Wednesday, March 23, 2016

A new skink: Tytthoscincus batupanggah

Skinks are lizards belonging to the family Scincidae and with more than 1,500 species it is one of the most diverse groups of lizards. Skinks look roughly like other lizards, but most species have no pronounced neck and their legs are relatively small. In fact some species have no legs, or very small ones or lacking a single leg pair.

Today's species belongs to a genus of leaf-litter dwelling skinks that live in South East Asia. The species name is in reference to the type locality at Batu Panggah on Gunung Penrissen, Malaysia. From Malay, Batu Panggah translates to “Stone of the Head House” or “Cursed Stone” to refer to the large sandstone rock that is believed by local peoples to be cursed. 

For the experts: We describe two new species of skinks from Gunung Penrissen, Sarawak, Malaysia, in northern Borneo, Tytthoscincus batupanggah sp. nov. and T. leproauricularis sp. nov. Morphological and molecular analyses both corroborate the two new species as unique compared to all other Tytthoscincus and additional Sphenomorphus that are candidates for taxonomic placement in the genus Tytthoscincus. Despite their phenotypic similarity and sympatric distribution, a molecular analysis shows that the new species are not sister taxa and exhibit a deep genetic divergence between each of their respective sister taxa. We discuss how historical climatic and geographic processes may have led to the co-distribution of two relatively distantly related phenotypically similar species. In light of these discoveries, we also emphasize the importance of conserving primary montane tropical rainforest for maintaining species diversity.

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