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Scelotes arenicola (PETERS, 1854)

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Higher TaxaScincidae, Scincinae, Scincoidea, Sauria, Squamata (lizards)
Common NamesE: Zululand Dwarf Burrowing Skink 
SynonymLithophilus bicolor SMITH 1849: 13
Herpetosaura arenicola PETERS 1854: 619
Herpetosaura arenicola — PETERS 1855: 49 &
Herpetosaura arenicola — PETERS 1882: 79
Scelotes arenicola — BOULENGER 1887: 415
Scelotes bicolor — BOULENGER 1887: 416
Herpetosaura arenicola — BOULENGER 1890: 80
Herpetosaura arenicola — TORNIER 1902: 704
Herpetosaura arenicola — BOULENGER 1907: 486
Herpetosaura arenicola — BOULENGER 1908: 227
Herpetosaura arenicola — BOULENGER 1910: 488
Herpetosaura arenicola — HEWITT 1910: 92
Scelotes arenicola — HEWITT 1927: 355
Herpetosaura arenicola — HEWITT 1929: 3
Herpetosaura arenicola — FITZSIMONS 1930: 37
Scelotes arenicola — FITZSIMONS 1943: 196
Scelotes bicolor — DE WITTE & LAURENT 1943
Scelotes arenicola — WITTE & LAURENT 1943: 31
Scelotes arenicolor [sic] — GREER 1970: 10
Scelotes arenicola — POOLEY 1970: 65
Scelotes arenicola — POOLEY el al. 1973: 110
Scelotes arenicola — BRUTON & HAACKE 1980: 255 (part)
Scelotes bicolor — WELCH 1982: 75
Scelotes arenicola — BRANCH 1988: 120
Scelotes arenicola arenicola — BROADLEY 1990: 475
Scelotes arenicolus — BAUER et al. 2003: 280
Scelotes arenicola — WHITING et al. 2003
Scelotes arenicola — BAUER 2016
Scelotes arenicolus — BATES et al. 2014: 270

DistributionRepublic of South Africa (Zululand), Natal,
S Mozambique (Angoche), Swaziland

Type locality: “Inhambane, Lourenzo-Marques” [= Maputo, Mozambique]

bicolor: Republic of South Africa (Little Namaqualand)  
TypesLectotype: NMW 19059 (Designation by Broadley 1994); Paralectotypes: ZMB 4818, 9413-4, 9415, NMW 19059 (fide Tiedemann et al. 1994). Broadley 1994 notes that ZMB 4818 is disintegrating and that ZMB 9413 is dessicated, so he designated a lectotype.
Holotype: unlocated (Fitzsimons 1937: 269) [bicolor] 
DiagnosisDiagnosis: Broadley 1994: 255.

Original description (genus): “Herpetosaura nov. gen.: Artus nulli; lingua squamulata, depressa, triangulari, sagitta ta, apice inciso; palatum edentalum, postice fissum; dentes maxilla rum numerosi, conici, paulum curvati, margini interno adnati; palpebra superior angusta, inferior lata squamata; papilla rotunda; auris occulta; rostrum cuneiforme rotundatum, squama vaginali obductum; nares laterales inter scutellum nasale minimum et excisuram scutelli rostrali posticam positae; caput squamis majoribus obductum; apex mandibulae squama vaginali obductus; porus analis paulo post corporis medium positus cauda longa, apice conico; squamae laves, imbricalae; cranium columella instructum.” (Peters 1854)

Herpetosaura arenicola n. sp.; “maculis per series longitudinales dispositis nigris, subtus sordide carnea vel cana. Long. tota 0,138; caudae 0,066; capitis 0,007.” (Peters 1854)

Original description (bicolor): “Figure very slender. Head quadrangular, contracted before the eyes; nose rounded; sides vertical. Body somewhat four-sided; back slightly convex; sides perpendicular. Tail subquadrangular towards base, cylindrical towards apex, tapered and pointed. Nostrils, in hinder edge of rostral plate, and their hinder margin, formed by a narrow ring distinct from the plate. Rostral plate semicircular; nasal plate subovate, internally contiguous. Naso-rostral plate rather irregularly six-sided. Frontal plate large, somewhat five-sided; the anterior side straight, the two hinder sides oblique, and form, where they unite behind, in the middle of the head, a rounded point. Interparietal plate large, somewhat heart-shaped, the apex of the frontal plate received into its notch; behind, towards its apex, a slight angle on each side. Parietal plates long, narrow, and widest behind; a long, narrow, transverse plate behind each parietal plate. Palpebral plates 4, and a small one under the last; they increase in size forwards, the anteriormost the largest and subrhomboidal, the others quadrangular. Frenal plate square; preocular plate small, somewhat triangular. Scales of body and tail six-sided, longest transversely. Preanal scales 6; the two middle ones very large, the two on each side very small. The colour of the upper surface of the head anteriorly livid brown; the remainder, and the back and upper surface of the tail, intermediate between greenish white and pale flesh-red; the back and tail variegated with two longitudinal lines of closely-set brownish red dots. These lines commence at the hindhead, and are gradually lost towards the apex of the tail, where it acquires a light brown colour; hinder surface of the head finely dotted with brownish red. Sides of body and tail light brownish red; under parts the same colour, only much paler. Length from nose to tail 1 inch 5 lines [36 mm]; length of tail 1 inch [26 mm]; width of body 1/8th of an inch [3.175 mm]. The scales of the body in this species are shorter transversely, and broader in the opposite direction than those of Lithophilus inornatus. The form of the plates of the head generally is very different, and the body is quadrangular instead of subcylindrical.” (cited after Bauer 2016) 
CommentGroup: Belongs to the S. arenicola group.

