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Acontias orientalis HEWITT, 1937

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Higher TaxaScincidae, Acontinae; Scincoidea, Sauria, Squamata (lizards)
Common NamesE: Eastern Striped Blindworm, Eastern Cape Legless Skink 
SynonymAcontias meleagris lineicauda HEWITT 1937: 39
Acontias meleagris orientalis HEWITT 1937: 41
Acontias plumbeus tasmani HEWITT 1937: 44
Acontias meleagris orientalis — FITZSIMONS 1943: 244
Acontias plumbeus tasmani — FITZSIMONS 1943: 250
Acontias percivali tasmani — BROADLEY & GREER 1969: 21
Acontias meleagris orientalis — BROADLEY & GREER 1969: 22
Acontias meleagris orientalis — DANIELS et al. 2002
Acontias percivali tasmani — DANIELS et al. 2002
Acontias percivali tasmani — HEIDEMAN et al. 2008
Acontias meleagris orientalis — HEIDEMAN et al. 2008
Acontias orientalis — LAMB et al. 2010
Acontias lineicauda — BAUER in BATES et al. 2014: 244
Acontias orientalis — BAUER in BATES et al. 2014: 247 
DistributionRepublic of South Africa (along the more mesic eastern Cape coasts of South Africa)

Type locality: Grahamstown.  
TypesLectotype: PEM R5128 (formerly AMG 7053, Albany Museum, fide FITZSIMONS 1943: 244)
Holotype: Albany Museum (fide FITZSIMONS 1943: 251) [tasmani]
Lectotype: PEM R5128 (formerly AMG 7053) [lineicauda] 
DiagnosisOriginal description (lineicauda): “A distinct subspecies, now named, lineicauda, is much smaller and has a more slender body; the dark stripes are thinner and there are only 2 supra-ocular scales instead of 3; mid-dorsal stripes narrower than the pale interspaces. Tail cylindric. 14 scales around middle of body. Total length
7.7, body thickness .2” (from Hewitt 1937: 41). 
CommentLimb morphology: Limbless.

Type not in South Africa fide SAMA catalog (Anonymous 1958).

Synonymy: Based on DNA sequence data, DANIELS et al. (2005) suggest that both A. m. orientalis and A. p. tasmani are invalid taxonomic designations, and should be regarded as junior synonyms of A. m. meleagris. LAMB et al. (2010) “regard these two taxa as being questionably distinct. Both names were proposed in the same work (Hewitt 1937), and we select the former, which has page priority as the senior synonym. Further work will be necessary to resolve these taxonomic ramifications.” Daniels et al. (2005, 2009) noted A. m. meleagris is paraphyletic at several levels, and a form they designated as A. m. orientalis “lineicauda morph” is also paraphyletic. LAMB et al. 2010 “recognize A. meleagris, A. lineicauda, and A. orientalis/A. tasmani as genetically distinct, morphologically diagnosable units”, however, note that their relationships are not clear. This uncertainty was maintained by Bauer in Bates et al. 2014: 244 although he listed lineicauda as valid species.

Hybridization: Broadley and Greer (1969) noted on the basis of aberrant specimens that A. p. tasmani and A. m. orientalis may hybridize where they occur in sympatry. 
  • Bates, M.F.; Branch, W.R., Bauer, A.M.; Burger, M., Marais, J.; Alexander, G.J. & de Villliers, M.S. (eds.) 2014. Atlas and Red List of the Reptiles of South Africa, Lesotho, and Swaziland. Suricata 1. South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria, 512 pp.
  • Branch, W. R. 1998. Field Guide to the Snakes and Other Reptiles of Southern Africa. 3rd ed. Fully Revised and Updated to Include 83 New Species. Ralph Curtis Books (Sanibel Island, Florida), 399 pp.
  • Broadley, D. G. and Greer, A. E. 1969. A revision of the genus Acontias Cuvier (Sauria: Scincidae). Arnoldia Rhodesia 4 (26): 1-29.
  • CONRADIE, WERNER; WILLIAM R. BRANCH, & GILLIAN WATSON 2019. Type specimens in the Port Elizabeth Museum, South Africa, including the historically important Albany Museum collection. Part 2: Reptiles (Squamata). Zootaxa 4576 (1): 001–045 - get paper here
  • Daniels, S.R.; Neil J.L. Heideman, Martin G.J. Hendricks, Mphalile E. Mokone, Keith A. Crandall 2005. Unraveling evolutionary lineages in the limbless fossorial skink genus Acontias (Sauria: Scincidae): are subspecies equivalent systematic units? Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 34: 645–654 - get paper here
  • FitzSimons, V.F. 1943. The lizards of South Africa. Transvaal Museum Memoir No.1 (Pretoria), 528 pp.
  • Greer, Allen E. 2001. Distribution of maximum snout-vent length among species of Scincid lizards. Journal of Herpetology 35 (3): 383-395 - get paper here
  • Heideman, N.J.L. et al. 2008. Sexual dimorphism in the African legless skink subfamily Acontiinae (Reptilia: Scincidae). African Zoology 43 (2): 192–201 - get paper here
  • Hewitt, J. 1937. Description of new forms of the genus Acontias. Trans. Roy. Soc. S. Africa 26: 39-48
  • Lamb, T.; Biswas, S. & Bauer, A.M. 2010. A phylogenetic reassessment of African fossorial skinks in the subfamily Acontinae (Squamata: Scincidae): evidence for parallelism and polyphyly. Zootaxa 2657: 33–46 - get paper here
  • Leonard, C. J. 1989. Locomotion of the Limbless Skink Acontias meleagris. J. Herp. Assoc. Africa (36): 73-73 - get paper here
  • Wilson, B. A., M.G.J. Hendriks, N.J.L. Heideman, M. F. Bates, N. Don and C. Moses. 1998. Geographic Distribution. Acontias meleagris meleagris. African Herp News (27): 20-21. - get paper here
  • Zhao, Z, Goedhals, J, Verdú‐Ricoy, J, Jordaan, A, Heideman, N. 2019. Comparative analysis of the eye anatomy in fossorial and surface‐living skink species (Reptilia: Scincidae), with special reference to the structure of the retina. Acta Zool. 2019; 00: 1– 13 - get paper here
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