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Sphenomorphus fragilis (MACLEAY, 1877)

IUCN Red List - Sphenomorphus fragilis - Least Concern, LC

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Higher TaxaScincidae, Sphenomorphinae (Sphenomorphini), Scincoidea, Sauria, Squamata (lizards)
Common Names 
SynonymLygosoma fragile MACLEAY 1877: 64
Lygosoma fragile — STIRLING & ZIETZ 1893: 174
Sphenomorphus fragilis — GREER & PARKER 1979
Sphenomorphus fragilis — GREER & SHEA 2004 
DistributionPapua New Guinea

Type locality: “Hall Sound”  
TypesSyntype: AMS (AM) R31849, formerly MMUS MR392 
DiagnosisDiagnosis: Sphenomorphus fragilis can be distinguished from all but one other member of the fasciatus species group of Sphenomorphus on the basis of the following combination of characters: maximum SVL 54 mm or less; limbs separated when apposed to the body; 26 or fewer longitudinal scale rows at midbody; fifth supralabial situated directly below centre of eye, and an ectopterygoid process to the palatine present (see Plate 1 in Greer and Parker 1974 for a figure of this process). The one species sharing these characters with fragilis is emigrans described from Soemba (Lidth de Jeude, 1895). The two species are also very similar in colour pattern. Fragilis can be distinguished from emigrans, however, in having ear lobules, fewer midbody scale rows (22-26, x̅ = 24.1, mode = 24 versus 24-28, x̅ = 26.5, mode = 26) and slightly shorter limbs (fore leg = .14-. 17 times SVL versus .18-.20 and rear leg = .20-27 times SVL versus .28-.32). The data for emigrans are from Brongersma (1942) and are restricted to the nominate subspecies. The other subspecies—wetariensis and kopsteini—are probably distinct species. They can be separated from fragilis and emigrans on the basis of the diagnosis given above. The single available type of fragilis conforms to the general diagnosis outlined above and differs from emigrans as described for the species. It is on this basis that the type has been allied with the well collected population in the Port Moresby area. In the past fragilis has generally been identified as Sphenomorpfius crassicaudus, a species which is now known only from the Western Province of Papua New Guinea, the islands of Torres Strait and the extreme northern end of Cape York Peninsula (Greer, in prep.). Both species are small (maximum SVL = 54 mm for fragilis and 55 mm for crassicaudus), attenuate forms with a distinct dark dorsolateral stripe. Fragilis can be distinguished from crassicaudus, however, in having two pairs of medial chin scales in contact behind the postmental instead of one, slightly more longitudinal scale rows at midbody (22-26, X = 24.1, mode = 24 versus 20-24, X = 22.1, mode = 22) and in being viviparous (see below) instead of oviparous. Fragilis also has an ectopterygoid process to the palatine and a postorbital bone, both of which crassicaudus lacks. In the Port Moresby area Sphenomorphus fragilis might be most readily confused with nigrolineatus, a species with which it is sympatric in the foothills of the Owen Stanley Range behind Port Moresby (Greer and Parker, 1974). Both species have a distinct dark dorsolateral stripe, but fragilis is generally smaller (maximum SVL = 54 mm versus 75 mm), has fewer mid-body scale rows (22-26, x̅ = 24.1, mode = 24 versus 26-30, x̅ = 27.8, mode = 28) and is viviparous instead of oviparous. Fragilis also has an ectopterygoid process which nigra lineatus lacks. Greer & Parker 1979. 
  • Blackburn, Daniel G. 1999. Are Viviparity and Egg-guarding Evolutionarily Labile in Squamates? Herpetologica 55 (4): 556-573 - get paper here
  • Greer A E; Parker F 1979. On the identity of the New Guinea scincid lizard Lygosoma fragile Macleay 1877 with notes on its natural history. Journal of Herpetology 13 (3): 221-225 - get paper here
  • Greer, A.E. & Shea, G. 2004. A new character within the taxonomically difficult Sphenomorphus group of Lygosomine skinks, with a description of a new species from New Guinea. Journal of Herpetology 38 (1): 79-87 - get paper here
  • Macleay, W. 1877. The lizards of the Chevert Expedition. Proc. Linn. Soc. New South Wales 2: 60-69; 97-104 - get paper here
  • Stirling, E. C., and A. Zietz. 1893. Scientific results of the Elder Exploring Expedition. Vertebrata. Mammalia, Reptilia. Transactions of the Royal Society of South Australia, 16:154-176. - get paper here
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