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Panaspis annettesabinae COLSTON, PYRON & BAUER, 2020

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Higher TaxaScincidae, Eugongylinae (Eugongylini), Scincoidea, Sauria, Squamata (lizards)
Common NamesE: Sabin’s Snake-Eyed Skink 
SynonymPanaspis annettesabinae COLSTON, PYRON & BAUER 2020 
DistributionC Ethiopia

Type locality: 8km SW of Bedele on the Metu-Bedele Road, Buno Bedele zone, Oromia Region, (-8.4032°, 36.3105° elevation 1840m; datum WGS 84; Fig. 3) Ethiopia  
TypesHolotype. TJC264 (ZMNH H2019,2176), unsexed adult, 9 February 2013 by Timothy J.Colston. 
DiagnosisDiagnosis: Panaspis annettesabinae can be distinguished from other members of the genus by the following combination of characters: eye in the “ablepharine” condition; scales in 24 rows at the midbody; adult coloration of light-colored upper labials lacking round black spots; coppery dorsum flecked with black, separated from dark brown or black lateral coloration by a single row of light-colored scales; and a coppery bronze tail.

Coloration in life. Dorsum coppery brown, distinct from darker brown lateral coloration separated by a lighter (whitish tan) stripe encompassing a single scale row. Coppery dorsal coloration flecked with black, loosely arranged in 3–5 irregular lines which become less distinct posteriorly, each black fleck representing one-quarter to one-half of a dorsal scale. Darker brown lateral coloration irregularly interspersed with whitish and blackish speckles. Limbs uniformly darker chocolate brown, with occasional whitish flecking. Coppery dorsal coloration extends onto head scales, uniformly merging into tan-colored rostral. Blackish streak from nostril to orbit, dividing coppery dorsal coloration from whitish labials. Anterior tail coloration (proximo-anterior) similar to limbs, a continuation of the coppery dorsal coloration darkened to uniform chocolate brown. Posterior portion of tail (approximately the final one-third) lighter, more metallic copper coloration, possibly old regrowth or breeding plumage. Ventral coloration not recorded in life.

Comparison with other Ethiopian Panaspis. As noted above, only two species are currently considered to occur in Ethiopia: P. tancredi (known from a single specimen from the northern part of the country—most likely near the region of Debarik, approximately 550km from the type locality of P. annettesabinae in markedly differ- ent habitat), and scattered records in the south-central and western regions previously assigned to P. “wahlbergi” s.l. Medina et al. (2016) restricted the nominotypical form to southeastern Africa, and revealed that there are no phylogenetically close congeners of TJC264 (P. annettesabinae), which was the sole member of a long branch in all analyses. In their analyses P. annettesabinae is the sister lineage either to most southern African species or several southeastern lineages, dating at least to the Oligocene ~33Ma. As also noted by Ceríaco et al. (2018), the extreme morphological conservatism and crypsis of these species makes comparison and identification difficult in the absence of molecular data. Thus, appropriate and robustly adequate comparisons are difficult and unclear for P. tancredi.
From the only known specimen of P. tancredii (an unsexed animal of unknown reproductive status), P. annettes- abinae is distinguished by a larger body size (SVL 42.1mm versus 28), 24 dorsal scale rows at midbody (versus 22), blackish flecking on the dorsum (versus lack thereof), whitish flecking on the lateral surfaces (versus lack thereof), and lack of round black spot on upper and lower labials (versus presence). Largen and Spawls (2010) included pho- tographs of two specimens of P. “wahlbergi” s.l. from Ethiopia. Neither of these specimens were indicated to have been collected or deposited in a museum for examination. The first (Fig. 267, p. 408) is an adult or subadult from Debre Zeit (Bishoftu) in the central region, and closely resembles the holotype of P. annettesabinae. The second (Fig. 268, p. 408) is a juvenile from Bedele, near the type locality of P. anettesabinae. This specimen also resembles a juvenile version of the holotype, with darker limbs and lateral coloration and less evident dark flecking dorsally and light flecking laterally. A key difference is that the juvenile specimen has a bright blue tail in contrast to the orange tail of the holotype and the Debre Zeit specimen (the latter appears to be regenerated, while the holotype had its original tail in life), though ontogenetic color-change in skink tails (particularly in breeding males) is relatively common. Finally, a series of specimens from Negele Borena in southern Ethiopia represents another new, highly distinct species based on molecular and morphological data (TJC in prep.), suggesting that many of the remaining central and eastern records may belong to this or other new species. 
EtymologyThe specific epithet “annettesabinae” honors Annette Sabin of the Sabin family, long-time philanthropic supporters of biodiversity conservation. 
  • COLSTON, TIMOTHY J.; R. ALEXANDER PYRON, AARON M. BAUER 2020. A new species of African Snake-Eyed Skink (Scincidae: Panaspis) from Ethiopia. Zootaxa 4779 (2): 190–200 - get paper here
  • Stephen Spawls; Tomáš Mazuch& Abubakr Mohammad 2023. Handbook of Amphibians and Reptiles of North-east Africa. Bloomsbury, 640 pp. - get paper here
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