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Ancylodactylus spawlsi MALONZA & BAUER, 2022

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Higher TaxaGekkonidae, Gekkota, Sauria, Squamata (lizards: geckos)
Common Names 
SynonymAncylodactylus spawlsi MALONZA & BAUER 2022: 124
Cnemaspis dickersonae — SPAWLS et al. 2018: 80 (part) 
DistributionC Kenya

Type locality: Lolldaiga Farm, Lolldaiga Hills Conservancy, Laikipia County, Kenya (00.21300° N, 37.12985° E; 2120 m)  
TypesHolotype. NMK-L3470, adult male, collected 30 October 2013 by Stephen Spawls, Patrick K. Malonza & Vincent Muchai.
Paratypes. NMK-L4007/1, adult male, Kirimiri Forest, Embu County, Kenya (00.42740° S, 37.54967° E; 1573 m), collected 23 June 2017 by Arthur M. Gitari; NMK-L3997/1, adult female, and NMK-L3997/2, male, Kirimiri Forest, Embu County, Kenya (00.42715° S, 37.54862° E; 1612 m and 00.42760° S, 37.54748° E; 1563 m, respectively), collected 17 May 2017 by Arthur M. Gitari. 
DiagnosisDiagnosis: A an extremely small-sized Ancylodactylus with a maximum SVL of approximately 30 mm. Dorsal scalation mostly homogeneous with a single pair of rows of very small tubercles along the flanks; other scales minute and granular. Limbs and digits long, with enlarged basal lamellae under and proximal to penultimate interphalangeal joint (3 under digit IV). Length of intact original tail slightly longer than SVL. Tail dorsum distal to the pygal portion of the tail bearing tubercles throughout its length; six tubercles per row proximally, decreasing to four and becoming flatter and less conspicuous distally; median subcaudal scales in a single row of large, but not transversely widened scales. Male precloacal pores in a single continuous row of 6. Dorsal pattern of pale fleurs-de-lis and spots on a grayish- to mustard-brown background. Ventral coloration of trunk and limbs, pale to bright yellow, fainter on the undersides of limbs than elsewhere; chin and anterior throat grayish to bright white with faint or bold dark markings, and a yellow wash onto the posterior throat. (MALONZA & BAUER 2022)

Comparisons with Congeners. Ancylodactylus spawlsi sp. nov. may be distinguished from A. spinicollis and A. petrodroma in lacking an enlarged preaxial metatarsal scale and from these two species plus A. alantika in having a series of flattened, rectangular lamellae subtending the second and third phalanges of the pedal digits, rather than single enlarged, rounded scale (plaque of Perret 1986) at the penultimate joint of each digit. It is distinguished from A. africanus, A. elgonensis, A. barbouri, A. koehleri, A. dilepis, A. gigas, A. kenyaensis sp. nov., A. mathewsensis sp. nov., A. laikipiensis sp. nov., and A. chyuluensis sp. nov by bearing rows of tubercles on the post-pygal (autotomic) portion of the tail dorsum. It has only two tubercle rows on the trunk, one on each flank, a feature that differentiates it from all congeners except some A. dickersonae (0–6 rows fide Perret 1986; 0–4 fide Spawls et al. 2018) and A. mathewsensis sp. nov. (0–2 rows), and A. chyuluensis sp. nov.(2 rows). It possesses the lowest number of precloacal pores (6) of any of its congeners, distinguishing it from A. africanus (9–12), A. barbouri (14), A. dilepis (8), A. spinicollis (7–11), A. petrodroma (8–12), A. occidentalis (8–12), A. alantika (11), A. gigas (15–16), A. kenyaensis sp. nov. (8), A. kituiensis sp. nov. (8–13), A. laikipiensis sp. nov. (7), and A. chyuluensis sp. nov. (8). It may also be distinguished in having single median series of enlarged, but not transversely widened subcaudals in contrast to A. spinicollis, A. petrodroma, and A. occidentalis (irregular subcaudals), A. elgonensis, A. barbouri, A. uzungwae, A. kenyaensis sp. nov., and A. kituiensis sp. nov. (alternating single and paired scales), and A. dilepis, A. gigas, A. africanus, A. quattuorseriatus, A. dickersonae, and A. koehleri (single row of median subcaudals, but transversely widened or not uniform throughout). In having yellow on most of the venter it differs from A. barbouri, A. uzungwae, A. quattuorseriatus, A. gigas, A. kenyaensis sp. nov., A. kituiensis sp. nov. and A. chyuluensis sp. nov., and it differs from A. laikipiensis sp. nov. in having a white throat (versus yellow). Among Kenyan congeners A. spawlsi sp. nov. (30 mm maximum SVL) is rivaled in small size only by A. chyuluensis sp. nov. (maximum SVL 28 mm). (MALONZA & BAUER 2022)

