Sunday, April 11, 2021

[Herpetology • 2020] Goniurosaurus gollum The Stoor Hobbit of Guangdong: A Cave-dwelling Leopard Gecko (Squamata, Eublepharidae) from South China

Goniurosaurus gollum 
 Qi, Wang, Grismer, Chen, Lyu & Wang, 2020

Gollum Leopard Gecko | 广东睑虎 || DOI: 10.3897/zookeys.991.54935

A new species of the genus Goniurosaurus is described based on three specimens collected from a limestone cave in Huaiji County, Guangdong Province, China. Based on molecular phylogenetic analyses, the new species is nested within the Goniurosaurus yingdeensis species group. However, morphological analyses cannot ascribe it to any known species of that group. It is distinguished from the other three species in the group by a combination of the following characters: scales around midbody 121–128; dorsal tubercle rows at midbody 16–17; presence of 10–11 precloacal pores in males, and absent in females; nuchal loop and body bands immaculate, without black spots; iris orange, gradually darker on both sides. The discovery of yet another limestone-adapted species of Goniurosaurus in Guangdong Province underscores a growing body of evidence for the high biodiversity of limestone habitats and brings into sharp focus the urgent need for their conservation.

Keywords: Goniurosaurus gollum, sp. nov., karst, limestone cave, taxonomy, systematics

Figure 3. Type series of Goniurosaurus gollum sp. nov.
A holotype, male, SYS r002420 B paratype, male, SYS r002421 C paratype, female, SYS r002421; (1) dorsal view; (2) dorsal view of head; (3) ventral view of head; (4) close-up of the precloacal region, the Arabic number refer to the number of precloacal pores.
 Photographs by Shuo Qi.

Figure 2. A The general aspect of the adult male holotype of Goniurosaurus gollum sp. nov. (SYS r002420) in life B scalation and coloration characters of the head of the holotype.
Photographs by Shuo Qi.


Goniurosaurus gollum Qi, Wang, Grismer, Lyu & Wang, sp. nov.

Diagnosis: Goniurosaurus gollum sp. nov. can be distinguished from all other congeners by the following combination of characters: (1) adult body size moderate, 91.0–93.4 mm SVL; (2) nasal scales surrounding nares seven or eight; (4) internasal single; (5) eyelid fringe scales 59–63; (6) granular scales of upper eyelids similar in size to those on top of head; (7) scales around midbody 121–128; (8) longitudinal dorsal tubercle rows at midbody 16 or 17; (9) paravertebral tubercles between limb insertions 25 or 26; (10) claws sheathed by four scales, dorsal claw scales small, two lateral claw scales short and shell-shaped; (11) axillary pockets deep; (12) presence of 10 or 11 precloacal pores in males and absent in females; (13) dorsal ground color of head, body, and limbs in adults yellowish brown and mottled with irregularly shaped dark-brown blotches; (14) nuchal loop complete, rounded posteriorly; (15) presence of three or four thin dorsal body bands between nuchal loop and caudal constriction, with black anterior and posterior borders, bands usually irregularly shaped; (16) iris orange, gradually darker on both sides.

Figure 4. Comparisons of iris color with three closely related congeners
Goniurosaurus gollum sp. nov. (holotype, SYS r002420) B Goniurosaurus varius (holotype, SYS r002333)
Goniurosaurus yingdeensis (holotype SYSr000504) D Goniurosaurus zhelongi (holotype, SYS r000770).
Photographs by Shuo Qi and Ying-Yong Wang.

Figure 5. The holotype of  Goniurosaurus gollum sp. nov. (SYS r002420) at its habitat: a barren limestone cave of Guangdong, China.
 Photograph by Shuo Qi.

Etymology The specific epithet “gollum” is named after the fictional character, Gollum, from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings book series. This new species and Gollum have similar cave-dwelling habit and emaciated body. We suggest the common name as “Gollum Leopard Gecko”, and according to the type locality, we suggest the Chinese formal name as “guǎng dōng jiǎn hǔ” (广东睑虎).

Distribution and ecology: Currently, Goniurosaurus gollum sp. nov. is known only from Huaiji County, Guangdong Province, China. All individuals were found within a barren limestone cave approximately 50 m from the cave entrance at night after 2130 hrs (Fig. 5). The surface of the cave is covered with bat (unidentified) and bird (Apus pacificus) droppings. Stalactites are suspended from the roof and there is no vegetation. Duttaphrynus melanostictus was observed in the same area.

Shuo Qi, Jian Wang, L. Lee Grismer, Hong-Hui Chen, Zhi-Tong Lyu and Ying-Yong Wang. 2020. The Stoor Hobbit of Guangdong: Goniurosaurus gollum sp. nov., A Cave-dwelling Leopard Gecko (Squamata, Eublepharidae) from South China. ZooKeys. 991: 137-153. DOI: 10.3897/zookeys.991.54935