From The Hindu in India:
New speci of limbless lizard found in Orissa
Bhubaneswar, May 28 (PTI): A new speci of limbless lizard said to be new to science has been located by group of zoologists in Orissa.
“It is an important discovery and preliminary scientific study reveals that the lizard belongs to the genus Sepsophis”, Prof Sushil Kumar Dutta of the North Orissa University, Baripada, said.
Dutta, who led a research team of ‘Vasundhara’, a policy analysis, research and action group, on a field study to the Khandadhar hills in Sundargarh district found the limbless lizard during a survey recently.
The lizard, which belonged to the family ‘scincidae‘, is new to science and is an important discovery from the biogeographic point of view, Dutta said.
Another speci of the same genus had been reported in 1870 from the Golconda hills in Andhra Pradesh after which this is the first time that this limbless lizard had been found and it bears significance from the biodiversity point of view, Dutta said.
“The new speci will be scientifically described at a later stage after accumulation of more scientific data”, Dutta said.
The other limbless lizards recorded from India were of the family ‘Dibamidae‘ which was found in South East Asia and Nicobar island, ‘Anguidae‘, recorded from North East India and South East India and the genus ‘Barkudia‘ (Scincidae) discovered in Orissa and Andhra Pradesh, he said.
The closest relatives of the new discovery are found in Sri Lanka and South Africa, Dutta said adding this finding was of bio-geographic importance as Sri Lanka and South Africa were also part of Gondwanaland like India.
The new-found 19 cm long lizard looks like a small snake and has lower eyelids, rudimentary ear opening and pectoral bone holes on its shoulders, he said.
It also had scales on both sides of the body, a prominent feature of lizards, he said.
The new speci was quite specialised and preferred to live in cool retreat, soft soil and below stones.
Like its relatives, it lived in forest zones with heavy canopy and could not live in degraded forests where the soil profile changed rapidly.
The Khandadhar hills, which is known to be rich with iron ore, is presently in a controversy as the Orissa Government proposed to lease it to South Korean steel company POSCO for its mega steel project at Paradip.
The ‘Vasundhara’ team also had come across several other species in recent months in the eastern ghats which were not recorded in Orissa earlier.
They included a new speci of cat snake (of bioga speci), the red-bellied vine snake (Ahaetulla rhodogaster), known to occur in the North East, brown whip snake (Ahaetulla pulverulentus), known in the western ghats and montane trinket snake (Coelognathus monticollaris).
The newly found lizards in the state included the golden gecko (Calodactylodes aureus), which is a schedule I speci.
It was recorded from several forests in Kalahandi (Niyamgiri Hills), Koraput, Kandhamal and ganjam districts.
This speci lives in the crevices of large boulders near hill streams covered with tree canopy.
Due to habitat loss, there was a shifting trend in the habitat of these rare geckos, Pratyush Mohapatra, a research scholar belonging to the team said.
A new speci of skink of the genus ‘Asymblepharus‘ had also been recorded from the Niyamgiri Hills and the closest relative of the speci lived in the forests of western ghat and himalayan foothills.
Also a second speci recorded from the similipal biosphere reserve was a new record for Orissa, he said.
The Termite Hill Gecko (hemidactylus subtriedrus) had also been recorded for the first time from Orissa while two species of turtles known to occur outside the state had also been recorded by the team.
The Tricarinate Turtle (Melanochelys tricarinata) had been recorded for the first time from the Similipal biosphere reserve. It was previously found in Uttaranchal and Bihar.
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