New species of lizard discovered in Arunachal Pradesh

A team of Indian and Russian researchers have unearthed an unknown group of skink family lizards from Arunachal Pradesh.

The team consisted of researchers from the National Center for Biological Sciences, Bangalore (NCBS), Bombay Natural History Society, Mumbai (BNHS), Abasaheb Garware College, Pune (AGC), and Veer Narmad South Gujarat University, Surat (VNSGU) and Moscow State Lomonosov. Moscow University (LMSU), according to a press release.

The new genus and species, Protoblepharus Apatani, was discovered by the team that had previously discovered Salazar’s viper and several other new species of snakes and lizards in the state, which were discovered during their expedition in 2019. Zeeshan A. Mirza (NCBS), Harshal Bhosale (BNHS) and Gaurang Gowande (AGC), who toured Arunachal Pradesh for 1.5 months during the months of June to August 2019, led the team of shipment.

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The team found the new genus and species of skinks under longfalls in the Talle Valley Wildlife Sanctuary.

These lizards are small and active, with a dark brown body with two pale stripes with a bright iridescent sheen on their scales.

The team compared morphological characters, DNA and skull characteristics to ensure correct identification. Based on the preliminary results, the Arunachal skink was distinct and required comparison of additional DNA data, provided by Russian researchers Andrey Bragin and Nikolay A. Poyarkov.

Andrey is working on skinks related to the one found in Arunachal under Nikolay’s direction.

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Their expertise, together with that of Harshil Patel (VNSGU) helped shape and refine the findings and a joint paper was submitted which has been published in the current issue of the international multidisciplinary journal PeerJ.

Skinks are mostly small-sized, ground-dwelling lizards that actively move among leaf litter during the day.

They are generally more elongated, shiny with distinctly shorter legs. The new species is named after the Apatani tribe of the Ziro Valley in Arunachal Pradesh. The authors acknowledge their help, support and hospitality during their stay in Talle Valley.

It is the fifth new species of reptile to be described by the team from surveys carried out in a single expedition in 2019. The rapid survey yielded five new species in a month and a half. This highlights the poor nature of herpetofauna documentation in the region.

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