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Cnemaspis fantastica AGARWAL, THACKERAY & KHANDEKAR, 2022

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Higher TaxaGekkonidae, Gekkota, Sauria, Squamata (lizards: geckos)
Subspecies 
Common NamesE: Fantastic dwarf gecko 
SynonymCnemaspis fantastica AGARWAL, THACKERAY & KHANDEKAR 2022: 1159 
DistributionIndia (Tamil Nadu)

Type locality: near Tree view point, (11.3192°N, 78.3460°E; ca. 1060 m asl.), Kolli Hills, Solakkadu, Namakkal district, Tamil Nadu state, India  
Reproduction 
TypesHolotype. NRC-AA-1222 (AK 688), adult male; collected by Akshay Khandekar, Swapnil Pawar, and Tejas Thackeray on 28th May 2019.
Paratypes. NRC-AA-1224 (AK 285), NRC-AA-1225 (AK 286), adult males, same locality data as holotype; NRC-AA-1223 (AK 284), NRC-AA-1226 (AK 684), adult females (11.3240°N, 78.3419°E; ca. 800 m asl.), Kolli Hills; and NRC-AA-1227 (AK 685), NRC-AA-1229 (AK 687), adult males, NRC-AA-1228 (AK 686), adult female (11.3270°N, 78.3392°E; ca. 600 m asl.) Kolli Hills collected by Akshay Khandekar, Ishan Agarwal, Nikhil Gaitonde, on 20th December 2018. 
DiagnosisDiagnosis: A small-sized Cnemaspis, snout to vent length up to 32.5 mm (n = 8). Dorsal pholidosis heterogeneous; weakly keeled granular scales intermixed with a fairly regularly arranged rows of enlarged, strongly keeled, conical tubercles; last one or two rows of enlarged tubercles on flank weakly keeled, spine-like; 11–13 rows of dorsal tubercles at mid-body, 15–17 tubercles in paravertebral rows; ventral scales smooth, subcircular, subimbricate, subequal from chest to vent, 28–32 scales across belly at mid-body, 110–120 longitudinal scales from mental to cloaca; subdigital scansors smooth, unpaired, unnotched; 8–10 lamellae under digit I of manus and pes, 14–16 lamellae under digit IV of manus and 16–20 lamellae under digit IV of pes; males with four or five femoral pores on each thigh separated by 7–9 poreless scales from series of 2–4 precloacal pores, precloacal pores separated medially by one or two poreless scales; tail with enlarged, strongly keeled, pointed, and spine-like tubercles forming whorls; median row of subcaudals smooth, roughly pentagonal, and distinctly enlarged. Dorsum reddish, mottled with numerous small yellow spots some of which form an indistinct vertebral line; a single central ocellus on neck, flanked posteriorly by a pair of much larger squarish blotches and anteriorly by a pair of subequal squarish blotches, indistinct spot on occiput; venter off-white with black speckles, two distinct pairs of black streaks on throat; throat off-white with two pairs of black streaks; original tail in males with 8–9 alternating dark and light grey bands, regenerated tail orange.

