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Melanoseps occidentalis (PETERS, 1878)

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Higher TaxaScincidae, Scincinae, Scincoidea, Sauria, Squamata (lizards)
SubspeciesMelanoseps occidentalis zairensis BRYGOO & ROUX-ESTEVE 1982
Melanoseps occidentalis occidentalis (PETERS 1877) 
Common NamesE: Western Limbless Skink 
SynonymHerpetosaura occidentalis PETERS 1877: 416
Scelotes occidentalis — WERNER 1898
Melanoseps occidentalis — TORNIER 1901: 62
Scelotes schebeni STERNFELD 1910
Scelotes occidentalis — DE WITTE & LAURENT 1942
Scelotes schebeni — DE WITTE & LAURENT 1943
Melanoseps schebeni — BRYGOO & ROUX-ESTEVE 1982
Scelotes schebeni — WELCH 1982
Melanoseps occidentalis — BRYGOO & ROUX-ESTEVE 1982
Melanoseps occidentalis — BROADLEY 1998
Melanoseps occidentalis — WHITING et al. 2003

Melanoseps occidentalis zairensis BRYGOO & ROUX-ESTEVE 1982
Melanoseps occidentalis zairensis BRYGOO 1985
Melanoseps occidentalis zairensis — BROADLEY et al. 2006 
DistributionCameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, C/E/S Democratic Republic of the Congo (Zaire), Angola, Central African Republic

Type locality: “Cameruns (W. Africa)” [= Cameroon],

schebeni: Namibia; Type locality: Winduk [= Windhoek]

zairensis: C Democratic Republic of the Congo.  
TypesHolotype: ZMB 9122
Holotype: ZMB 28898, the only known specimen of schebeni, is lost (fide BRYGOO & ROUX-ESTEVE 1982, Bauer 2016) [schebeni]
Holotype: MHNG 2072.67; paratypes: MHNG, MNHN [zairensis] 
DiagnosisOriginal description: “Verschieden von H. arenicola durch die abgerundete stumpfe
Beschaffenbeit des Rostrale und durch 22 Körper-Schuppenreihen. Jede Schuppe in der Mitte schwarz, wodurch oben zusammenhängende und unten punktirte Längslinien entstehen.” (Peters 1878: 416)

Original description (schebeni): “Auge Klein, unteres Lid mit ungeteilter, durchsichtiger Scheibe. Ohröffnung nicht sichtbar. Nasalia in Berührung mit einander und mit dem 1. Labiale. Postnasale auf einen schmalen Ring reduziert. Nur 2 große Supraocularen, 5 Supraciliaren. Schnauze sehr stumpf, gerade abgestutzt. 20 Schuppenreihen (22 im vorderen Drittel des Körpers). Leib etwas länger als der Schwanz. Gliedmaßen fehlen vollständig. Färbung braun, jede Schuppe dunkel gefleckt. Die Flecke sind auf dem Rücken am größten, so daß dieser erheblich dunkler erscheint als die Bauchseite. Gesamtlänge 12 cm, Schwanz 5 cm.” (Sternfeld 1910)

Translation of original description (schebeni): “Eye small, lower eyelid with an undivided, transparent disc. Ear opening not visible. Nasals in contact with each other and with the first labial. Postnasal reduced to a narrow ring. Only 2 large supraoculars, 5 supraciliaries. Snout very blunt, straight truncated. 20 scale rows (22 in the front third of the body). Body slightly longer than the tail. Limbs are completely absent. Colouring brown, each scale darkly speckled. The speckles largest on the back, so that this appears significantly darker than the ventral side. Total length 12 cm, tail 5 cm.” (from Bauer 2016) 
CommentLimb morphology: limbless; Scelotes schebeni is missing both forelimbs AND hindlimbs (Danny Meirte, pers. comm., 12 Apr 2013).

Subspecies: The status of Melanoseps occidentalis zairensis remains unclear. Although it is known from about 20 (type) specimens, there seems hardly any subsequent study of it. Marques et al. 2018 chose to consider it as synonym of M. occidentalis, without justification.

