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Coeranoscincus frontalis (DE VIS, 1888)

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Higher TaxaScincidae, Sphenomorphinae (Sphenomorphini), Scincoidea, Sauria, Squamata (lizards)
Common NamesE: Limbless Snake-tooth Skink 
SynonymOphioscincus frontalis DE VIS 1888: 823
Anomalopus frontalis — COGGER 1983: 135
Coeranoscincus frontalis — WELLS & WELLINGTON 1985: 26
Coeranoscincus frontalis — GREER & COGGER 1985
Coeranoscincus frontalis — COGGER 2000: 402
Coeranoscincus frontalis — WILSON & SWAN 2010
Coeranoscincus frontalis — SKINNER et al. 2013 
DistributionAustralia (Queensland)

Type locality: Innisfail (as Geraldton), Qld.  
Reproductionoviparous (phylogenetic imputation, fide Zimin et al. 2022) 
TypesSyntypes: QM J243, QM J11499, QM J19737-41 
DiagnosisDiagnosis (genus): Coeranoscincus differs from all other members of the Sphenomorphus group in Australia in the following combination of derived character states: snout slightly conical; nasals slightly enlarged; prefrontals separated (although often only barely in C.
frontalis); supraoculars 3 (primitive supraoculars 3 and 4 fused or one lost - cf. Anomalopus (Vermiseps) and Ophioscincus); first supraciliary contacts frontal; supraciliaries 6 or less; supralabials 6, fourth below centre of eye; infralabials 5; ear opening absent; size large (maximum size of smaller species = 195 mm).
Maxilla-frontal contact; pre- and postfrontals closely apposed above orbit; quadratal conch lacking; supratemporal fenestra obliterated by apposition of supratemporal arch to parietal; premaxillary teeth':;; 8; teeth pointed and recurved; palatal rami of pterygoids moderately separated.
Presacral vertebrae ≥ 52; complete inscriptional chevrons ≥ 12; manus lacks intermedium and pisiform, distal carpals 1 and 5 and metacarpal 1, and has phalanges reduced to or less; pes has astragalus and calcaneum distinct, lacks metatarsal 1 and has phalanges reduced to; sternal ribs ≤ 2; mesosternal ribs 1.
Parietal peritoneum lacks pigment.
Three characters in the foregoing suite are not necessarily associated with burrowing and therefore provide the primary reason for hypothesizing the monophyly of the group: large size, premaxillary teeth ~ 8, teeth pointed and recurved, and palatal rami of pterygoids slightly separated medially.
It should be noted that this diagnosis differs substantially from that of Wells & Wellington (1984) (Greer & Cogger 1985: 41)

Diagnosis: Differs from the only other species of Coeranoscincus in being totally limbless (Greer & Cogger 1985: 44)

Description: A long limbless skink with a dark lateral band in juveniles but this diminishes with age to give a plain, brown ground colour in adults.
Snout bluntly conical; rostral trilobed with distinct median lobe projecting between nasals to contact frontonasal, and 2 slightly shorter, labial lobes extending to level of nostril; frontonasal about as long as wide; prefrontals large, narrowly to moderately separated; frontal longer than wide, approximately equal to midline length of frontoparietal and interparietal; supraoculars 2 or 3, first 1 or 2 contact frontal; frontoparietals distinct, broadly contacting to
narrowly separated, each smaller than interparietal; interparietal distinct, with distinct parietal eye spot; parietals meet behind interparietal, each bordered posterolaterally by upper secondary temporal, undifferentiated body scale or transversely enlarged nuchal and often a third scale intercalated between these 2; nuchals 0-4.
Nasals slightly enlarged, well separated, with nostril in ventral corner; loreals 2; preoculars 2; supraciliaries 4 or 5, first much the largest and in contact with frontal, penultimate projecting medially between last 2 supraoculars, and last projecting medially between last supraocular and first pretemporal; subocular scale row complete, but anterior scales small, last 2 large; lower eyelid scaly; pretemporals 2; primary temporal single; secondary temporals 2, upper much the larger (long), overlapping lower which is about same size as primary; external ear opening absent, its former position indicated by a nearly vertical crease; supralabials 6, fourth subocular; postsupralabials 2; mental moderate in size; postmental about equal in size to mental, in contact with first 2 of 5 infralabials; enlarged pair of chin scales 3, members of first pair in contact, those of second pair separated by 1 scale row, and those of third by 3 rows.
Body scales smooth, in 26-34 longitudinal rows at midbody; paravertebral scales equal in size to more lateral row, 151-197 in single row; inner preanals overlap outer, medial pair enlarged; median row of subcaudals just slightly wider than more lateral rows.
Snout-vent length 70-291 mm; no external trace of limbs; tail 0.47-0.57 x SVL.(Greer & Cogger 1985: 44)