Limb morphology: limbless (Branch 1998: 140).

Synonymy: after BRANCH & BAUER 2005, Bauer 2016 and Lynn Raw (pers. comm, 3 Oct 2022). S. bicolor was known from only the type which is now lost. Note that the name is indeed “arenicola”, despite the fact that Scelotes is masculine. Bauer 2016 justified the use of arenicola over bicolor. The correct formulation of the epithet is indeed arenicola, not arenicolus fide Bauer 2016; incola is a Latin noun of common gender meaning resident or dweller. 
EtymologyNamed after the Latin noun arena, "sand," and adjective -cola, "dweller," refer to the habitat where the species lives. 
  • Bates, M.F.; Branch, W.R., Bauer, A.M.; Burger, M., Marais, J.; Alexander, G.J. & de Villliers, M.S. (eds.) 2014. Atlas and Red List of the Reptiles of South Africa, Lesotho, and Swaziland. Suricata 1. South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria, 512 pp.
  • Bauer, A.M., Shea, G.M., and Günther, R. 2003. An annotated catalogue of the types of scincid lizards (Reptilia: Squamata: Scincidae) in the collection of the Museum für Naturkunde der Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (ZMB). Zoologische Reihe. Mitteilungen aus dem Museum für Naturkunde in Berlin 79:253-321 - get paper here
  • Bauer, A.M., Whiting, A.S., and Sadlier, R.A. 2003. A new species of Scelotes, from near Cape Town, Western Cape Province, South Africa. Proc. Cal. Acad. Sci. 54:231-237. - get paper here
  • 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
  • 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
  • Branch, William R. & Bauer, Aaron M. 2005. The herpetological contributions of Sir Andrew Smith. SSAR, 80 pp.
  • Broadley D G 1990. The herpetofaunas of the islands off the coast of south Mocambique. Arnoldia Zimbabwe 9 (35): 469-493
  • Broadley, D. G. 1994. The genus Scelotes Fitzinger (Reptilia: Scincidae) in Mozambique, Swaziland and Natal, South Africa. Annals of the Natal Museum 35: 237-259.
  • Fitzsimons, Vivian Frederick Maynard 1937. Notes on the reptiles and amphibians collected and described from South Africa by Andrew Smith. Annals Transvaal Museum 17: 259-274. - get paper here
  • Jordaan, P.R., Steyl, J.C.A., Hanekom, C.C., Xander Combrink 2020. Fire-associated reptile mortality in Tembe Elephant Park, South Africa. Fire Ecol (2020) 16: 3 - get paper here
  • Peters,W.C.H. 1854. Diagnosen neuer Batrachier, welche zusammen mit der früher (24. Juli und 17. August) gegebenen Übersicht der Schlangen und Eidechsen mitgetheilt werden. Ber. Bekanntmach. Geeignet. Verhandl. Königl.-Preuss. Akad. Wiss. Berlin 1854: 614-628
  • Smith, A. 1849. Illustrations of the Zoology of South Africa. 3 (Reptiles). Smith, Elder, and Co., London [facsimile published by Winchester Press, Johannesburg, 1977] - get paper here
  • Tiedemann,F.; Häupl,M. & Grillitsch,H. 1994. Katalog der Typen der herpetologischen Sammlung nach dem Stand vom 1. Jänner 1994. Teil II: Reptilia. Kat. wiss. Samml. Naturhist. Mus. Wien 10 (Vertebrata 4): 1-110
  • Tornier,G. 1902. Herpetologisch Neues aus Ostafrika. Zool. Anz. 25: 700-704 - get paper here
  • Welch, K.R.G. 1982. Herpetology of Africa; a checklist and bibliography of the orders Amphisbaenia, Sauria, and Serpentes. Robert E. Krieger Pub. Co., Malabar, FL 293 pp.
  • 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
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