Coloration (in life). Based on specimens photographed in life (see Fig. 12). Base color a dull grayish-brown or mustard-brown, with dorsal series of seven adjacent cream to beige chevrons or fleurs-de-lis from the nape to the sacrum. An additional smaller pale marking (cream to orangish) on the occiput may be connected or not to the more posterior vertebral markings. Anterior margins of pale markings with dark brown anterior borders, expanding laterally to form pairs of blotches lateral to the anterior apices of the fleurs-de-lis (Figs. 12A–C, 12E). Lateral surfaces with a series of approximately 10 roundish, cream to pale yellowish spots extending from the neck, across the shoulder and down the flanks to the sacrum; largest spots between the limb insertions. Parallel series of smaller, less conspicuous pale spots run dorsal and ventral to this line of spots and numerous small dark brown flecks are distributed in the interstices between all of the pale flank markings. The head is complexly and variably patterned. A dark brown line passes from the snout, through the eye and there is an irregular dark brown border around the parietal table, enclosing the pale occipital blotch; the two maybe nearly confluent (Fig. 12A) or may be disjunct (Fig. 12E). A diffuse brown patch or band is present over the anterior edge of the orbit and another is on the snout. Irregular whiteish to cream or beige markings cover other parts of the head. Labial scale markings alternate cream and dark brown and in some specimens there is a dark brown line extending posteroventrally from the corner of the mouth (Fig. 12A). Limbs similar in color to body or pale pinkish (Fig. 12E), with medium to dark brown markings or discrete bands, and alternating pale yellowish-white and narrower dark brown bands on the digits. Tail dorsum similar to trunk, with large, beige-to-cream fleurs-de-lis or diamonds mid-dorsally; approximately 12 such markings on intact tails (Fig. 12B), each with a pair of dark brown markings flanking the central apex. Ventral color of trunk pale (Fig. 12D) to bright yellow (Fig. 12F). Subcaudal coloration yellow to orange; distally duller under regenerated portion of tail; scattered yellow-orange single scales extending on to ventrolateral margins of tail. Ventral surfaces of limbs less brightly pigmented than trunk or lacking yellow/orange pigment entirely; palms and soles grayish brown. Chin, gular region and anterior region of throat off-white to bright white, with some suffusion of yellow posteriorly (Fig. 12D) or continuing anteriorly in the form a scattered pale yellow scales (Fig. 12F). Throat with only vague, pale diffuse darker mottling or with discrete and extensive contrasting blackish mottling. (MALONZA & BAUER 2022)

Variation. Mensural data for comparative material is given in Table 6. Paratypes generally resemble the holotype with tails tapering to a fine tip (TAL 111% SVL in paratype NMK-L3997/1 with intact original tail). The paratypes are all in general good condition with some showing the clear dorsal chevron marks or stripe. No clear sexual dimorphism in size and color. Males have a continuous series of 6 precloacal pores (Fig 11, Table 6). (MALONZA & BAUER 2022) 
CommentDistribution: see map in MALONZA & BAUER 2022: 104 (Fig. 1). 
EtymologyNamed in honor of Stephen Spawls (born 1953), who specifically collected the holotype specimen inside the wooden house (Lolldaiga Farm House) where our collecting party were staying. 
  • MALONZA, P. K., & BAUER, A. M. 2022. Resurrection of the African gecko genus Ancylodactylus Müller, 1907 (Squamata: Gekkonidae) and description of six new species from Kenya. Zootaxa 5141 (2): 101-139 - get paper here
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