Sunday 8 April 2012

A new species of Semiaquatic Spectacled Lizard from southern Peru.

Spectacled Lizards, or Microteiids, are small lizards from Central and South America related to Teiids (Whiptails) and skinks. They have transparent lower eyelids (hence spectacled) and often show reduction or absence of the limbs, particularly the hind-limbs. The Semiaquatic Lizards of the genus Potamites and Neusticurus are a distinct group within this family, noted for their semiaquatic lifestyle.

On 31 January 2012, in a paper in the journal ZooKeys, Germán Chávez and Diego Vásquez of the Centro de Ornitología y Biodiversidad (CORBIDI), describe a new species of the genus Potamites from two locations in southern Peru.

The new species is named Potamites montanicola (the mountain dwelling Semiaquatic Lizard), and is distinguished from other members of the genus principally by the presence of scattered keeled scales on its dorsal surface; in other members of the genus keeled scales or tubercles are arranged in longitudinal rows.

Potamites montanicola. (A) Male. (B) Female. (C) Juvenile. Chávez & Vásquez (2012).

Potamites montanicola is an approximately 175 mm long (when adult) brown lizard. Mature males have black and blue patterned undersides and darker brown colouration on their backs. The flank has a pair of black eyespots with yellow centers forward and above the first limbs. The underside of the tail is reddish brown. Females and juveniles are plainer brown, though the eyespots are present (but fainter) on mature females.

The lizards were found at two sites in southern Peru, 64 km apart, in the Cordillera de Vilcabamba mountain range and Apurimac river valley, at altitudes between 1570 and 2100 m. One location was a stream with a rocky substrate, the lizards being found both on the rocks and in the water, the other was in a wooded area where the lizards were found on leaf litter and fallen trunks close to a creek.

Map of southern Peru, showing the locations where the lizards were collected. Chávez & Vásquez (2012).

There are two other species of the genus Potamites known from Peru; P. ecpleopus and P. strangulatus. P. strangulatus has two known subspecies, P. s. strangulatus and P. s. trachodus. Both of these are lowland species, not known from above 800 m.

Species of Potamites found in Peru. (A) Potamites montanicola. (B) Potamites strangulatus strangulatus. (C) Potamites ecpleopus. (D) Potamites strangulatus trachodus. All from Chávez & Vásquez (2012). (B & C) Photographed by Alessandro Catenazzi. (D) Photographed by Pablo J. Venegas.

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