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Gonatodes rayito SCHARGEL, RIVAS, GARCÍA-PÉREZ, RIVERO-BLANCO, CHIPPINDALE & FUJITA, 2017

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Higher TaxaSphaerodactylidae, Gekkota, Sauria, Squamata (lizards: geckos) 
Subspecies 
Common Names 
SynonymGonatodes rayito SCHARGEL, RIVAS, GARCÍA-PÉREZ, RIVERO-BLANCO, CHIPPINDALE & FUJITA 2017
Gonatodes petersi — ESQUEDA 2004
Gonatodes vittatus — RIVAS et al. 2006 [in part]
Gonatodes v. vittatus — RIVERO-BLANCO 1967 
DistributionVenezuela (Mérida)

Type locality: road towards Las Mercedes/El Frío, less than 1 km away from Panamericana road (8° 53' 40.9'' N; 71° 20' 44.2'' W; 90 m), Mérida State, Venezuela  
Reproduction 
TypesHolotype: MCNG 2231 (field number WES 3146), an adult male, collected on October 7, 2006 by Juan E. García-Pérez, Walter Schargel, and Hector Aguilar.
Paratypes. 17 specimens, all from Venezuela (states in upper case). MÉRIDA: MCNG 2232 (male), same data as the holotype. MBLUZ 828-1 (male), 828-2 (female): Hacienda La Onia, El Vigia (8°35'48" N, 71°41'27" W; 150 m). EBRG 4889 (female), MBLUZ 1398 (juvenile): near Cueva del Pirata, La Azulita (8°42’47” N, 71°26’26” W; 1030 m). MCNG 2233 (female), UTA 63886 (female): road from La Azulita to Santa Elena (8o44'21.2" N, 71o26'53.1" W; 850 m). EBRG 4890 (male), MCNG 2236 (male): San Felipe, road between Estanques and Santa Cruz de Mora (08°26'21.18" N, 71°34'53.64" W; 670 m). TÁCHIRA: MCNG 2237 (female), UTA 63888 (male): Río La Blanca, road Colon-La Fria, (08°04'45.60" N, 72°14'14.34" W; 560 m). MCNG 2235 (), UTA 63889 (juvenile): Socorro, road La Grita-La Fría (08°10'53.34" N, 72°13'58.56" W; 230 m). TRUJILLO: MBLUZ 283-1 (male), 283-2 (female), UTA 63887 (male), MCNG 2234 (male): from town of Betijoque (no geographic coordinates obtained in the field; elevational range of town 450–550 m). 
DiagnosisDiagnosis. Gonatodes rayito differs from all congeners, except G. atricucullaris, G. eladioi, G. petersi and G. vittatus, by having a distinct pale middorsal stripe. This stripe is white and conspicuous in males, but is creamish and less prominent in females. It differs from G. atricucullaris, a species known only from Departamento de Cajamarca, Peru, in having a white, transverse, lateral bar anterior to the forelimb insertion, which is not present in the Peruvian species. Additionally, males of G. rayito have a white or yellow gular region as opposed to having a black gular region with white spots. In G. atricucullaris this black coloration also extends dorsally on the head. Gonatodes eladioi, a species known only from the state of Pará, Brazil, differs from the new species in having a white postocular stripe (absent in G. rayito) and in having a different subcaudal pattern in its original (=unregenerated) tail. In G. eladioi there is a medial row of enlarged subcaudals in which there are larger scales in contact with three scales laterally, separated from each other by a single smaller scale which contacts two scales laterally (subcaudal pattern type C of Rivero-Blanco & Schargel 2012), whereas in G. rayito the larger subcaudals scales are separated by two smaller scales (subcaudal pattern type B of Rivero-Blanco & Schargel 2012).
The new species is most similar and closely related to G. petersi and G. vittatus, but differs from these two species in aspects of color pattern, size and scale counts (Table 1). Gonatodes petersi and G. rayito differ in several aspects of coloration in males (Fig. 4). The background dorsal coloration of G. petersi is brown versus gray in G. rayito. The pale background coloration of the gular region in G. petersi extends up to the lips and, posterior to the eye onto the lower lateral halves of the head and the neck, whereas in G. rayito this pale coloration might extend barely to the lips but not onto the sides of the head or neck. Males of G. rayito have a yellowish to reddish brown hood that extends posteriorly to about the level of the ear opening that is not present in G. petersi. Also, adult males of G. rayito have a mostly black to very dark gray venter as opposed to a dingy white to pale gray venter in G. petersi. Females of G. rayito have a wider and more conspicuous pale middorsal stripe compared to G. petersi (Fig. 5).
Gonatodes rayito (most adults larger than 35 mm in SVL) is larger than G. vittatus (adult maximum SVL about 35 mm; Rivero-Blanco 1979). Males of G. rayito have small, white, lateral ocelli and spots (absent in G. vittatus), and lack any ferruginous coloration along the body flanking the middorsal stripe (a dull orange to reddish brown coloration flanks the middorsal stripe along the body in G. vittatus; see Fig. 4). Females of G. rayito have a wider and more conspicuous pale middorsal stripe compared to G. vittatus. In females of G. rayito there are small dark brown spots laterally that are irregular in shape, poorly defined, and are not arranged in any obvious pattern, whereas in females of G. vittatus the dark markings are larger, well-defined, rounded in shape, and arranged into a somewhat regular pattern of transverse rows (Fig. 5). In addition to differences in coloration, G. rayito has fewer infraproximal lamellae on the fourth toe, generally having 6 (14 out of 17 specimens examined), and rarely 5 (one specimen out of 17) or 7 (two specimens out of 17), as opposed to having generally 7–9 (32 specimens out of 34), and rarely 6 (two specimens out of 34). Also, G. rayito has more scales around midbody than G. vittatus (98–118 vs. 78–96, respectively). Finally, males of both of G. petersi and G. vittatus commonly have a gular region that has conspicuous, striated, black markings that are absent in some individuals, whereas markings like this have not been observed in G. rayito, yet some pale gray suffusion in the gular region might be present in some individuals of this species.
 
CommentSympatry: G. albogularis 
EtymologyThe specific name is the Spanish word meaning “little lightning” or “little ray”, a name informally coined by the late naturalist Dr. Richard Schargel for individuals of this species as well as of G. petersi and G. vittatus. The name refers to the notion that, because males of this group of species have a conspicuous middorsal white stripe, when they flee they resemble a “little white lightning.” Richard kept many species of Gonatodes in captivity and also helped support the first author on his research on the genus. 
References
  • SCHARGEL, WALTER E.; GILSON A. RIVAS, JUAN E. GARCÍA-PÉREZ, CARLOS RIVERO-BLANCO, PAUL T. CHIPPINDALE, MATTHEW K. FUJITA 2017. A new species of Gonatodes (Squamata: Sphaerodactylidae) from the western versant of the Cordillera de Mérida, Venezuela. Zootaxa 4291 (3): 549–562 - get paper here
 
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