New limbless lizard, and other reptile discoveries in India


Sepsophis punctatus limbless lizard

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.

Similarly, the Indian Roofed Turtle (pangshura tectum) had been recorded from the Subarnarekha and Budhabalanga river systems of North Orissa, Mohapatra said.

See also here.

Another new species of ground dwelling lizard, Hemidactylus sataraensis, has been discovered in India by a team from the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS): here.

Slow worm vs. blackbird in England: here.

4 thoughts on “New limbless lizard, and other reptile discoveries in India

  1. New species of limbless lizard found in eastern India, says zoologist

    © AP
    2007-05-28 16:59:45 –

    NEW DELHI (AP) – An Indian zoologist said Monday he has found a new species of limbless lizard in a forested area in the country’s east.

    «Preliminary scientific study reveals that the lizard belongs to the genus Sepsophis,» said Sushil Kumar Dutta, who led a team of researchers from «Vasundhra,» a non-governmental organization, and the North Orissa University.

    The newly found 18-centimeter (7-inch) long lizard looks like a scaly, small snake, Dutta said. «It prefers to live in a cool retreat, soft soil and below stones.»

    «The lizard is new to science and is an important discovery. It is not found anywhere else in the world,» Dutta told The Associated Press. He is the head of the zoology department of the North Orissa University in the eastern Indian town of Baripada.

    While modern snakes and lizards are derived from a common evolutionary ancestor, they belong today to two entirely separate groups of animals, or orders. Snakes, over millenia, gradually lost their limbs and developed their characteristic forms of locomotion. But modern limbless lizards are not snakes, Dutta said.

    The lizard was found 10 days ago during a field study in the forested region of Khandadhar near Raurkela in Orissa state, about 1,000 kilometers (625 miles) southeast of New Delhi, he said.

    «The new species will be scientifically described at a later stage after accumulation of more data,» Dutta said.

    The other limbless lizards belonging to different families have been found in India’s Nicobar island, in the northeast, and in Orissa and Andhra Pradesh states, he said.

    The closest relatives of the new species are found in Sri Lanka and South Africa, Dutta said.

    However, the species found ten days ago is new to the world, Dutta said.

    Another species of the same genus, «Sepsohis punctatus,» was found in 1870 from the Golconda hills in Andhra Pradesh, said Varadi Giri, a scientist at the Bombay Natural History Society, who was not part of the team that found the lizard. Giri said Dutta is a reputed zoologist and his claim appears legitimate. «But for an independent confirmation, one has to wait for the publication of the finding in a reputed science magazine.»

    This article also here, with photo.

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  2. A new species of lizard found in India’s Western Ghats

    By Vara B. Giri.

    May 2008. A distinctive new species of ground-dwelling lizard (gecko) of the genus Hemidactylus has been discovered on the plateaus of the Satara district in Maharashtra, India.

    A distinctive new species of ground-dwelling lizard (gecko) of the genus Hemidactylus discovered in India. Courtesy of the Bombay Natural History Society.At present this species is only known from the type locality, which lies in the south-central part of the Western Ghats of Maharashtra. This region has some unique habitat of large basaltic plateaus on the crests of mountains, surrounded by semi-evergreen forest valleys. Most of the plateaux support sparse vegetation, which thrives during the monsoon, but in summer they are barren. These plateaux have a unique floral and faunal diversity.

    Western Ghats

    The northern Western Ghats, especially the parts in Maharashtra, are relatively unexplored and there is little information regarding the amphibians and reptiles of this region. In the last four years three new species of amphibians have been discovered from Maharashtra. All these new discoveries were the result of localised surveys with moderate search efforts. With intensive and systematic surveys it should be possible to further increase our knowledge of reptiles of the northern Western Ghats. In Maharashtra, there are excellent examples of the highly diverse and intact Western Ghats forests, but in the Satara district the forest is more fragmented and is increasingly degraded by human exploitation. Though herpetologically unexplored, the occurrence of a new ground dwelling Hemidactylus highlights the uniqueness of this region. As this area has large expanses of plateaus, efforts are now being made to confirm the occurrence of this species from other likely areas.

    This new species has been discovered by Mr. Varad B. Giri of the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), Mumbai and Dr Aaron M. Bauer of Villanova University, USA. Their paper was published in the Journal “Zootaxa” in February 2008.

    Courtesy of Varad B. Giri, of the Herpetology Section of Bombay Natural History Society of Mumbai.

    http://www.wildlifeextra.com/go/news/lizard-india923.html

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  3. Pingback: Rare frog and snake found in India | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  4. Pingback: Tegu lizard DNA sequenced | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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