Synonymy: following Bauer 2016. Sternfeld 1911 already synonymized schebeni with M. occidentalis, which has been confirmed by Bauer 2016.

Distribution: For a map with localities in Equatorial Guinea see SÁNCHEZ-VIALAS et al. 2022. 
EtymologyThe specific name occidentalis (Latin) refers to the western distribution of this species. 
  • Bauer, A.M.; Günther,R. & Klipfel,M. 1995. The herpetological contributions of Wilhelm C.H. Peters (1815-1883). SSAR Facsimile Reprints in Herpetology, 714 pp.
  • Bauer, Aaron M. 2016. On the taxonomic status of two enigmatic southern African fossorial skinks, Scelotes bicolor and S. schebeni. African Journal of Herpetology 65 (1): 33-38 | DOI: 10.1080/21564574.2016.1138149 - get paper here
  • Broadley, D.G. 1998. The reptilian fauna of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Congo-Kinshasa). In: Schmidt, K.P. and Noble, G.K., Contributions to the Herpetology of the Belgian Congo... [reprint of the 1919 and 1923 papers]. SSAR Facsimile reprints in Herpetology, 780 pp.
  • Brygoo E R; Roux-Esteve R 1982. Un genre de lezards scincines d'Afrique: Melanoseps. Bulletin du Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle SECTION A ZOOLOGIE BIOLOGIE ET ECOLOGIE ANIMALES 3 (4) 1981: 1169-1191
  • Chirio, L. & Lebreton, M. 2007. Atlas des reptiles du Cameroun. MNHN, IRD, Paris 688 pp.
  • Chirio, Laurent and Ivan Ineich 2006. Biogeography of the reptiles of the Central African Republic. African Journal of Herpetology 55(1):23-59. - get paper here
  • Herrmann, H.-W.; W.R. Branch 2013. Fifty years of herpetological research in the Namib Desert and Namibia with an updated and annotated species checklist. Journal of Arid Environments 93: 94–115 - get paper here
  • Marques, Mariana P.; Luis M. P. Ceríaco , David C. Blackburn , and Aaron M. Bauer 2018. Diversity and Distribution of the Amphibians and Terrestrial Reptiles of Angola -- Atlas of Historical and Bibliographic Records (1840–2017). Proc. Cal. Acad. Sci. (Ser. 4) 65: 1-501 (Supplement II)
  • Pauwels, O.S.G. & Vande Weghe, J.P. 2008. Les reptiles du Gabon. Smithsonian Institution, Washington: 272 pp. - get paper here
  • Peters, W. 1878. Herpetologische Notizen. II. Bemerkungen über neue oder weniger bekannte Amphibien. Monatsberichte der Königlich Preussischen Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Berlin 1877: 415-423 - get paper here
  • SÁNCHEZ-VIALAS, A., CALVO-REVUELTA, M. & DE LA RIVA, I. 2022. Synopsis of the terrestrial Reptiles of Equatorial Guinea. Zootaxa, 5202 (1): 1-197 - get paper here
  • Sternfeld,R. 1910. Eine neue Echse aus Deutsch-Südwestafrika. Sitzungsber. Ges. naturf. Freunde Berlin (8): 372 - get paper here
  • Tornier, G. 1901. Die Reptilien und Amphibien der Deutschen Tiefseeexpedition 1898/99. Zool. Anz. 24:61—66 - get paper here
  • Trape, J.F.; Trape, S. & Chirio, L. 2012. Lézards, crocodiles et tortues d'Afrique occidentale et du Sahara. IRD Orstom, 503 pp. - get paper here
  • Werner, FRANZ 1898. Verh. Wien. Zool.-Bot. Ges. 1898: 530
  • Whiting, A.S.; Aaron M. Bauer and Jack W. Sites, Jr. 2003. Phylogenetic relationships and limb loss in sub-Saharan African scincine lizards (Squamata: Scincidae). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 29 (3): 582-598 - get paper here
  • Witte, G. F. de & R. LAURENT 1942. Contribution à la Faune Herpétologique du Congo belge. Rev. Zool. Bot. Afr. 36 (2): 101-115
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