Comparison with members of C. gracilis clade. Cnemaspis fantastica sp. nov. is a member of the gracilis clade and can be easily distinguished from all members of the clade by a combination of the following differing or non-overlapping characters: small-sized Cnemaspis with maximum SVL 32 mm (versus medium-sized Cnemaspis, SVL up to 41 mm in C. thackerayi and C. salimalii sp. nov.); 15–17 tubercles in paravertebral rows (versus only a few irregularly arranged tubercles in paravertebral region in C. mundanthuraiensis, 10–14 in C. gracilis; 11 or 12 in C. jackieii); 11–13 rows of dorsal tubercles at mid-body (versus eight or nine rows of dorsal tubercles at mid-body in C. jackieii, 6–8 rows of dorsal tubercles at mid-body in C. mundanthuraiensis); spine-like tubercles present on flanks (versus spine-like tubercles absent on flanks in C. agarwali, C. jackieii, C. shevaroyensis, and C. thackerayi); 28–32 ventral scales across belly at mid-body (versus 24–26 ventral scales across belly at mid-body in C. agarwali, 21–24 in C. shevaroyensis, and 22–25 in C. thackerayi); a single central ocellus on neck, flanked posteriorly by a pair of much larger squarish blotches and anteriorly by a pair of subequal squarish blotches, indistinct spot on occiput (versus a single central dorsal ocellus each on occiput and neck, ocellus on neck flanked anteriorly on each side by a slightly larger ocellus in C. agayagangai sp. nov., a single central dorsal ocellus each on occiput and neck in C. gracilis, C. mundanthuraiensis, C. thackerayi; single dorsal ocellus on occiput absent, single dorsal ocellus on neck present in C. salimalii sp. nov.; a single dorsal ocellus each on occiput and neck, a smaller pair on either side just anterior to forelimb insertion in C. jackieii). Cnemaspis fantastica sp. nov. overlaps in all morphological and meristic characters to C. agayagangai sp. nov. apart from the condition of the ventral scales in the original tail, which are roughly pentagonal and in a relatively regular series, size more than half tail width (versus irregular in shape and arrangement, size less than half tail width in C. agayagangai sp. nov.); and colour pattern, with the dorsal ocelli on the new species relatively larger and squarish with the central ocellus smallest and forming an X with five ocelli (versus four smaller, rounded subequal ocelli forming a diamond in C. agayagangai sp. nov.). Cnemaspis fantastica sp. nov. is diagnosed against Cnemaspis pachaimalaiensis sp. nov. and Cnemaspis rudhira sp. nov. as part of their respective descriptions below.

