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Protoblepharus apatani MIRZA, BRAGIN, BHOSALE, GOWANDE, PATEL & POYARKOV, 2022

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Higher TaxaScincidae, Sphenomorphinae (Sphenomorphini), Scincoidea, Sauria, Squamata (lizards)
Common Names 
SynonymProtoblepharus apatani MIRZA, BRAGIN, BHOSALE, GOWANDE, PATEL & POYARKOV 2022 
DistributionIndia (Arunachal Pradesh)

Type locality: Pange camp Talle Valley Wildlife Sanctuary, 0.64 nautical miles (1.19 km) north of Ziro town, East Kameng district, Arunachal Pradesh (27.547172°N, 93.897038°E, elevation 1,864 m a.s.l, datum WGS84), India  
TypesHolotype: BNHS 2853, male collected by Harshal Bhosale, Pushkar Phansalkar, Mandar Sawant, Gaurang Gowande and Zeeshan Mirza on 10 July 2019. 
DiagnosisDiagnosis (genus): Ablepharine skinks with a small to medium sized body (SVL up to 63 mm) with a subtle posterior palatine process. The pterygoid lacking process at the palatine-pterygoid junction and furthermore, pterygoid bordering the suborbital fossa. Postorbital bone present. The pterygoid lacking a recurved posterior process. Supranasal bone absent. Lower eyelid scaly and movable, lacking a transparent “window”. Body scales glossy, smooth or striated, lacking keels in 23–26 rows around the midbody. Scales on dorsum and body flanks with or without apical pits. Tympanum with or without small lobules. No reduction of digits (pentadactyle). Paravertebral scales 53–64. Lamellae on fourth finger 7–10 and 11–15 (rarely 16) on fourth toe. A single large scale covering the dorsal surfaces of each digit. Medial pair of precloacal scales enlarged. (Mirza et al. 2022)

Comparisons (genus): The new genus is compared to members of the clade that include the following genera: Ablepharus, Scincella, Isopachys, Sphenomorphus and Tropidophorus (see Fig. 1). The new genus, Protoblepharus gen. nov. differs from the genus Ablepharus and Scincella in bearing a subtle posterior palatine process (vs posterior palatine process absent in Ablepharus and Scincella), lower eyelid movable (vs fused in some species of Ablepharus) lacking the transparent “window” (vs present in some species of Ablepharus and Scincella). The new genus further differs from Tropidophorus in bearing a sunken tympanum (vs tympanum exposed and superficial in Tropidophorus), in dorsal scales smooth and feebly striated and glossy (vs heavily keeled in Tropidophorus). The new genus further differs from Isopachys in having well-developed limbs (vs absent in Isopachys).
The new genus differs from the members of the genus Sphenomorphus having pterygoid bones widely separated, not in contact (vs in contact in Sphenomorphus), it further differs from some members of the genus Sphenomorphus in lacking supranasal bone (vs present in a few species of Sphenomorphus). (Mirza et al. 2022)

Diagnosis: A small-sized member of the genus Protoblepharus gen. nov. with adult body size measuring SVL = 40.0–55.1 mm. Dorsal scales striated with apical pits, in 26 rows around the midbody; apical pits present on scales on dorsal surfaces of forelimbs and hindlimbs. Three to four pairs of nuchals. Tympanum lacking lobules. Six supralabial scales; 12–13 subdigital lamellae on fourth toe.

Comparisons: Protoblepharus apatani gen. et. sp. nov., differs from Protoblepharus medogensis comb. nov. in bearing nuchal scales (vs absent), lamellae on IV toe 12 (rarely 13) (vs 11 lamellae on IV toe); it further differs from Protoblepharus nyingchiensis comb. nov. in lacking projecting lobules on the anterior border of the ear opening (vs 1–7 projecting lobules), lamellae on IV toe 12 (rarely 13) (vs 15–16 lamellae on IV toe). 
CommentType species: Protoblepharus apatani MIRZA et al. 2022 is the type species of the genus Protoblepharus MIRZA et al. 2022. 
EtymologyNamed after the Apatani tribe of Ziro Valley in Arunachal Pradesh and used as a noun in apposition; authors would like to express our gratitude to the members of the local Apatani community for their help and assistance during their fieldwork in Arunachal Pradesh. 
  • Mirza ZA, Bragin AM, Bhosale H, Gowande GG, Patel H, Poyarkov NA. 2022. A new ancient lineage of ablepharine skinks (Sauria: Scincidae) from eastern Himalayas with notes on origin and systematics of the group. PeerJ 10:e12800 - get paper here
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