Thursday, October 29, 2015

[Herpetology • 2015] Euspondylus paxcorpus • A Novel Species of Euspondylus (Squamata: Gymnophthalmidae) from the Andes Mountains of central Peru

Euspondylus paxcorpus
Doan & Adams, 2015


The South American gymnophthalmid genus Euspondylus is distributed from Venezuela through Peru, with its highest diversity occurring in Peru. Euspondylus paxcorpus sp. nov. is a new species from Junín, Peru possessing prefrontal scales and represented by 60 specimens. The new species differs from all other species by the combination of four supraoculars with supraocular/supraciliary fusion, 5–7 occipitals, a single palpebral scale, five supralabials and infralabials, quadrangular dorsal scales with low keels arranged in transverse series only, 40–45 in a longitudinal count and 22–28 in a transverse count, 12 rows of ventrals in a transverse count and 23–25 in a longitudinal count, and no sexual dimorphism in coloration. The discovery of E. paxcorpus increases the known number of Euspondylus species to 13. Because the coloration patterns of the specimens were greatly different after preservation in alcohol, caution should be used when identifying Euspondylus species from museum specimens.

Keywords: Reptilia, Euspondylus paxcorpus, Gymnophthalmidae, Junín, lizard, Peru, new species, Reptilia, South America, Squamata, taxonomy

Distribution and natural history. Euspondylus paxcorpus is endemic to the eastern slope of the Cordillera Oriental of the central Peruvian Andes. All specimens were collected by day associated with groups of rocks near small farms between 3500–3800 masl in the district of Ulcumayo, region of Junín, Peru. The terrain is montane and andenes (agricultural terraces) constructed by the local pre-hispanic culture dominate the area and have been maintained for the continued cultivation of potatoes (Solanum spp.), olluco (Ullucus tuberosus), oca (Oxalis tuberosa), mashua (Trapaeolum tuberosum), and fava beans (Vicia faba). The climate is defined as boreal (Dwb, Köppen–Geiger climate classification system) and is cold and dry with a marked difference between day and night (approximately 7 to 15  ̊C difference) stereotypical of the Suni and Quechua natural regions (Monge Miguel et al., 1996). An intense rainy season occurs between the months of December and March. The flora is mainly composed of small herbaceous plants and grasses including Jarava ichu. The only other reptile species found in the area was the dipsadid snake Tachymenis peruviana Wiegmann. Interestingly, in the district of Ulcumayo and surrounding areas, E. paxcorpus is used for traditional medicinal purposes; specimens are flayed and tied to extremities to heal broken bones. The use of reptiles for medicinal means is not limited to E. paxcorpus in Ulcumayo, as snakes are commonly left to steep in sugar cane alcohol called cañaso and considered a curative. In Quechua these lizards are referred to as shakurhuay. 

Etymology. The specific epithet paxcorpus is a Latin noun that honors the Peace Corps, or Cuerpo de Paz in Spanish. The lizards were discovered and collected by a Peace Corps Volunteer during his service in Peru to promote community-based environmental management.  

The description of Euspondylus paxcorpus brings the current number of Euspondylus species to 13. In Peru nine or 10 species occur (it is questionable whether E. guentheri occurs in Peru), with three other species (E. josyi, E. maculatus, and E. spinalis) also occurring within the Junín region, though none of them is sympatric with E. paxcorpus. In fact, although E. paxcorpus was quite abundant in all areas where it was located, no other lizard species were found locally. 

One striking finding during this study was the drastic difference in coloration of all specimens from life to after preservation in ethanol (Fig. 3). In ethanol, all specimens had a uniform dark brown dorsum, head, and dorsal surface of the tail, with no stripes, spots, or variations in color visible. However, the coloration in life showed visible spots, ocelli, stripes, and different regions of color. These differences do not bode well for the examination of museum specimens of Euspondylus or other species whose coloration is so greatly altered. In our experience, though colors typically fade in alcohol, patterns are usually still visible in other species. The fact that no patterning is visible indicates that the examination of color patterns of museum specimens may give misleading information about the coloration of living specimens and conclusions about coloration based solely on museum specimens should be treated with caution.  

Doan, Tiffany M. & Grant Adams. 2015. A Novel Species of Euspondylus (Squamata: Gymnophthalmidae) from the Andes Mountains of central Peru.
  Zootaxa. 4033(1): 129–136. DOI: 10.11646/zootaxa.4033.1.7

This Peace Corps volunteer helped discover a lizard unknown to science  @RachelFeltman

El género Euspondylus de la familia Gymnophthalmidae se distribuye en Sudamérica desde Venezuela hasta Perú, con la máxima diversidad en el Perú. Euspondylus paxcorpus sp. nov. procedente de Junín, Perú, posee escamas prefrontales y está representado por 60 especímenes. La nueva especie se distingue de los demás por poseer la combinación de cuatro supraoculares con la fusión de supraocular y supraciliar, 5–7 occipitales, una sola escama palpebral, cinco supralabiales e
infralabiales, escamas dorsales cuadrangulares con quillas bajas y arregladas en filas transversales solamente, 40–45 por conteo longitudinal y 22–28 por conteo transversal, 12 filas de escamas ventrales en conteo longitudinal y 23–25 por conteo transversal, y sin dimorphismo sexual en coloración. El descubrimiento de E. paxcorpus aumenta el número de especies de Euspondylus conocidas a 13. Debido a que los patrones de coloración de los especímenes cambiaron tan drásticamente después de la conservación en alcohol, se debe tener precaución cuando se identifican las especies de Euspondylus de especímenes del museo.

Palabras claves: Euspondylus paxcorpus, Gymnophthalmidae, Junín, lagartija, Peru, nueva especie, Reptilia, Squamata, Sudamérica, taxonomía