Wednesday, January 4, 2023

[Herpetology • 2022] Rhampholeon colemani, R. rubeho, R. waynelotteri, etc.• Cryptic Diversity in Pygmy Chameleons (Chamaeleonidae: Rhampholeon) of the Eastern Arc Mountains of Tanzania, with Description of Six New Species

Rhampholeon colemani,  R. sabini,  
R. rubeho,  R. nicolai
R. waynelotteri,  R. princeeai 
Menegon, Lyakurwa, Loader & Tolley, 2022 

Previous molecular phylogenetic studies of pygmy chameleons have identified several cases of undescribed cryptic diversity of species, some of which have remained undescribed due to a lack of morphological information. Here, we combine descriptive morphology with principal component analysis, to quantify the overall morphological variation, and phylogenetic analysis to describe six new species of Rhampholeon from the Eastern Arc Mountains, including populations found in the Udzungwa, Rubeho, Nguru, Ukaguru, and Nguu Mountains. From our study we detected only limited morphometric variation between species. We distinguish the new species using genetics, combined with assessment of morphological features, and their geographical distribution. We highlight the threats to pygmy chameleons in East Africa from habitat change and exporting live specimens for the wildlife trade. Based on our understanding, we note a few species that we consider at risk of decline – mainly based on their narrow distribution and their apparent popularity in the export market. This study also further underlines the extraordinary biological value of the relatively small forest patches (less than 3000 km2) of the Eastern Arc, which contain more species of chameleons than any other area in mainland Africa.

Keywords: Afromontane, biodiversity, East Africa, chameleons, new species, reptiles

Rhampholeon uluguruensis Tilbury & Emmrich, 1996
Uluguru Pygmy Chameleon

Rhampholeon moyeri Menegon, Salvidio & Tilbury 2002
Moyer’s Pygmy Chameleon

Rhampholeon beraduccii Mariaux & Tilbury 2006
Beraducci’s Pygmy Chameleon

Rhampholeon acuminatus Mariaux & Tilbury 2006
Nguru Spiny Pygmy Chameleon

Rhampholeon colemani from the Uzungwa Scarp Nature Reserve. 
Rhampholeon sabini from Nguu North Forest Reserve. 
Rhampholeon rubeho from Mafwomero Forest Reserve in the Rubeho Mountains. 
Rhampholeon nicolai from Mamiwa Kisara North Forest Reserve in the Ukaguru Mountains.
Rhampholeon waynelotteri from Kanga Forest Reserve in the Nguru Mountains landscape.
Rhampholeon princeeai from Mkingu Nature Reserve in the Nguru Mountains.

Rhampholeon colemani sp. nov.
Uzungwa Scarp’s Pygmy Chameleon

Etymology: Rhampholeon colemani is named in honour of Carter Coleman, who for more than 25 years has raised funds and campaigned for the conservation of Tanzania’s forests. In 1991 he revived the Tanzania Forest Conservation Group based in Tanzania, and went on to establish the African Rainforest Conservancy in the USA and the Afri-can Rainforest Trust in the United Kingdom, organisations that remain dedicated to conserving Tanzania’s high biodiversity forests
Rhampholeon sabini sp. nov. 
Nguu North Pygmy Chameleon

Etymology: The species name is a patronym for Andy Sabin who provides financial support to many organizations and is actively engaged with community and environmental programs around the world. As an extension of his life-long fascination with reptiles and amphibians and dedication to environmental education.

Rhampholeon rubeho sp. nov. 
Rubeho’s Pigmy Chameleon

Etymology: The species is named after the mountain block (Rubeho) where the type series was collected and where it is con-sidered to be restricted. The specific epithet is considered to be a noun in apposition.

Rhampholeon nicolai sp. nov. 
Nicola’s Pigmy Chameleon

Etymology: This species is named after Nicola Colangelo, an entrepreneur and industrialist who worked in Tanzania for most of his life. He supported conservation initiatives and organisations, and before many others argued for the sustainable utilisation of natural resources. He was passionate about conservation for its intrinsic importance but also for a sustainable development of economies, such as low impact tourism activities.

Rhampholeon waynelotteri sp. nov.
Wayne’s Pygmy Chameleon

Etymology: This species is named after and dedicated to Wayne Lotter, in recognition to his ground-breaking work in developing a holistic and strategic intelligence-based approach to antipoaching. He helped successfully reverse the high rates of elephant poaching in Tanzania, during 2010’s. Unfortunately, he died on 16 August 2017 bravely fighting for the cause he was most passionate about. The specific epithet is patronym in the genitive masculine singular.

Rhampholeon princeeai sp. nov. 
Princeeai’s Pygmy Chameleon

Etymology: The species is named after Richard Williams, better known by his stage name Prince Ea, an American activist and inspirational spoken word artist, poet, rapper and filmmaker. From 2014 he has shifted his focus from music to creating motivational and inspirational spoken word films and content covering a wide range of topics such as deforestation and the reckless destruction of our environment for which we are all responsible. The specific epithet is considered to be a noun in apposition.

Michele Menegon, John V. Lyakurwa, Simon P. Loader and Krystal A. Tolley. 2022. Cryptic Diversity in Pygmy Chameleons (Chamaeleonidae: Rhampholeon) of the Eastern Arc Mountains of Tanzania, with Description of Six New Species. Acta Herpetologica. 17(2; 85-113. DOI:  10.36253/a_h-12978