Two new species of limeless skinks discovered in Australia

Scientists have identified two new species of snake-shaped burrowing skinks (genus Anomalopus) living in east-central Queensland, eastern Australia.

Anomalopus sp. Image credit: Paul Horner / South Australian Museum / Queensland Museum.

Anomalopus is a genus of smooth-scaled burrowing lizards of the family Scincidae.

Less than 10 Anomalopus species are scientifically recognized, all endemic to the eastern half of Australia.

They measure up to 12 cm (4.7 inches) in total length and prefer tropical and subtropical habitats.

“One of the species is particularly strange because it has extra bone in its middle ear,” said South Australian Museum researcher Dr Mark Hutchinson.

“We don’t know for sure what it does, but it obviously has to do with hearing altered in some way or with that their ability to hear high frequency sounds.

“This extra little bonelet can improve the transmission of low frequency sound.”

“The absence of legs and a snake-like body have evolved repeatedly in lizards, most dramatically in snakes themselves, which are actually a group of highly specialized legless lizards,” he said. he adds.

“By examining independent cases of leg absence, we can examine the common features of the ecological factors that promote it, as well as the anatomical and developmental changes that make it possible.”

“Each new discovery allows us to test ideas that have already been proposed, and to discover new twists. “

“The two new species are quite rare and only occur in limited areas and have managed to go completely unnoticed so far.”

The discovery is described in a paper in the Journal of Herpetology.

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Mark N. Hutchinson et al. 2021. Diversity and systematics of limbless skinks (Anomalopus) of eastern Australia and the skeletal changes that accompany the shape of the substrate swim body. Journal of Herpetology 55 (4): 361-384; doi: 10.1670 / 20-137

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