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Mesaspis cuchumatanus SOLANO-ZAVALETA, NIETO-MONTES DE OCA & CAMPBELL, 2016

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Higher TaxaAnguidae (Gerrhonotinae), Diploglossa, Anguimorpha, Sauria, Squamata (lizards) 
Subspecies 
Common NamesEnglish: Cuchumatanes Alligator Lizard
Spanish: Escorpioncillo de los Cuchumatanes 
SynonymMesaspis cuchumatanus SOLANO-ZAVALETA, NIETO-MONTES DE OCA & CAMPBELL 2016 
DistributionGuatemala (Huehuetenango: Sierra de Los Cuchumatanes)

Type locality: Cerro Bobic, near San Mateo Ixtatán, Sierra de Los Cuchumatanes, Huehuetenango, Guatemala (15°50’34.57’’ 0N, 91°30’42.33’’W), elevation 2,958 m  
Reproductionviviparous 
TypesHolotype. UTA R-46096 (original field no. MEA-1645A), an adult male, collected 20 August 1998 by Manuel Acevedo.
Paratypes.—Thirty-eight specimens from the Sierra de los Cuchumatanes, Huehuetenango, Guatemala. UTA R-27392– 27393, 17.1 km (by road) SW San Juan Ixcoy, 3,260 m; UTA R-27394–27396, 11.1 km (by road) NW Santa Eulalia, 2,760 m; UTA R-36584–36585, 36589, 5.4 km WSW San Mateo Ixtata ́n, 2,975 m; UTA R-41607, 41610, 3.2 km WSW Patacal, 2,761 m; UTA R- 41616, 5.6 km E San Mateo Ixtatán, 2,475 m; UTA R-41617–41619, along road to Patacal, 5.0 km (by road) NW intersection of Guatemala Road 9N (near San Mateo Ixtata ́n), 2,835 m; UTA R- 41621–41622, 5.6 km NW jct of San Mateo Ixtata ́ n to Barillas road and road to Nentón, 2,780–2,800 m; UTA R-46014–46018, 12.9 km N Chiantla, ca. 2,900 m; UTA R-46019–46021, 7.2 km SE Todos Santos, 2,860 m; UTA R-46097–46105, topotypes; MVZ 143480, 143484, 21.8 km N Santa Eulalia, Huehuetenango–Barillas Road; MVZ 143469, 14347, stream below Captzin at km 311 on Huehuetenango-Barillas Road; MVZ 143472, 4.5 km E (by road) Todos Santos on Todos Santos-Paquix Road. 
CommentDiagnosis. A species of Mesaspis characterized by: 1) supranasals usually expanded; 2) frontonasal scale present and usually in broad contact with frontal; prefrontals reduced in size or fused with frontonasal; 3) posterior internasals usually large, some- times divided; 4) canthals usually absent; 5) parietal not contacting median supraoculars; 6) occipital single; 7) anterior superciliary contacting cantholoreal; 8) postmental single; 9) dorsal scales in 50–58 transverse rows; 10) dorsal scales usually in 16 longitudinal scale rows, scales in lowermost rows half the height of adjacent upper row or triangular shape; 11) ventral scales in 12 longitudinal rows; 12) dorsal scales of neck without keeling; and 13) scales covering lateral side of neck from about level of upper edge of auricular opening to ventrolateral fold small and granular.
Mesaspis cuchumatanus may be distinguished from all species in the Mesaspis gadovii and Mesaspis antauges groups (sensu Tihen, 1949; Good, 1988) in having one postmental; from all species in the M. antauges group in having keeled dorsal scales; from all species in the M. gadovii and M. antauges groups in usually having two lateral supraoculars; from all species except M. antauges in having posterior internasals usually divided; from all congeners in having prefrontals usually fused with frontonasal (Fig. 2), but occasionally prefrontals are present but reduced or lacking on one side. It is most easily distinguished from M. moreletii, with which it is sympatric, by its smaller adult body size (<72 mm SVL vs. ‡72 mm SVL); prefrontal scales most-frequently fused with the frontonasal, if prefrontals are present they are much reduced in size; usually having 16 longitudinal dorsal scale rows (vs. 18–22), mostly smooth nuchal scales (vs. keeled), large scales extending down on side of the neck to about the level of the upper edge of the tympanum (vs. level of lower edge of tympanum; see Fig. 3), and a different color pattern. Mesaspis cuchumatanus is com- pared with other species of the genus in Table 1 (SOLANO-ZAVALETA et al. 2016).

Similar species: M. moreletii, especially the juveniles and subadults of this species.

Distribution: see map in SOLANO-ZAVALETA et al. 2016: 333 (Fig. 4).

Sympatry: M. m. temporalis in the Sierra de los Cuchumatanes and Montañas del Cuilco. Other sympatric species include Abronia frosti, Norops crassulus, Sceloporus taeniocnemis, Thamnophis fulvus, and Cerrophidion godmani (Campbell et al., 1998).

Habitat: The main vegetation types reported for the Cuchumatanes are lower montane wet forest, subtropical wet forest, lower montane dry forest, lower montane moist forest, lower montane wet forest, and montane wet forest (Holdridge, 1959). Mesaspis cuchumatanus has been taken mostly in the latter three kinds of forest, which occur at high elevations. A predominance of Abies guatemalensis forest occurs between 2,900–3,400 m, while at 3,000–3,800 m there prevails a mixed forest of Juniperus standleyi and Pinus hartwegii (Islebe et al., 1994, 1995; Steinberg and Taylor, 2008). The known elevational distribution for M. cuchumatanus is 2,760 m (UTA R-27394–27396) to 3,260 m (UTA R-27392–27393), so it is highly probable that the species is present in a variety of recognized forest types. This species appears to be exclusively terrestrial, as are other members of the genus, and can be found under surface debris or active on the surface. The species has been taken along the edges or forest clearings or in areas that have been recently felled (SOLANO-ZAVALETA et al. 2016). 
EtymologyThe species name is taken from the Sierra de los Cuchumatanes, the most extensive mountain range in Central America. 
References
  • Solano-Zavaleta, Israel; Adrián Nieto-Montes de Oca,Jonathan A. Campbell 2016. A New Species of Mesaspis (Squamata: Anguidae) from the High Cuchumatanes of Guatemala Journal of Herpetology 50 (2): 327-336 - get paper here
 
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