Wednesday, October 1, 2014

[Herpetology • 2014] Carlia wundalthini | Cape Melville Rainbow Skink • A New Skink (Scincidae: Carlia) from the Rainforest Uplands of Cape Melville, north-east Australia

Carlia wundalthini Hoskin, 2014
Cape Melville Rainbow Skink

Carlia skinks are widespread in New Guinea, Wallacea, and northern and eastern Australia. Most Australian species occur in dry woodlands and savannas or marginal rainforest habitats associated with these. There are two rainforest species, parapatrically distributed in coastal mid-eastern Queensland (C. rhomboidalis) and the Wet Tropics of north-eastern Queensland (C. rubrigularis). These two sister species share a diagnostic morphological trait in having the interparietal scale fused to the frontoparietal. Here I describe a third species in this group, Carlia wundalthini sp. nov., from rainforest uplands of the Melville Range, a rainforest isolate 170 km north of the Wet Tropics. This species is diagnosable on male breeding colouration, morphometrics and scalation. The description of C. wundalthini sp. nov. brings the number of vertebrate species known to be endemic to the rainforest and boulder-fields of Cape Melville to seven. Carlia wundalthini sp. nov. is distinct among these endemics in being the only one that does not appear to be directly associated with rock, being found in rainforest leaf-litter.

Keywords: Carlia rubrigularis, Carlia rhomboidalis, Cape York, rainforest, boulder-field, lithorefugia, Queensland

Etymology. Wundalthini was the name of Charlie Monaghan, a Traditional Owner who was born in the Cape Melville area and who passed on much of the knowledge and responsibility for that country to the current generation of its Traditional Owners. The species was named by the bubu gudjin of Cape Melville, the Traditional Owners who have the responsibility to speak for the land where the species lives.

Distribution. Known only from the uplands of the Melville Range, Cape Melville, north-eastern Australia (Fig. 7). Recorded in the vicinity of the type locality (14°16'33" S, 144°29'32" E), at elevations between 450 and 520 m a.s.l., and also in the vicinity of the highest peak (14°16'59" S, 144°29'59" E) at about 600 m a.s.l. Carlia wundalthini sp. nov. was not recorded during surveys of lowland rainforest at the west and south-east of Melville Range.

Habitat and habits. Found in upland rainforest (Fig. 8). Individuals were found during the day active on the surface of leaf-litter or basking in small sun-patches. When disturbed the skinks hid under the leaf-litter or retreated to tangles of fallen branches or rock crevices. Male C. wundalthini sp. nov. were in breeding colour in December but not in March. The other skinks found in micro-sympatry were an undescribed species of Glaphyromorphus (Hoskin & Couper, in press) and a species of Lygisaurus (Hoskin & Hines, under investigation) in the leaf-litter, while Saproscincus saltus Hoskin, 2013 was found on rock surfaces in the same habitat. Carlia longipes (Macleay, 1877), Eulamprus brachysoma (Lönnberg & Andersson, 1915), Cryptoblepharus fuhni Covacevich & Ingram, 1978, Cryptoblepharus virgatus (Garman, 1901) and Bellatorias frerei (Günther, 1897) were found in more open, rockier habitats nearby.

Hoskin, Conrad J. 2014. A New Skink (Scincidae: Carlia) from the Rainforest Uplands of Cape Melville, north-east Australia. Zootaxa. 3869(3): 224–236.