Description of the holotype. Adult male in good state of preservation except tail tip marginally bent towards right (Fig. 12A–E). SVL 31.0 mm, head short (HL/SVL 0.24), wide (HW/HL 0.66), not strongly depressed (HD/ HL 0.44), distinct from neck. Loreal region marginally inflated, canthus rostralis not distinct. Snout half of head length (ES/HL 0.50), almost 2.5 times eye diameter (ES/ ED 2.43); scales on snout and canthus rostralis subcircular to oval, subequal, smooth anteriorly, becoming weakly keeled, and conical posteriorly; and much larger than those on forehead and interorbital region; scales on forehead similar to those on snout and canthus rostralis except smaller, somewhat elongated, and weakly conical; scales on interorbital region even smaller, granular and weakly keeled; scales on occipital and temporal region heterogeneous, slightly enlarged, weakly keeled, conical tubercles intermixed with smaller, weakly keeled and weakly conical granular scales (Fig. 13A). Eye small (ED/HL 0.20) with round pupil; supraciliaries short, larger anteriorly; five interorbital scale rows across narrowest point of frontal bone; 24 or 25 scale rows between left and right supraciliaries at mid-orbit (Fig. 13A, C). Ear-opening deep, oval, small (EL/HL 0.06); eye to ear distance greater than diameter of eye (EE/ED 1.5) (Fig. 13C). Rostral 2× wider (1.50 mm) than high (0.53 mm), incompletely divided dorsally by a strongly developed rostral groove and internasal scale for more than half of its height; a single enlarged supranasal on each side, slightly larger than upper postnasal, separated from each other by a much smaller, elongated internasal scale and still smaller scale on snout; two postnasals, upper postnasal slightly larger than lower; rostral in contact with supralabial I, nostril, supranasal, and lower postnasal on either side; nostrils oval, surrounded by two postnasals, supranasal, and rostral on either side; two rows of scales separate orbit from supralabials (Fig. 13C). Mental enlarged, subtriangular, slightly wider (1.71 mm) than high (1.34 mm); two pairs of postmentals, inner pair roughly rectangular, much shorter (0.71 mm) than mental, in strong contact with each other below mental; inner pair bordered by mental, infralabial I, outer postmental, enlarged median chin shield and an enlarged chin shield on either side; outer postmentals roughly rectangular, even smaller (0.40 mm) than inner pair, bordered by inner postmentals, infralabial I and II, and four enlarged chin scales on left and three on right side; three enlarged gular scales between left and right outer postmentals; all chin scales bordering postmentals somewhat tubular, subcircular, smooth, and slightly smaller than outermost postmentals; scales on rest of throat, small, subequal, flattened and smooth (Fig. 13B). Infralabials bordered below by a row or two slightly enlarged, much elongated scales, decreasing in size posteriorly. Eight supralabials up to angle of jaw on left and nine on right side, and six at midorbital position on either side; supralabial I largest, rest of the series gradually decreasing in size posteriorly; eight infralabials up to angle of jaw on either side, and six at midorbital position on left and five on right side; infralabial I largest, rest of the series gradually decreasing in size posteriorly (Fig. 13C). Body relatively slender (BW/AGL 0.45), trunk less than half of SVL (AGL/SVL 0.39) without ventrolateral folds; short spine-like scales on flank present (Fig. 14A–C). Dorsal pholidosis heterogeneous; weakly keeled granular scales intermixed with a fairly regularly arranged row of enlarged, strongly keeled, conical tubercles; tubercles in approximately 12 longitudinal rows at mid-body including spine-like scales at lower flank; 17 tubercles in paravertebral rows from above forelimb insertion to the hind limb insertion (Fig. 14A, C). Ventral scales more than twice the size than granular scales on dorsum, smooth, subcircular, subimbricate, subequal from chest to vent; mid-body scale rows across belly 30; 113 scales from mental to anterior border of cloaca (Fig. 14B). Scales on base of neck similar to those on belly, except smaller; gular region with still smaller, subequal, smooth, flattened scales, those bordering postmentals enlarged, smooth, subcircular, and somewhat tubular (Fig. 13B). Five femoral pores on left thigh and four on right, separated by eight poreless on either side from two precloacal pores, precloacal pores separated medially by a single poreless scale (Fig. 13D).
Scales on palms and soles granular, smooth, subcircular, and flattened; scales on dorsal aspects of limbs heterogeneous in shape and size; mixture of small granular, weakly keeled, imbricate scales which are twice the size of granules on the body dorsum, largest on anterolateral aspect of the hands and feet; posterolateral aspect of limbs with small weakly keeled to smooth granular scales; scales on upper hand and thigh larger than lower hand and shank respectively; ventral aspect of forelimbs with small, smooth, subimbricate scales, larger on lower arm than upper arm; ventral aspect of hindlimb with enlarged, smooth, flattened, subimbricate scales, slightly larger than body ventrals (Fig. 12A, B). Forelimbs and hindlimbs moderately long, slender (LAL/SVL 0.14; CL/SVL 0.17); digits long, with strong, recurved claw, distinctly inflected, distal portions laterally compressed conspicuously. Digits with unpaired lamellae, separated into a basal and narrower distal series by single enlarged lamella at inflection; basal lamellae series: (1-3-3-4-4 right manus, 1-4-4-6-5 right pes), (1-4-4-4-4 left manus, Fig. 13E; 1-4-4-7-4 left pes, Fig. 13F); distal lamellae series: (7-9-11-11-10 right manus, 8-10-13-12-12 right pes), (8-9-11-11-10 left manus, Fig. 13E; 8-10-12-12-12 left pes, Fig. 13F). Relative length of digits (measurements in mm in parentheses): IV (2.6) = III (2.6) > II (2.4) > V (2.3) > I (1.7) (left manus); IV (3.5) > V (3.3) = III (3.3) > II (2.9) > I (1.8) (left pes). Tail half original half regenerated, entire, subcylindrical, slender, marginally longer than snout-vent length (TL/SVL 1.16; Fig. 12C–E). Dorsal scales on tail base weakly keeled, granular, similar in size and shape to granular scales on mid-body dorsum, gradually becoming larger, flattened, imbricate posteriorly, intermixed with enlarged, strongly keeled, distinctly pointed, conical tubercles; enlarged tubercles on the tail forming whorls; six tubercles each on first four whorls, four in 5–8th whorls, only paravertebral tubercles in 9th and 10th whorls, rest of the tail regenerated (Fig. 12C, E). Scales on ventral aspect of original tail much larger than those on dorsal aspect, subimbricate, smooth; median series distinctly larger than rest, roughly pentagonal; scales on tail base slightlysmallerthanthoseonmid-bodyventrals,smooth, imbricate; a single enlarged, smooth to weakly keeled and conical postcloacal spur on each side (Fig. 12D).

