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Varanus semotus WEIJOLA, DONNELLAN & LINDQVIST, 2016

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Higher TaxaVaranidae, Platynota, Anguimorpha, Sauria, Squamata (lizards) 
Common NamesMussau Monitor 
SynonymVaranus semotus WEIJOLA, DONNELLAN & LINDQVIST 2016
Varanus (Euprepiosaurus) semotus — BUCKLITSCH et al. 2016: 50 
DistributionPapua New Guinea (Mussau Island)

Type locality: north of the village of Nai, 30 September 2012, 2m elev. Mussau Island, St. Matthias group, Papua New Guinea, latitude -1.525, longitude. 149.749  
TypesHolotype. ZMUT Sa176 (field nr. 60) (Figs 1–2) collected by Valter Weijola.
Paratypes. ZMUT Sa177 (field nr 64), ZMUT Sa178 (field nr 66) collected by Weijola near Nai 4 and 7 October 2012. Mussau Island, Papua New Guinea, lati- tude -1.525, longitude 149.749, ZMUC 4272 (field number E192) and ZMUC 4273 (field number E282) collected by the Noona Dan Expedition (presumably by Søren Andersen) on 19 January and 5 February 1962 at Talumalau, Mussau Island, Papua New Guinea. 
CommentSimilar species: V. finschi is the closest relative of V. semotus (also geographically the closest).

Diagnosis. Varanus semotus sp. n. is distinguished from all other species of Vara- nus by a combination of the following characters. (1) Tongue white/pinkish to pale yellow (white in preservative) occasionally with small patches of dark pigmentation, the yellow pigment concentrated along the mid-dorsal line and the dorsal surface of the tines (Fig. 2). (2) Gular region marbled in black and cream-white. (3) The tail of adult individuals is indistinctly banded on the distal half, with a varying degree of turquoise to bluish pigmentation on the distal 2/3. (4) Juveniles are black with white spots on the head, yellow and orange spots on the dorsum, and have well defined cream colored to pale greenish tail bands (Fig. 3C). (5) The number of dorsal scales, XY, ranges from 149 to 153. (6) The number of midbody scale rows, S, ranges from 152 to 161. (7) The dorsum is black with single- and clustered groups of dispersed yellow/orange scales. (8) There are several complete rows of paryphasmata across the asulcal side of the hemipenis below the lobes. (9) Geographical distribution restricted to Mussau Island.

Comparisons. Varanus semotus sp. n. is a member of the Varanus indicus spe- cies group of the subgenus Euprepiosaurus distinguished by the asymmetrical sulcus spermaticus and laterally compressed tail (Ziegler et al. 2007a). Within the V. indicus species group it can be distinguished from all species except for V. doreanus, V. finschi and V. yuwonoi by the presence of yellow pigmentation on the tongue. Varanus semotus is unlikely to be confused with any other species except for V. doreanus, from which it can be difficult to distinguish by external morphology. On average, V. semotus has lower XY (149–153 vs. 153–215) and S (152–161 vs. 158–180) scale counts than V. doreanus. Varanus semotus exhibit several complete rows of paryphasmata crossing the asulcal side of the hemipenis while this is restricted to the medial part of the trunk and lobes on V. doreanus (Fig. 4). In contrast to the morphological similarity of these two species, they show a significant genetic separation: 11.5% mean net sequence diver- gence (dA) (Table 5B). Varanus semotus is readily distinguished from V. finschi and V. yuwonoi, both of which have predominately white to cream colored throats and con- siderably higher scalecounts (S over 170, XY over 165). Additionally, Varanus finschi lacks blue pigmentation on the tailand exhibits transverse rows of yellow ocelli on the dorsum. Furthermore, V. finschi and V. semotus have a dA of 6.4% (Table 5A). Varanus yuwonoi has a unique color pattern being predominantly black on the anterior 1/3 of the body, yellow on the lower back and tailbase, and with a blue tail. Furthermore, V. yuwonoi and V. semotus have a dA of 11.6% (Table 5B) [from WEIJOLA et al. 2016]. 
EtymologyThe specific epithet semotus is Latin for distant or remote and refers to the isolated occurrence on Mussau, separated by several hundred kilometers from its closest relatives. 
  • Weijola V, Donnellan SC, Lindqvist C 2016. A new blue-tailed Monitor lizard (Reptilia, Squamata, Varanus) of the Varanus indicus group from Mussau Island, Papua New Guinea. ZooKeys 568: 129-154, doi: 10.3897/zookeys.568.6872 - get paper here
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