchosaurus travancoricus Beddome, 1870 (part) 
Ristella travancorica — Beddome, 1871 (part) 
Ristella malabarica Stoliczka, 1871 
Ristella rurki — Roux, 1928; Smith, 1935 (Images 1 & 2; Table 1)

Field observations: In January 2015, during herpetological surveys in the Palni Hills of the southern Western Ghats, this species was sighted in some localities in and around the Kodaikanal Wildlife Sanctuary. From 60 man hours of survey, a total of three sightings of this species were obtained. A juvenile was sighted within dense grass clumps on open hill slopes at 16:35hr in Mannavanaur (...; 1,900m). One adult female was sighted under a fallen log at 12:25hr in Mathikettan Shola (...; 2,050m). An adult male was sighted at 14:20hrs under a rock in Berijam (...; 2,100m). Two nearterm eggs were visible when seen through the venter of the female. Sightings of gravid females and hatchlings indicate that January falls within the breeding season of Ristella rurkii, at least in the Palni hills region (Image 3).

Sumaithangi Rajagopalan Ganesh. 2018. The Rediscovery of Rurk’s Cat Skink Ristella rurkii Gray, 1839 (Reptilia: Ristellidae) with Remarks on Distribution and Natural History. Journal of Threatened Taxa. 10(10); 12376–12381.  DOI: 10.11609/jott.3946.10.10.12376-12381

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