Colouration in life (Fig. 6C). Dorsum of head, body, limbs and tail base reddish. Head with numerous yellow spots, yellow and dark bands on labials, postorbital streaks indistinct. A single central ocellus on neck, flanked posteriorly by a pair of much larger squarish blotches and anteriorly by a pair of subequal squarish blotches, indistinct spot on occiput; all ocelli black with a fine orange and diffuse yellow margin. Dorsum mottled with numer-ous small yellow spots some of which form an indistinct vertebral line and fine black spots. Dorsum of limbs more muted than back with indistinct yellow bands, digits with alternating dark and light bands. Tail with four black and three light grey bands with an orange regenerated tip. Venter off-white with black speckles, two distinct pairs of black streaks on throat.

Variation and additional information from type series.
Mensural, meristic and additional character state data for the type series is given in Tables 9–11 respectively. There are four adult male and three adult female specimens ranging in size from 28.4–32.5 mm (Fig. 7C). All paratypes resemble holotype except as follows: internasal absent, supranasals in strong contact with each other on snout in NRC-AA-1223. Upper postmentals marginally in contact with each other below mental in NRC-AA-1224; upper postmentals separated from each other below mental by a single median enlarged chin shields in NRC-AA-1227 and NRC-AA-1228; upper postmentals bordered by mental, infralabial I, outer postmental, and by a single large chin scale on either side in NRC-AA-1223, NRC-AA-1225, NRCAA-1226, and NRC-AA-1229. Outer postmental bordered by inner postmental, infralabials I & II in all types, additionally, four chin scales on either side in NRC-AA-1223, NRC-AA-1226, NRC-AA-1228, five chin scales on right in NRC-AA-1227, and five chin scales on left and four on right side in NRC-AA-1229; outer postmental separated from each other medially by two enlarged chin scales in NRC-AA-1223, NRC-AA-1225, NRC-AA-1226, and NRC-AA-1229. Two paratypes — NRC-AA-1228 and NRC-AA-1229 with original and complete tails, slightly longer than body (TL/SVL 1.13 and 1.22 respectively); tail entire but mostly regenerated in NRC-AA-1227, equal to body length (TL/SVL 1.00); tail entire but incomplete in NRC-AA-1225 and NRC-AA-1226 (TL = 9.5 and 19.5 mm respectively); tail almost entirely regenerated and largely lost in NRC-AA-1223 and NRC-AA-1224; original tail distinctly banded in males and faintly in female paratypes; regenerated tail orangish in life and yellowish-grey in preservative. (Fig. 7C). 
Comment 
EtymologyThe specific epithet is derived from the Greek phantastikós, alluding to the spectacular colouration of the new species. 
References
  • Agarwal I, Thackeray T, Khandekar A 2022. A multitude of spots! Five new microendemic species of the Cnemaspis gracilis group (Squamata: Gekkonidae) from massifs in the Shevaroy landscape, Tamil Nadu, India. Vertebrate Zoology 72: 1137-1186 - get paper here
 
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