Saturday, January 12, 2013

[Herpetology • 2003] Sirenoscincus yamagishii | 'mermaid skink' • A fossorial lizard with forelimbs only: description of a new genus and species of Malagasy skink (Squamata: Scincidae) from northeastern Madagascar

Sirenoscincus yamagishii Sakata & Hikida 2003
photo: Miralles, et. al., 2012

 A new genus and species of fossorial scincine lizard is described from northeastern Madagascar. This species, having an elongated body and eyes covered by scales, lacking external ear openings and pigmentation throughout the body, resembles Cryptoscincus and Voeltzkowia. However it differs from these or any other scincid genera known to the present in having small but distinct forelimbs, each with four stout claws, and complete lack of hind limbs.

Key words: New genus; New species; Scincidae; Madagascar; Fossorial; Limb reduction

Etymology:  The generic name is derived from the Latin words, siren (mermaid) and scincus (skink), referring to the unique body shape of the type species with forelimbs only. The specific epithet is dedicated to Dr. Satoshi Yamagishi, who was a professor of Kyoto University and the project leader of Ecological Surveys in Ampijoroa, Ankarafantsika Strict Nature Reserve, in which both of the type specimens were obtained.

Natural history:  The holotype was found under the leaf litter during a night survey. The collectors first found an autotomized tail which was still moving on the leaf litter. Then they searched around there and captured the holotype. The paratype was collected as a dead body on the road. Additionally three tails obviously belonging to the present species ware obtained as stomach contents of two colubrid snakes, Liophidium torquatum and Dromicodryas bernieri. These two snake species are considered to be terrestrial (Mori et al, unpublished observation). Probably Sirenoscincus yamagishii is a common prey item for such terrestrial snakes around the type locality.

Sakata, Shuichi & Hikida, Tsutomu 2003. A fossorial lizard with forelimbs only: description of a new genus and species of Malagasy skink (Reptilia: Squamata: Scincidae). Current Herpetology. 22 (1): 9-15. 

Miralles A., Anjeriniaina M., Hipsley C. A., Müller J., Glaw F. & Vences M. 2012. Variations on a bauplan: description of a new Malagasy “mermaid skink” with flipper-like forelimbs only (Scincidae, Sirenoscincus Sakata & Hikida, 2003). Zoosystema. 34 (4): 701-719.