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Cnemaspis azhagu KHANDEKAR, THACKERAY, & AGARWAL, 2022

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Higher TaxaGekkonidae, Gekkota, Sauria, Squamata (lizards: geckos)
Subspecies 
Common Names 
SynonymCnemaspis azhagu KHANDEKAR, THACKERAY, & AGARWAL 2022 
DistributionIndia (Tamil Nadu)

Type locality: Thirukurungudi forest range (8.4069°N, 77.5485°E; ca. 200 m asl.), Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve, Tirunelveli district, Tamil Nadu state, India  
ReproductionOviparous; 2-3 eggs per clutch (Khandekar et al. 2022) 
TypesHolotype: NRC-AA-1170 (AK-R 678), adult male, collected by Akshay Khandekar and team on 06 May 2021.
Paratypes: NRC-AA-1171 (AK-R 670), NRC-AA-1172 (AK-R 671), NRC-AA-1174 (AK-R 673), BNHS 2818 (AK-R 674), BNHS 2819 (AK-R 675), BNHS 2820 (AK-R 676), adult males; BNHS 2821 (AK-R 677), adult female; NRC-AA-1173 (AK-R 672), subadult female. same collectors as holotype except collected on 07 May 2021. 
DiagnosisDiagnosis: A small-sized Cnemaspis, snout to vent length less than 38 mm (n=9). Dorsal pholidosis heterogeneous; smooth granular scales intermixed with a fairly regularly arranged row of enlarged, weakly keeled, conical tubercles on either side of flank; granular scales gradually increasing in size towards each flank, largest on mid-flank; spine-like scales absent on the flank; two (rarely three, n=1/9) rows of dorsal tubercles at midbody, enlarged tubercles in paravertebral region absent (rarely a few present, n=2/9); ventral scales subcircular, smooth, subimbricate, and subequal from chest to vent, 34–44 scales across belly at mid-body, 151–171 longitudinal scales from mental to cloaca; subdigital scansors smooth, some divided and others entire; 13–16 lamellae under digit I of manus and 12–14 lamellae under digit I of pes, 20–25 lamellae under digit IV of manus and 24–
27 lamellae under digit IV of pes; males (n=7/9) with a continuous series of 6–8 precloacal pores (n= 5/7), rarely divided medially by a single poreless scale (n=2/7), femoral pores absent; tail with enlarged, weakly keeled, pointed, and weakly conical tubercles forming four whorls only on anterior third; followed by a row of three paravertebral tubercles on either side; rest of tail without enlarged tubercles; a median row of subcaudals smooth, regularly arranged with condition of two slightly larger scales alternating with a large divided scale. Males with ochre head and grey body, females more uniform brown; single central black ocellus on occiput flanked by lighter markings, collar formed by thick black spots/ streak flanked posteriorly by white band just anterior to forelimb insertions; tail without strong markings; iris red with light orange ring surrounding pupil. (KHANDEKAR et al. 2022)

Comparisons: Cnemaspis azhagu sp. nov. is a member of the beddomei clade and can be easily distinguished from all 13 members of the clade by a combination of the following differing or non-overlapping characters: two (rarely three) rows of dorsal tubercles at mid-body (versus 8–10 rows of dorsal tubercles at mid-body in C. aaronbaueri; 10–12 in C. beddomei (Theobald, 1876), eight in C. galaxia; 16–18 in C. nairi; 13 or 14 in C. nigriventris Pal, Mirza, Dsouza and Shanker, 2021; 12–14 in C. nimbus Pal, Mirza, Dsouza and Shanker, 2021; and C. ornata (Beddome, 1870); 7–9 in C. regalis; 8–10 in C. rubraoculus Pal, Mirza, Dsouza and
Shanker, 2021; 19–22 in C. smaug Pal, Mirza, Dsouza and Shanker, 2021; and 14–15 in C. wallaceii Pal, Mirza, Dsouza and Shanker, 2021); paravertebral tubercle rows absent (versus paravertebral tubercle rows present in C. aaronbaueri, C. beddomei, C. galaxia, C. nairi, C. nigriventris, C. nimbus, C. maculicollis, C. ornata, C. regalis, C. rubraoculus, C. smaug, and C. wallaceii); A small-sized Cnemaspis SVL 38 mm (versus medium-sized Cnemaspis SVL 40–50 mm: C. nairi; C. nimbus; C. ornata; C. rubraoculus; and C. wallaceii; large-sized Cnemaspis SVL >50 mm: C. anamudiensis Cyriac, Johny, Umesh and Palot, 2018; C. beddomei; C. maculicollis Cyriac, Johny, Umesh and Palot, 2018; and C. smaug); 151–171 longitudinal ventral scales from mental to cloaca (versus 135–140 longitudinal ventral scales from mental to cloaca in C. aaronbaueri, 143–147 in C. nairi, 134–141 in C. nimbus, 148–154 in C. regalis, 122–133 in C. rubraoculus, and 142–150 in C. smaug); 34–44 ventral scales across belly at midbody (versus 31–33 ventral scales across belly at midbody in C. aaronbaueri, 30–34 in C. beddomei and C. smaug, 27–31 in C. galaxia, 32–33 in C. nairi, 26–27 in C. nimbus, and 28–29 in C. wallaceii); 24–27 lamellae under digit IV of pes (versus 20–22 lamellae under digit IV of pes in C. anamudiensis, 21–23 in C. beddomei, 23–24 in C. maculicollis, 22 or 23 in C. nimbus and C. wallaceii, 28–31 in C. ornata, 18 or 19 in C. rubraoculus, 20–22 in C. smaug). (KHANDEKAR et al. 2022)

Coloration: Dorsal ground colour of body, limbs and tail grey; entire head and region anterior to forelimb insertions ochre. Indistinct light preorbital streak runs from nostril to orbit; three light postorbital streaks, uppermost terminating in parietal region, middle at occiput and lowermost continuing until ear opening. A single large central black ocellus on occiput enclosed within a U-shaped light marking and in between uppermost and middle postorbital streaks; a single smaller black ocellus on the right side anterior to forelimb insertions; an incomplete collar at anterior edge of forelimb insertions consisting of a pair of dark blotches flanked posteriorly by a narrower white band on centre of back and small black spot flanked by white band at anterior base of forelimb insertion. Five white spots on vertebral region between forelimbs and tail base, scattered white spots of similar or smaller size on dorsum and femur, larger irregular black blotches scattered on dorsolateral
aspect of back (two on left side and one on right). Original tail with indistinct lighter bands, digits with numerous light grey bands. Ventral surfaces of body, limbs and tail light grey with some scattered darker scales especially in centre of belly, throat and underside of neck ochre with scattered darker scales. Pupil black, iris reddish with a light orange ring lining pupil. (KHANDEKAR et al. 2022) 
CommentBehavior: Individuals were observed active during the daytime (morning to afternoon, 0930–1300 hrs). 
EtymologyThe specific epithet, azhagu (a-lha-gu, also sometimes transliterated as alaku), is the Tamil word for beauty (அழகு) and is used as a noun in apposition for this beautiful new species. 
References
  • Khandekar, A., Thackeray, T., & Agarwal, I. 2022. Three more novel species of South Asian Cnemaspis Strauch, 1887 (Squamata, Gekkonidae) from Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve, Tamil Nadu, India. Vertebrate Zoology, 72, 385-422 - get paper here
 
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