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Ophioscincus ophioscincus BOULENGER, 1887

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Higher TaxaScincidae, Sphenomorphinae (Sphenomorphini), Scincoidea, Sauria, Squamata (lizards)
Common NamesE: Yolk-bellied Snake-skink 
SynonymOphioscincus australis PETERS 1873 (non Tiliqua australis GRAY 1828, non Lygosoma australis GRAY 1839)
Lygosoma ophioscincus BOULENGER 1887: 343 (nom. nov. pro O. australis)
Anomalopus ophioscincus — COGGER 1983
Ophioscincus ophioscincus — GREER & COGGER 1985: 38
Ophioscincus ophioscincus — COGGER 2000: 556
Ophioscincus ophioscincus — WILSON & SWAN 2010 
DistributionAustralia (Queensland)

Type locality: Port Clinton, Qld. (as Port Bowen) [Ophioscincus australis PETERS 1873].  
TypesHolotype: ZMB 8046 [O. australis] 
DiagnosisDiagnosis (genus): Ophioscincus differs from all other members of the Sphenomorphus group in Australia in the following combination of derived character states: nasals slightly enlarged; prefrontals separate; supraoculars 3, only first in contact with frontal; first supraciliary contacts frontal; supralabials 5, third subocular; external ear opening absent, its former position indicated by oblique crease; postsupralabial single; infralabials 5; tail ≤ 0.95 x SVL.
Pre- and postfrontal bones in contact above orbit; postorbital absent; orbitosphenoid well ossified; quadratal conch reduced to small flange; palatal rami of pterygoids with slight to deep recurved processes; crowns of teeth squared off with distinct apical groove and rotated slightly posteromedially.
Presacral vertebrae ≥ 43; postsacral vertebrae ≤ 42; sternum with two attached ribs (from 9th and 10th vertebrae); mesosternum with one rib; complete inscriptional chevrons ≥ 11; front limb lacks all elements distal to single proximal carpal; rear limb lacks all elements distal to single proximal tarsal; ischia form acute angle at symphysis with shafts paralleling those of pubes.
Parietal peritoneum lacks pigment.
Although the list of derived character states for this genus is long, the only distinctly non-burrowing feature is the peculiar shape of the tooth crowns (Greer & Cogger 1985: 32)

Diagnosis: Differs from all other Ophioscincus in the following character states, each of which is unique within the genus: supraciliary scale row complete; paravertebral scales ≥ 90; premaxillary teeth 7-8; jugal short and well separated from postfrontal; parietal eye and foramen absent; supratemporal fenestra completely obliterated by close apposition of supratemporal arch (postfrontal and squamosal) to parietal; orbitosphenoid strongly ossified; maxilla enters infraorbital vacuity only narrowly, due to apposition of palatine and ectopterygoid; medial ends of clavicle narrow, and pelvic girdle reduced to widely separated puboischial rods. Only the first of these character states is primitive within the genus.
Description. Although Peter's (1873) original description of the species was accurate and accompanied by a good illustration, an expanded description will allow a more complete comparison with the species' close relatives.
Snout bluntly rounded; rostral trilobed with broad, rounded rostral lobe projecting between nasals to contact frontonasal broadly, and 2 relatively narrow, angular labial lobes each projecting posteriorly below nasal; frontonasal wider than long (1.5-2.0 x), narrower than frontal; prefrontals well developed but widely separated; frontal wider than long (1.4-1.8 x) and slightly shorter than midline length of frontoparietals and interparietal; supraoculars 3 or 2, only first in contact with frontal; frontoparietals paired, in contact; interparietal distinct, slightly larger than each frontoparietal; parietal eye absent; parietals meet behind interparietal, each bordered posterolaterally by transversely enlarged nuchal and upper secondary temporal; transversely enlarged nuchals 0-4.
Nasals moderately large and separated, nostril situated well forward and slightly ventral of centre; loreals 2, first deeper than second; preoculars 2, lower larger; subocular row narrowed or interrupted below eye, presubocular 1, postsuboculars 2; supraciliaries 4, in continuous series, third and fourth projecting medially to varying degrees; lower eyelid moveable, scaly; pretemporals 2; primary temporal single; secondary temporals 2, upper much larger than and overlapping lower, which is about equal in size to primary; external ear opening absent, its former position indicated by vertical crease; supralabials 5, third situated below centre of eye and bordering scales of lower eyelid; postsupralabial single; infralabials 4;' mental wider than long (1.7-2.1 x); postmental much wider than long (2.1-3.1 x), usually in contact with first infralabial only (98070), rarely with first two (2%); 3 pairs of enlarged chin scales, first and second pairs separated by single scale row, third pair by 3 scale rows.
Body scales smooth, in 20-24 longitudinal rows at midbody; paravertebral scales 94-113, only slightly wider than those in more lateral rows; inner preanals overlap outer, medial pair appreciably larger than surrounding scales; median row of subcaudals slightly larger than more lateral rows.
Snout-vent length 39-97 mm; limbs absent; tail 0.59-0.88 x SVL, tip bluntly rounded (Greer & Cogger 1985: 38).

