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Scincella apraefrontalis NGUYEN, NGUYEN, BÖHME & ZIEGLER, 2010

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Higher TaxaScincidae, Sphenomorphinae (Sphenomorphini), Scincoidea, Sauria, Squamata (lizards)
Common NamesE: Huulien Ground Skink
Vietnamese: Thằn lằn cổ hữu liên
F: Scinque de terre d’Huulien
G: Huulien Bodenskink 
SynonymScincella apraefrontalis NGUYEN, NGUYEN, BÖHME & ZIEGLER 2010
Scincella apraefrontalis — LINKEM et al. 2011 
DistributionVietnam (Lang Son, Nghe An)

Type locality: Huu Lien Nature Reserve, Huu Lung District, Lang Son Province (21°40’N, 106°20’E), elevation ca. 200 m.  
TypesHolotype: IEBR A.0832, an adult male collected in April 1998 by Nguyen Van Sang and Nguyen Quang Truong. 
DiagnosisDiagnosis: Small skink (36.1 mm SVL); supranasals absent; prefrontals absent; nuchals two or three pairs; nasal and first supralabial fused; loreal single; supralabials six; infralabials five; lower eyelid with undivided opaque window; external ear openings absent; midbody scales in 18 rows; limbs short, pentadactyl, widely separated when adpressed; subdigital lamellae in one row under the digits, numbering eight on fourth toe; dorsum and tail base bronze brown with some indistinct darker spots in anterior part of each scale; laterals paler with three or four longitudinal dark brown stripes.

Comparisons: Among the currently known species of Scincella from Asia, the following have a relatively low midbody scale count: S. barbouri (Stejneger, 1925) with 24-28 rows; S. beddomei (Boulenger, 1887) with 20-24; S. bilineata (Gray, 1846) with 22-26; S. modesta (Günther, 1864) with 24-32; S. monticola (Schmidt, 1925) with 22-26; S. punctatolineata (Boulenger, 1893) with 22-28; and S. travancorica (Beddome, 1870) with 22-30 (Boulenger 1887, Schmidt 1925, 1927, Smith 1935, Taylor 1963, Ouboter 1986, Inger et al. 1990, Chen et al. 2001, Shea & Greer 2002). According to Eremchenko (2002), two other Himalayan scincid taxa, Scincella himalayana (Günther, 1864) (with 24-32 midbody scale rows) and S. sikkimensis (Blyth, 1853) (with 21-29 midbody scale rows) were transferred to the genus Asymblepharus. Scincella apraefrontalis sp. n. differs from all afore mentioned species by having a midbody scale count of only 18 rows (versus 20 and more rows), by lacking prefrontals (versus present in the afore mentioned species), and by lacking external ear openings (which are present in the previously listed taxa). Scincella apraefrontalis sp. n. is most similar to Sphenomorphus tridigitus (Bourret, 1939) by having midbody scales in 18 rows, adpressed limbs widely separated, and by the absence of external ear openings. However, the new species differs from the latter by lacking prefontals (which are very small but present in S. tridigitus), by having pentadactyl forelimbs (which only have three digits in S. tridigitus), lower secondary temporal overlapping upper one (upper secondary temporal overlapping lower one in S. tridigitus), and lower eyelid with an undivided opaque window (versus scaly lower eyelid in S. tridigitus) (Greer et al. 2006, per. obs.). Scincella apraefrontalis sp. n. also shares several diagnostic characters of Leptoseps such as supranasals absent; prefontals absent; only a single loreal; first supraciliary in contact with frontal; lower eyelid with an opaque window; supralabials six; infralabials five; external ear openings absent; midbody scales in 18 rows, and dorsal scales smooth. However, in comparison with Greer’s (1997) description, the new species can clearly be distinguished from Leptoseps by having nasal and first supralabial fused (nasal and first supralabial not fused in Leptoseps spp.); both fore and hind limbs pentadactyl, more developed (ratio of FlL/SVL 14.1% and HlL/SVL 22.4% versus 6% and 7-8%, respectively, in Leptoseps spp.); ratio of SVL/HL 6.6 (versus 8.3-8.5 in Leptoseps spp.). Scincella apraefrontalis sp. n. further differs from Leptoseps poilani and L. osellai by having 52 paravertebral scales (versus 75-77 scales in L. poilani and 82 scales in L. osellai) (Bourret 1937, Böhme 1981, Greer 1997). Scincella apraefrontalis sp. n. is distinguishable from Leptoseps tetradactylus by having 18 midbody scale rows (versus 20 in L. tetradactylus), by lacking prefrontals (prefrontals very small in L. tetradactylus), and by having lower eyelid with opaque window (lower eyelid scaly in L. tetradactylus) (Darevsky & Orlov 2005). Distribution: Scincella apraefrontalis sp. n. is only known from the type locality in Lang Son Province, northeastern Vietnam. 
EtymologyNamed after Latin apraefrontalis – meaning “without prefrontals”. 
  • Dau, Vinh Quang; Glenn Shea, Thao Ngoc Hoang, and An Vinh Ong 2018. New record of Scincella apraefrontalis (Squamata: Scincidae) from Pu Hoat Nature Reserve, Nghe An Province, Vietnam. Hamadryad 38 (1 & 2): 27-31 - get paper here
  • Linkem, Charles W.; Arvin C. Diesmos, Rafe M. Brown 2011. Molecular systematics of the Philippine forest skinks (Squamata: Scincidae: Sphenomorphus): testing morphological hypotheses of interspecific relationships. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 163: 1217–1243 - get paper here
  • Neang, Thy; Somaly Chan, Nikolay A. Poyarkov, Jr.. 2018. A new species of smooth skink (Squamata: Scincidae: Scincella) from Cambodia. Zoological Research, DOI: 10.24272/j.issn.2095-8137.2018.008 - get paper here
  • Nguyen, T.Q; Nguyen, V.S.; Böhme, W. & Ziegler, T. 2010. A new species of Scincella (Squamata: Scincidae) from Vietnam . Folia Zool. 59 (2): 115– 121 - get paper here
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