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Acontias plumbeus BIANCONI, 1849

IUCN Red List - Acontias plumbeus - Least Concern, LC

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Higher TaxaScincidae, Acontiinae (Acontidae), Scincoidea, Sauria, Squamata (lizards)
Common NamesE: Giant Legless Skinks, Giant Lance Skink 
SynonymAcontias plumbea BIANCONI 1849: 108
Acontias plumbea BIANCONI 1850: 205
Acontias niger PETERS 1854: 619
Acontias niger — CAMP 1923: 387
Acontias plumbeus plumbeus — FITZSIMONS 1943: 245
Acontias plumbeus plumbeus — BROADLEY 1962: 805
Acontias plumbeus — BROADLEY & GREER 1969: 17
Acontias plumbeus — BOYCOTT 1992
Acontias plumbeus — BAUER et al. 1995: 60
Acontias poecilus BOURQUIN & LAMBIRIS 1996
Acontias poecilus — LAMB et al. 2010
Acontias plumbeus — BAUER in BATES et al. 2014: 249
Acontias plumbeus — ZHAO et al. 2023 
DistributionRepublic of South Africa (N/E Transvaal extending to coastal N Natal, Eastern Cape), Swaziland, S Mozambique , E Zimbabwe (isolated relict populations)

poecilus: Republic of South Africa (SE KwaZulu-Natal); Type locality: Leisure Bay, KwaZulu-Natal Province, 31° 01' 20" S, 30° 14' 42" E, 10 m elevation.  
TypesHolotype: MZUB (Bologna University Museum), fide FITZSIMONS 1943: 246
Holotype: DNMNH (= TM) 79313, Adult female, coil. P. M. Hitchins, 13.5.1994; Paratypes: DNMNH (= TM) 55954, juvenile, Umtentweni, KwaZulu-Natal 30° 42' 30" S, 30° 28' 45" E, 60 m above sea level, coil. M. F. Mciver, 26.2.1981; DNMNH (= TM) 68087, adult female, Oribi Gorge Nature Reserve, KwaZulu-NataI 30° 43' 36" S, 30° 16' 29" E, 380 m above sea level, coil. J. Wyatt, 12.5.1968; DNMNH (= TM) 79314, adult female, Umtentweni, KwaZulu-Natal 30° 43' 18" S, 30° 28' 00" E, 20 m above sea level, coil. K Morty, 10.1.1994; DNMNH (= TM) 79315 (subadult) and DNMNH (= TM) 79316 (juvenile), both collected together with holotype [poecilus] 
DiagnosisDIAGNOSIS (poecilus). Robust species, total length exceeding 400 mm in adults. No groove, or only a partial, interrupted groove from posterior part of rostral to nostril. Five to seven chin shields bordering mental. Reduction to 14 scales around body at less than 55 % of body length from tip of snout. Body pattern striped in juveniles, mottled to nearly plain in adults. Ventrum usually markedly lighter than dorsum. 
CommentSynonymy: Zhao et al. 2019 suggested to synonymize Acontias poecilus with Acontias plumbeus. Acontias plumbeus broadleyi has been considered as a morph of A. occidentalis by Broadley and Greer (1969) and most subsequent authors.

Limb morphology: Limbless. 
EtymologyNamed after Latin “plumbum” = lead, after the grayish color reminiscent of lead.

The name A. poecilus is derived from 'poecilos' (Greek) = variable, variegated, referring to the variable colour patterns, not only between adults, but also between adults and juveniles.  
  • 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.
  • Bauer, A.M.; Günther,R. & Klipfel,M. 1995. The herpetological contributions of Wilhelm C.H. Peters (1815-1883). SSAR Facsimile Reprints in Herpetology, 714 pp.
  • Bianconi, J. J. 1849. Lettera al Dottore Filippo de–Filippi, Professore di Zoologia a Torino sopra alcune nuove specie di rettili del Mozambico. Nuovi Ann. Sci. Nat. Bologna (ser. 2) 10: 106-109 [1848] - get paper here
  • Bianconi, J.J. 1850. Specimina Zoologica Mosambicana III. Mem. Acad. Sci. Ist. Bologna 1: 199-216 + 2 plates - get paper here
  • Bourquin, O. & A.J.L. Lambiris 1996. A new species of Acontias Cuvier (Sauria: Scincidae) from southeastern KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Annals Transvaal Mus. 36 (17): 223-227. - get paper here
  • Boycott, R.C. 1992. An Annotated Checklist of the Amphibians and Reptiles of Swaziland. The Conservation Trust of Swaziland - get paper here
  • Branch, William R. 1993. A Photographic Guide to Snakes and Other Reptiles of Southern Africa. Cape Town: Struik Publishers, 144 S.
  • Broadley, D. G. and Greer, A. E. 1969. A revision of the genus Acontias Cuvier (Sauria: Scincidae). Arnoldia Rhodesia 4 (26): 1-29.
  • Broadley, D.G. 1962. On some reptile collections from the North-Western and North-Eastern Districts of Southern Rhodesia 1958-1961, with descriptions of four new lizards. Occ. Pap. Nat. Mus. South. Rhodesia 26 (B): 787-843
  • Busschau, Theo; Werner Conradie; Adriaan Jordaan, Savel R. Daniels 2016. Unmasking evolutionary diversity among two closely related South African legless skink species (Acontinae: Acontias) using molecular data. Zoology 121:72-82 [print 2017] - get paper here
  • Camp, Charles Lewis 1923. Classification of the Lizards. Bull. Amer. Mus. Nat. Hist. 48 (11): 289-481. - get paper here
  • Douglas, R. M. 1982. Acontias plumbeus - Notes on Birth and Captive Care. J. Herp. Assoc. Africa (28): 23-24 - get paper here
  • Fitzsimons, V. 1956. Acontias plumbeus broadleyi. Occ. Pap. Nat. Mus. Rhod. (21b): 95-96
  • 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. 1992. A cimparative Morphological Study of the Axial Musculature in the Pelvic Regions of Acontias plumbeus and Mabuya capensis with Reference to their Respective Modes of Locomotion. J. Herp. Assoc. Africa (41): 14-18 - get paper here
  • 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
  • Maritz, Bryan and Louis Breytenbach. 2015. Acontias plumbeus Bianconi, 1849, Giant Legless Skinks, Agonistic Behaviour. African Herp News (62): 30-31 - get paper here
  • Peters,W.C.H. 1854. Diagnosen neuer Batrachier, welche zusammen mit der früher (24. Juli und 17. August) gegebenen Übersicht der Schlangen und Eidechsen mitgetheilt werden. Ber. Bekanntmach. Geeignet. Verhandl. Königl.-Preuss. Akad. Wiss. Berlin 1854: 614-628
  • Venter, Jan A.; Werner Conradie 2015. A checklist of the reptiles and amphibians found in protected areas along the South African Wild Coast, with notes on conservation implications. Koedoe 57 (1): 1-25. doi: 10.4102/koedoe.v57i1.1247 - get paper here
  • Zhao Z, Verdú‐Ricoy J, Mohlakoana S, Jordaan A, Conradie W, Heideman N. 2019. Unexpected phylogenetic relationships within the world's largest limbless skink species (Acontias plumbeus) highlight the need for a review of the taxonomic status of Acontias poecilus. J Zool Syst Evol Res. 2019;00:1–16 - get paper here
  • Zhao, Z., Conradie, W., Pietersen, D.W., Jordaan, A., Nicolau, G., Edwards, S., Riekert, S., Heideman, N. 2023. Diversification of the African legless skinks in the subfamily Acontinae (Family Scincidae). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution - get paper here
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