Colour. In preservative, dorsum is light to medium tan with scattered darker brown mottling on head and dark brown spots (one per scale) forming longitudinal lines on body and tail; sides with well defined, dark- brown stripe which begins as dense mottling on the head and neck but quickly coalesces to extend the length of the body and tail; venter light-tan to off-white except for dark mottling on chin and throat which is continuous with anterior part of lateral stripe, and dark- brown colour on posterior four-fifths of the tail which is continuous with solid, dark colour of posterior part of lateral stripe.
In life, small individuals (SVL = 37-46 mm, N = 4) were noted to have the light ventral areas pale-yellow, and large individuals (SVL = 57-89 mm, N = 5) orangish yellow (Greer pers. obs., on Bulburin State Forest specimens) (Greer & Cogger 1985: 39) 
CommentType species: Ophioscincus australis PETERS 1873 is the type species of the genus Ophioscincus PETERS 1873.

Phylogenetics: see Singhal et al. 2017 and 2018 for a phylogeny of Australian sphenomorphine skinks. Note that they found O. truncatus and O. ophioscincus to be paraphyletic

Limb morphology: 0 digits 0 toes (Singhal et al. 2018, Brandley et al 2008)

Morphology: Hutchinson et al. 2021 present a table of morphological character states across 20 Australian sphenomorphine skinks, including this genus. 
EtymologyNamed after Greek “ophis” = snake. 
  • Boulenger, G. A. 1887. Catalogue of the lizards in the British Museum (Nat. Hist.) III. Lacertidae, Gerrhosauridae, Scincidae, Anelytropsidae, Dibamidae, Chamaeleontidae. London: 575 pp. - get paper here
  • Cogger, H. G. 2014. Reptiles and Amphibians of Australia, 7th ed. CSIRO Publishing, xxx + 1033 pp. - get paper here
  • Cogger, H.G. 2000. Reptiles and Amphibians of Australia, 6th ed. Ralph Curtis Publishing, Sanibel Island, 808 pp.
  • Couper, P., Covacevich, J., Amey, A. & Baker, A. 2006. The genera of skinks (Family Scincidae) of Australia and its island territories: diversity, distribution and identification. in: Merrick, J.R., Archer, M., Hickey, G.M. & Lee, M.S.Y. (eds.). Evolution and Zoogeography of Australasian Vertebrates. Australian Scientific Publishing, Sydney, pp. 367-384
  • Greer A E; Cogger H G 1985. Systematics of the reduce-limbed and limbless skinks currently assigned to the genus Anomalopus (Lacertilia: Scincidae). Rec. Austral. Mus. 37(1) 1985: 11-54 - get paper here
  • Heyer, W.R. 1972. A new limbless skink (Reptilia: Scincidae) from Thailand with comments on the generic status of the limbless skinks of southeast Asia. Fieldiana: Zoology 58 (10): 109-129 - get paper here
  • Hutchinson, M. N., Couper, P., Amey, A., & Wilmer, J. W. 2021. Diversity and Systematics of Limbless Skinks (Anomalopus) from Eastern Australia and the Skeletal Changes that Accompany the Substrate Swimming Body Form. Journal of Herpetology 55 (4): 361-384 - get paper here
  • Peters, Wilhem Carl Hartwig 1874. Über neue Saurier (Spæriodactylus, Anolis, Phrynosoma, Tropidolepisma, Lygosoma, Ophioscincus) aus Centralamerica, Mexico und Australien. Monatsber. königl. Akad. Wiss. Berlin. 1873 (November): 738-747 - get paper here
  • Reeder, T.W. 2003. A phylogeny of the Australian Sphenomorphus group (Scincidae: Squamata) and the phylogenetic placement of the crocodile skinks (Tribolonotus): Bayesian approaches to assessing congruence and obtaining confidence in maximum likelihood inferred relatio Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 27: 384–397 - get paper here
  • Singhal, Sonal; Huateng Huang, Maggie R. Grundler, María R. Marchán-Rivadeneira, Iris Holmes, Pascal O. Title, Stephen C. Donnellan, and Daniel L. Rabosky 2018. Does Population Structure Predict the Rate of Speciation? A Comparative Test across Australia’s Most Diverse Vertebrate Radiation. The American Naturalist - get paper here
  • Wilson, S. & Swan, G. 2010. A complete guide to reptiles of Australia, 3rd ed. Chatswood: New Holland, 558 pp.
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