Friday, October 29, 2010

A New Night Lizard of the Genus Lepidophyma from Mexico

The Night Lizards (family Xantusiidae) form a small clade of Neotropical lizards that are omnivorous- insectivorous and exceptionally secretive. In some molecular studies the  Xantusiidae form a monophyletic group with Scincidae, Lacertidae, and Cordylidae, the Scincomorpha (Albert, et al. 2009). In another study they form a clade with Scincidae, Gerrhosauridae, and Cordylidae, the Scinciformata (Vidal et al., 2009). Previously, the Night  Lizards had been considered relatives of the geckos, partly due to their fused eye lids that they clean with their tongue, as well as their nocturnal habits. But, Night Lizards are also of interest because some species live in small groups of genetically related individuals, an unusual habit for squamates (see: New Night Lizard Kin Selection Study).

This week Garcia-Vazquez et al. (2010) have described a new species of Lepidophyma, one of four xantusiid genera, from the Sierra Negra in southern Puebla, Mexico. Lepidophyma zongolica is known only from the type locality and distinguished from other members of the genus by a variety of morphological traits including the number of dorsal scales, total of femoral pores, number of the paravertebral rows, number of the toe lamellae and number of gulars. Like most xantusiids the new species lives in crevices between rocks, but this species inhabits remnants of Tropical Evergreen Forest and, to date it has been found only between 94 to 120 m in elevation. While the authors consider the species relative abundant, it was not found in similar microhabitats in agro-ecosystems (croplands or coffee plantations), an indication that L. zongolica may be  sensitive to human disturbance and, that it only occurs in more pristine conditions. The description of this new species increases the number of species in the genus to 19.

Eva M. Albert, Diego San Mauro, Mario García-París, Lukas Rüber and Rafael Zardoya 2009. Effect of taxon sampling on recovering the phylogeny of squamate reptiles based on complete mitochondrial genome and nuclear gene sequence data. Gene 441(1-2):12-21

Uri O. Garcia-Vazquez, Luis Canesco-Marquez and  Jose L. Aguilar-Lopez. 2010. A new species of night lizard of the genus Lepidophyma (Squamata: Xantusiidae) from southern Puebla, México. Zootaxa 2657: 47–54

Nicolas Vidal and S. Blair Hedges. 2009. The molecular evolutionary tree of lizards, snakes, and amphisbaenians. Comptes Rendus Biologies 332(2-3):129-139

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