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Acanthocercus branchi WAGNER, GREENBAUM & BAUER, 2012

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Higher TaxaAgamidae (Agaminae), Sauria, Iguania, Squamata (lizards) 
Subspecies 
Common Names 
SynonymAcanthocercus branchi WAGNER, GREENBAUM & BAUER 2012
Acanthocercus branchi — WAGNER et al. 2018 
DistributionZambia (Luangwa and Zambezi valleys)

Type locality: dense Miombo woodland close to the Zambian Wildlife Authority (ZAWA) head office Chipata (approximate coordinates: -13.6053°, 32.6092°), Eastern Province, Zambia.  
Reproduction 
TypesHolotype: ZFMK 88682, adult male, collected by Philipp Wagner on 7 September 2005; Paratypes: ZFMK, ZMB 
DiagnosisDiagnosis: Because of the combination of a heterogeneous body scalation and a tail that is segmented in distinct whorls, this new species can be assigned to the genus Acanthocercus. The heterogeneous body scalation refers it to the cyanogaster/ atricollis species group within this genus, and the high density of enlarged scales and the black patch on the shoulders place it in the A. atricollis complex. An Acanthocercus with a relatively short tail, and overall very similar in morphology to A. a. loveridgei and A. a. gregorii. The new species is char- acterized by a large black patch on the shoulder and a dor- sal pattern of small matrix scales intermixed with distinctly paler, enlarged, keeled scales, forming a dotted pattern with indistinct transverse rows in adult males. The vertebral area consists of a mixture of matrix and enlarged scales, with a higher density of enlarged scales than on the flanks, some- times giving the impression of a margin between these parts of the body. Ventral and gular scales smooth, smaller than the enlarged dorsal scales. Females with smaller and fewer enlarged keeled scales than adult males.
The new species may be distinguished from other taxa in the A. atricollis complex by the combination of a large black patch on the shoulders, distinctly enlarged scales on a matrix of smaller scales, and indistinct transverse rows of enlarged scales between the limbs. Specifically, the new species differs from:
(a) A. a. atricollis by its slightly smaller average to- tal length, but higher maximum total length in adult males (mean 287.3 [max. 365 mm] versus 300.7 mm [max. 347 mm]), by possessing a large black patch on the shoul- ders (versus patch not extending to lateral parts and often not discernible in A. a. atricollis), the enlarged scales be- ing very distinct from the matrix scales, by having a slight- ly higher number of scale rows around midbody (mean 115.5 versus 112.6) and a higher number of vertebral scales (mean 71.2 versus 50.5);
(b) A. a. gregorii by its larger size in adult males (total length: mean 287.3 versus mean 248.1 mm; even though maxima are similar with 365 mm versus 360 mm), by pos- sessing a large black patch on the shoulders (smaller in A. a. gregorii), a lower number of scale rows around midbody (mean 115.5 versus 122), by possessing smooth gular scales versus keeled in A. a. gregorii, and a higher number of ven- tral scale rows (mean 87.8 versus 76.2);
(c) A. a. kiwuensis by its smaller total size in males (mean 287.3 versus 304.2 mm), but similar SVL (mean male SVL 121.5 versus 116.1 mm) and a distinctly shorter tail (TL/SVL mean 1.33 versus 1.62), by possessing a large black patch on the shoulders (versus a small black patch that is not vis- ible from above), indistinct transverse rows of enlarged scales (versus enlarged scales arranged irregularly on the flanks, and concentrated along the vertebral line on the up- per body), by having smooth gular scales (versus keeled), a higher number of scale rows around midbody (mean 115.5 versus 83.6), a higher number of ventral scale rows (mean 87.8 versus 63.9), and a higher number of vertebral scales (mean 71.2 versus 62.7);
(d) A. a. loveridgei by possessing a large black patch on the shoulders (versus a small black patch that is not visible from above), indistinct transverse rows of enlarged scales (versus enlarged scales arranged irregularly, and not con- centrated in a specific area), a higher number of vertebral scales (mean 71.2 versus 59.3), and a slightly higher number of ventral scale rows (mean 87.8 versus 85.3);
(e) A. a. minutus by its larger size (total length: mean 287.3 versus 268.0 mm), by possessing a large black patch on the shoulders (versus a small black patch that is not vis- ible from above), indistinct transverse rows of enlarged scales (versus enlarged scales irregularly arranged, usu- ally not concentrated in a specific area), a higher number of scale rows around midbody (mean 115.5 versus 109.7), a lower number of vertebral scales (mean 71.2 versus 79.7), and a higher number of ventral scale rows (mean 87.8 ver- sus 73.7);
(f) A. a. ugandaensis by its larger SVL (mean 121.1 mm versus 106 mm in spite of the similar total length in males [mean 287.3 in A. branchi sp. n. versus 283.1 mm in A. a. ugandaensis]) and a distinctly shorter tail (TL/SVL mean 1.33 versus 1.66), by possessing a large black patch on the shoulders (versus a small black patch that is not visible from above), indistinct transverse rows of enlarged scales (versus enlarged scales arranged irregularly on the flanks, and concentrated along the vertebrae on the upper body), by having smooth gular scales (versus keeled), a higher number of scale rows around midbody (mean 115.5 versus 88.4), a higher number of vertebral scales (mean 71.2 ver- sus 60.2), and a higher number of ventral scale rows (mean 87.8 versus 65.7).
 
CommentEcology: This new species is a tree dweller as it is typical for the A. atricollis complex (Reaney & Whiting 2003), although not for all subspecies (Wagner unpubl. data). In Chipata, it was collected in dense Miombo wood- land with large trees and a structured canopy. In Lusaka, it was captured on a solitary tree. At both localities, other individuals were also observed, but it was not possible to identify them as males or females. Specimens from Pioneer Camp were observed while climbing on tree trunks.

Distribution: See map in Wagner et al. 2018: 794 (Fig. 10). 
EtymologyThis new species is named in honour of William Roy Branch, in recognition of his important contributions to our knowledge of African amphibians and reptiles over several decades, and in commemoration of his nominal retirement as curator of herpetology at the Port Elizabeth Museum (Bayworld). 
References
  • Kwet, Axel 2013. Liste der im Jahr 2012 neu beschriebenen Reptilien. Terraria-Elaphe 2013 (3): 52-67 - get paper here
  • Wagner, P., E. Greenbaum & A. Bauer 2012. A new species of the Acanthocercus atricollis complex (Squamata: Agamidae) from Zambia. Salamandra 48 (1): 21-30 - get paper here
  • Wagner, Philipp; Eli Greenbaum, Aaron M Bauer, Chifundera Kusamba & Adam D Leaché 2018. Lifting the blue-headed veil – integrative taxonomy of the Acanthocercus atricollis species complex (Squamata: Agamidae). African Journal of Herpetology - get paper here
 
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