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Bradypodion venustum TOLLEY, TILBURY & BURGER, 2022

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Higher TaxaChamaeleonidae, Sauria, Iguania, Squamata (lizards)
Common Names 
SynonymBradypodion venustum TOLLEY, TILBURY & BURGER 2022: 20 
DistributionRepublic of South Africa (Cape Province)

Type Locality: Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve, Western Cape Province, South Africa (−33.987, 20.806).  
TypesHolotype: PEM R26336, an adult male with everted hemipenes. Collected on 2 August 2017 by Andrew Turner and Kier Lynch.
Paratypes: PEM R5999, adult male. Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve (−33.983, 20.815, 435 m asl). Collected on 1 November 2003 by Pierre van der Berg and CapeNature staff; SAM 47811, juvenile male. Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve (−33.984, 20.819, 335 m asl). Collected on 15 November 1980 by Atherton de Villiers and Richard Boycott; PEM R26337, subadult male. Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve (−33.982; 20.884). Collected on 19 October 2020 by Krystal Tolley and CapeNature staff. All of the paratype localities are within the Western Cape Province, South Africa. 
DiagnosisDiagnosis: With the exception of B. damaranum, adults of this new species differ from all other species of Bradypodion by having a much more prominent dorsal crest along the tail than along the vertebral keel. Principal differences from B. damaranum are that B. venustum sp. nov. appears to a smaller bodied and less rugose species with a maximum recorded snout-vent length of 73 mm (vs 83 mm in B. damaranum). Other differences are that B. venustum sp. nov. lacks the prominent tubercles arrayed between the gular grooves on the throat, lacks an enlarged pectoral tubercle above the foreleg insertion at the shoulder and also lacks the sometimes extensive, unpigmented areas of finely granular skin around the foreleg insertion, and along the flanks and subvertebral zones, as well as lacking a prominent midflank row of enlarged tubercles.

Description of the holotype (PEM R26336): An adult male with everted hemipenes. Dimensions: snout-vent length 63 mm, tail 70 mm, casque/snout 23 mm, casque to angle of jaw 14.5 mm, head width at post-orbital point 7 mm. Nine scales span the line between the mid supra-orbital crests. Casque low, only slightly elevated and recurved posteriorly. Midline parietal crest indistinct and merely indicated by a row of eight low tubercles. Supra-orbital crest of subconical rounded tubercles extends forward as a canthus rostralis formed by a cluster of prominent smooth rounded tubercles. Two enlarged subocular tubercles border the mouth. The superior and inferior temporal fossae are separated by a prominent temporal crest of four enlarged tubercles extending from the postorbital rim, to rise along the posterior edge of the upper temporal fossa to merge with the lateral crest on the side of the casque. Gular crest of 14 lobes, the first a small simple cone followed by composite lobules. The 3rd and 4th the largest, as wide as they are long, with the 4th to 6th slightly overlapping each other at their bases. The free edges of the composite lobules are weakly denticulate. The gular region has several grooves separated by thin islands of relatively small subhomogenous tubercles. Dorsal crest of 34 low cones extending from the nape to above the vent. The tail is adorned with a prominent crest of conical tubercles at least twice as large as the cones of the dorsal crest, extending three quarters of the length of the tail fading in size posteriorly. The upper half of the side of the tail is also clad in palisades of enlarged rounded tubercles. A zone of enlarged tubercles extends along the length of the upper flank just below the dorsal keel. Below this the flanks are covered in small subhomogenous rounded tubercles. There are no rows of enlarged tubercles on the flanks. A network of thin unpigmented interstitial skin is present over the midflank area. The outer surfaces of the limbs are studded with enlarged rounded tubercles. There is no enlarged pectoral tubercle above the insertion of the foreleg. There are no noticeable areas of bare skin present on the flanks, peri-axillary area or along the para-vertebral zone.

Sexual dimorphism: No females have been collected or were available for examination.

Colouration: (See Figure 1b). Adult male (not collected): Top and sides of head pale yellow, cranial crests and upper surfaces of enlarged tubercles dark brown to black. Eye turret pale yellow with a short dark horizontal bar through the eye. Gular region, grooves and throat pale yellow. The tubercles of the nape are green-yellow. Upper and lower temporal fossae yellow/brown. Dorsal crest and the enlarged cones along the para-vertebral zone are muddy red to yellowish with a broad light band extending from the neck along the upper flank, narrowing and fading as it extends posteriorly towards the pelvic area. The lower flank is a light blue-green. Gular lobes off-white, outer surfaces of limbs and dorsum of tail reddish brown. Belly and ventral side of the tail off-white. When stressed, the light upper flank band darkens.

Variation: In large adults, the casque may be elevated posteriorly and the parietal crest variably prominent. The infra-ocular tubercle may be indistinct. There are 9–11 tubercles across the mid-orbital point. Dorsal crest varies from 34–44 cones, gular crest varies between 13 and 17 lobes, up to seven lobes may overlap. In some specimens, a few enlarged tubercles may form a vague row along the mid flank. The zone with enlarged paravertebral tubercles may be sharply delineated from the upper flank by a welldefined row of enlarged tubercles, or may be ordered into a series of posteriorly sloping rows that progressively shorten.
EtymologyNamed after venustum, a Latin adjective meaning attractive, with reference to the colourful flanks and general good looks of this new species. 
  • Tolley, Krystal A; Colin R Tilbury & Marius Burger 2022. Convergence and vicariance: speciation of chameleons in the Cape Fold Mountains, South Africa, and the description of three new species of Bradypodion Fitzinger, 1843, African Journal of Herpetology, - get paper here
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