Wednesday, September 23, 2015

A new agamid: Acanthosaura phuketensis

The family Agamidae comprises of more than 350 lizard species, including such distinctive members as the thorny devil and the flying lizard. They are mostly occurring in Africa, Asia, and Australia. All agamids have well-developed limbs, and many have keeled scales, and throat flaps or fans. They range in size from tiny (14 mm length for Pogona microlepidota) to quite large (145 cm length for the water dragon Hydrosaurus amboinensis).

Many agamid species are called dragon or dragon lizards but these are vary vague names as there are many other reptilians that have been named dragons because of the resemblance of the mighty mythical creatures, e.g. the Komodo dragon belongs to an entirely different family that is distantly related to agamids.

The name of this new species refers to Phuket Island, on which the specimens were collected. The authors also have some common name suggestions in different languages: Kingkakhaownaam Phuket (Thai), Phuket Horned Tree Agamid (English), Acanthosaure de Phuket (French), Phuket-Nackenstachler (German), Phuketstekelnekagame (Dutch).

For the experts: We describe a new lowland forest-dwelling species of the genus Acanthosaura from Phuket Island and the Phuket mountain range in southwestern Thailand. Acanthosaura phuketensis sp. nov., the 11th species in the genus, seems most closely related to A. crucigera from Myanmar and western Thailand and A. cardamomensis from the Cardamom Mountains, but can be differentiated from them by a combination of morphological and coloration characteristics. This new discovery stresses the importance of preserving the last forest patches remaining on Phuket Island, home to three other squamate endemics.

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