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Voeltzkowia yamagishii (SAKATA & HIKIDA, 2003)

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Higher TaxaScincidae, Scincinae, Scincoidea, Sauria, Squamata (lizards)
Common Names 
SynonymSirenoscincus yamagishii SAKATA & HIKIDA 2003
Sirenoscincus yamagishii — SCHMITZ et al. 2005
Voeltzkowia yamagishii — MIRALLES et al. 2015 

Type locality: Ampijoroa, Ankarafantsika Strict Nature Reserve, northwestern Madagascar (16° 20’ S, 46° 48’ E); elevation 100 m.  
TypesHolotype: KUZ R50922 
DiagnosisDiagnosis (genus Sirenoscincus): The new genus is a member of the subfamily Scincinae (Greer, 1970). I t is distinguished from all other taxa in this group by the following combination of characters in derived states (polarity for each of these characters was inferred as relative to Eumeces, the putative primitive genus of the family: Greer and Broadley, 2000). Body highly elongated (SVL 11.6-14.0 times head length) with 53 presacral vertebrae; original tail slightly longer than SVL; snout pointed, lower jaw counter-sunk; neck indistinguishable externally; body scales smooth and transparent without pigmentation; 20 longitudinal scale rows at midbody. Forelimb small (approximately 4.70/0 of SVL) with indistinct fingers and four stout claws; no hind limbs, shallow groove in their position in other scincines; prefrontals absent; nasal sharply pointed, triangular, positioned at V-shaped notch of rostral; nostril positioned at anterior tip of nasal; frontonasal as large as frontal; frontoparietal absent; loreal single; supraoculars two; superciliaries and movable lower eyelid absent; eye covered with two oculars; supralabials six; infralabials five, anterior three higher than posterior two; external ear opening covered by scales, but small ear groove visible through transparent scale; postmental single.

Description (holotype): Adult female. Head much narrower than body; snout pointed; lower jaw countersunk; nostril anterolaterally oriented, visible from above; ear openings absent, small ear groove visible through transparent scales covering it; neck not distinct; body greatly elongated, with 53 presacral vertebrae; body and tail round in cross section; forelimbs small, with indistinct fingers and four stout claws; hind limbs absent. Rostral scale large, overlapping nasals, supranasals and first supralabials; nasal sharply pointed and triangular, positioned in the V-shaped notch of rostral, overlapping supranasal and first supralabial; nostril located in anterior tip of nasal, in contact with rostral; supranasals two, each overlapped by first supralabial, overlapping loreal and frontonasal, right overlapping left; frontonasal overlapped laterally by loreal, overlapping frontal and first supraocular posteriorly; prefrontals absent; frontal as large as frontonasal, overlapped laterally by first supraocular, overlapping interparietal and a pair of parietals posteriorly; frontoparietal absent; interparietal triangular, with two longer sides converging to a bluntly rounded apex posteriorly, overlapping parietals; transparent spot on interparietal absent; parietals two large, quadrangular, left overlapping right behind interparietal, each overlapped by first and second supraoculars, overlapping upper secondary temporal and first nuchals; two nuchals on left, one on right; supralabials six, three preorbital, one subocular and two postorbital; loreal single, quadrangular, as long as second supralabial, overlapped below by first and second supralabials, overlapping first supraocular and preocular posteriorly; preocular single, overlapped by second supralabial, overlapping first supraocular, first ocular, and third supralabial; presubocular absent; supraoculars two, overlapped by two oculars below, overlapping frontal and parietal above, and primary and upper secondary temporals posteriorly; oculars two, covering eye, overlapped by third supralabial, overlapping supraoculars, primary temporal and fourth supralabial; postsubocular absent; primary temporal one, overlapped by fourth supralabial, overlapping upper and lower secondary temporals and fifth supralabial; upper secondary temporal about half as long as parietal, overlapping lower secondary temporal, nuchal, and anteriormost scale of a lateral body scale row; lower secondary temporal overlapped by fifth supralabial, overlapping sixth supralabial and anteriormost scales belonging to lateral body scale rows; mental slightly larger than postmental, overlapping postmental and first infralabials; postmental overlapped by first infralabials, overlapping the first pair of chin shields; three pair of chin shields, first pair in contact, second separated by one scale, and third separated by three scales; five infralabials, second highest, third widest; body and tail covered with smooth cycloid scales; position of hind limb insertion in other scincines having a patch of small scales, followed by short groove; preanal scales two, slightly larger than ventral body scales, right overlapping left; tail broken when captured. (Sakata & Hikida 2003)

Coloration: In life, head, body, forelimbs and tail uniformly pinkish white; snout somewhat paler than the other portion of head; black pigmentation of eye visible; autotomized tail somewhat whiter than original portion; scales transparent, without pigmentation; claws white. After preservation, pinkish coloration faded to uniformly white, and then to slightly yellowish after half year in alcohol. (Sakata & Hikida 2003)

Variation: In paratype, head slightly depressed; forelimb broken; SVL, 86.9; tail length, 53.7; head length, 6.20; snout length, 3.0; head width, 5.4; midbody width, 4.6; distance between nostrils, 1.7. This specimen had more nuchals than holotype - two in left, three in right. (Sakata & Hikida 2003) 
CommentEyeless, no ear opening, no hindlimbs, forelimbs with only 4 digits (the only Malagasy skink with completely reduced hindlimbs but exhibiting forelimbs).

Type species: Sirenoscincus yamagishii SAKATA & HIKIDA 2003 is the type species of the genus Sirenoscincus SAKATA & HIKIDA 2003. 
EtymologyThe specific epithet is dedicated to Dr. Satoshi Yamagishi, who was a professor of Kyoto University and the project leader of Ecological Surveys in Ampijoroa, Ankarafantsika Strict Nature Reserve, in which both of the type specimens were obtained.

The generic name Sirenoscincus is derived from the Latin words, siren (mermaid) and scincus (skink), referring to the unique body shape of the type species with forelimbs only. 
  • Belluardo, F., Muñoz-Pajares, A. J., Miralles, A., Silvestro, D., Cocca, W., Ratsoavina, F. M., ... & Crottini, A. 2022. Slow and steady wins the race: Diversification rate is independent from body size and lifestyle in Malagasy skinks (Squamata: Scincidae: Scincinae). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 107635 - get paper here
  • Beolens, Bo; Michael Watkins, and Michael Grayson 2011. The Eponym Dictionary of Reptiles. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, USA - get paper here
  • Gardner CJ, Raxworthy CJ, Metcalfe K, Raselimanana AP, Smith RJ, Davies ZG 2015. Comparing Methods for Prioritising Protected Areas for Investment: A Case Study Using Madagascar’s Dry Forest Reptiles. PLoS One 10 (7): e0132803, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0132803 - 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
  • 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
  • Sakata, Shuichi & Hikida, Tsutomu 2003. A fossorial lizard with forelimbs only: description of a new genus and species of Malagasy skink (Reptilia: Squamata: Scincidae). Current Herpetology 22 (1): 9-15 - get paper here
  • Schmitz, A.; M.C. Brandley; P. Mausfeld; M. Vences; F. Glaw; R.A. Nussbaum and T.W. Reeder 2005. Opening the black box: phylogenetics and morphological evolution of the Malagasy fossorial lizards of the subfamily “Scincinae”. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 34: 118–133 (published online 2004) - get paper here
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