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Voeltzkowia mobydick MIRALLES, ANJERINIAINA, HIPSLEY, MÜLLER, GLAW & VENCES, 2012

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Higher TaxaScincidae, Scincinae, Scincoidea, Sauria, Squamata (lizards) 
Subspecies 
Common Names 
SynonymSirenoscincus mobydick MIRALLES, ANJERINIAINA, HIPSLEY, MÜLLER, GLAW & VENCES 2012
Voeltzkowia mobydick — MIRALLES et al. 2015 
DistributionNW Madagascar

Type locality: Northwest Madagascar, Sofia region, commune rurale of Port Bergé II, 3 km from the village of Marosely, plateau of Bongolava (15°38’49.7’’S, 47°34’59’’E), 250 m elevation.  
Reproduction 
TypesHolotype: UADBA R70487 (field number ZCMV 12920; 14-15.XI.2004, collected by Mirana Anjeriniaina). Paratype. Same data as holotype, UADBA R70488 (field number MA283). 
DiagnosisDiagnosis. The new species is a member of the genus Sirenoscincus as defined by Sakata & Hikida (2003a), easily distinguished from all other genera of skinks worldwide by the combination of: 1) the presence of two forelimbs and the absence of hindlimbs (all other genera except Jarujinia being either quadrupedal, completely legless, or having two hindlimbs only); 2) the regressed eyes sunken below scales; and 3) completely depigmented skin. It is differentiated from S. yamagishii (see Figs 1; 6), the only other species described within the genus, by several apomorphic characteristics: 1) the flipper-like aspect of the forelimbs (versus presence of four stout claws in S. yamagishii); 2) the absence of frontonasal, likely fused with the frontal (versus presence of both scales); 3) the absence of preocular, likely fused with the loreal (versus presence of both scales); and 4) the absence of postsubocular, likely fused with the pretemporal (versus presence of both scales). Additionally, S. mobydick n. sp. has one presacral vertebra less than S. yamagishii (52 in the new species versus 53), but this difference may not be reliable given the rather small sample size involved. 
CommentAbundance: only known from its original description (Meiri et al. 2017). 
Etymology— The specific epithet refers to Moby Dick, the famous albino sperm whale imagined by Herman Melville (1851), with whom the new species shares several uncommon characteristics, such as the lack of hindlimbs, the presence of flipper-like forelimbs, highly reduced eyes, and the complete absence of pigmentation (see Fig. 7). The name is an invariable noun in apposition. 
References
  • Kwet, Axel 2013. Liste der im Jahr 2012 neu beschriebenen Reptilien. Terraria-Elaphe 2013 (3): 52-67 - get paper here
  • Meiri, Shai; Aaron M. Bauer, Allen Allison, Fernando Castro-Herrera, Laurent Chirio, Guarino Colli, Indraneil Das, Tiffany M. Doan, Frank Glaw, Lee L. Grismer, Marinus Hoogmoed, Fred Kraus, Matthew LeBreton, Danny Meirte, Zoltán T. Nagy, Cristiano d 2017. Extinct, obscure or imaginary: the lizard species with the smallest ranges. Diversity and Distributions - get paper here
  • Miralles A, Hipsley CA, Erens J, Gehara M, Rakotoarison A, Glaw F, et al. 2015. Distinct Patterns of Desynchronized Limb Regression in Malagasy Scincine Lizards (Squamata, Scincidae). PLoS One 10 (6): e0126074. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0126074 - get paper here
  • Miralles A., Anjeriniaina M., Hipsley C. A., Müller J., Glaw F. & Vences M. 2012. Variations on a bauplan: description of a new Malagasy “mermaid skink” with flipper-like forelimbs only (Scincidae, Sirenoscincus Sakata & Hikida, 2003). Zoosystema 34 (4): 701-719
  • Rakotoarison, Andolalao; Jesse Erens, Fanomezana M. Ratsoavina, Miguel Vences 2015. Amphibian and reptile records from around the Betsiboka delta area in North-Western Madagascar Herpetology Notes 8: 535-543 - get paper here
 
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