Colour. Specimens generally smaller than about 130 mm SVL have a distinct colour pattern. The dorsum of the body and tail is dark-brown, often with slightly darker longitudinal stripes as in the adults, but the top of the head, the nape and the sides of the neck are generally light-cream colour with the exception of dark pigment concentrated around the eyes and ears. A very distinct dark stripe begins on the side of the chin and extends posteriorly along the side of the throat to a point just posterior to the level of the ear where it turns slightly upward to just below the level of the ear and extends posteriorly to just past the vent before breaking up into a series of evenly spaced, dark, vertical dashes connected dorsally by a thin longitudinal stripe.
Depending on their size, adults retain elements of this pattern, but suffusion of dark pigment over the nape and head, and the loss of dark pigment from the lateral stripe results in a nearly uniformly coloured dorsum in the largest individuals. There is no polymorphism as in C. reticulatus.
In life, the venter of juveniles below the dark lateral stripe can vary from pale, greenish yellow to a very bright orange. In adults the venter is a pale, pinkish yellow anteriorly, becoming increasingly yellow posteriorly until maximum intensity of pale-yellow is reached over the posterior third of the body and entire underside of the tail (Greer & Cogger 1985: 44) 
CommentType species: Ophioscincus frontalis DE VIS 1888: 823 is the type species of the genus Coeranoscincus WELLS & WELLINGTON 1985.

Phylogenetics: see Singhal et al. 2017 and 2018 for a phylogeny of Australian sphenomorphine skinks.

Limb morphology: 0 digits 0 toes (Limbless, Singhal et al. 2018, Cogger 2014)

Morphology: Hutchinson et al. 2021 present a table of morphological character states across 20 Australian sphenomorphine skinks, including this genus. 
  • Cogger, H. G. 2014. Reptiles and Amphibians of Australia, 7th ed. CSIRO Publishing, xxx + 1033 pp. - get paper here
  • Cogger, H.G. 2000. Reptiles and Amphibians of Australia, 6th ed. Ralph Curtis Publishing, Sanibel Island, 808 pp.
  • Couper, P., Covacevich, J., Amey, A. & Baker, A. 2006. The genera of skinks (Family Scincidae) of Australia and its island territories: diversity, distribution and identification. in: Merrick, J.R., Archer, M., Hickey, G.M. & Lee, M.S.Y. (eds.). Evolution and Zoogeography of Australasian Vertebrates. Australian Scientific Publishing, Sydney, pp. 367-384
  • De Vis, C. W. 1888. A contribution to the herpetology of Queensland. Proc. Linn. Soc. New South Wales (2) 2: 811-826 [1887] - get paper here
  • Greer A E; Cogger H G 1985. Systematics of the reduce-limbed and limbless skinks currently assigned to the genus Anomalopus (Lacertilia: Scincidae). Rec. Austral. Mus. 37(1) 1985: 11-54 - get paper here
  • Hutchinson, M. N., Couper, P., Amey, A., & Wilmer, J. W. 2021. Diversity and Systematics of Limbless Skinks (Anomalopus) from Eastern Australia and the Skeletal Changes that Accompany the Substrate Swimming Body Form. Journal of Herpetology 55 (4): 361-384 - get paper here
  • Singhal, Sonal; Huateng Huang, Maggie R. Grundler, María R. Marchán-Rivadeneira, Iris Holmes, Pascal O. Title, Stephen C. Donnellan, and Daniel L. Rabosky 2018. Does Population Structure Predict the Rate of Speciation? A Comparative Test across Australia’s Most Diverse Vertebrate Radiation. The American Naturalist - get paper here
  • Skinner, Adam; Mark N. Hutchinson, Michael S.Y. Lee 2013. Phylogeny and Divergence Times of Australian Sphenomorphus Group Skinks (Scincidae, Squamata). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 69 (3): 906–918 - get paper here
  • Wilson, S. & Swan, G. 2010. A complete guide to reptiles of Australia, 3rd ed. Chatswood: New Holland, 558 pp.
  • Zimin, A., Zimin, S. V., Shine, R., Avila, L., Bauer, A., Böhm, M., Brown, R., Barki, G., de Oliveira Caetano, G. H., Castro Herrera, F., Chapple, D. G., Chirio, L., Colli, G. R., Doan, T. M., Glaw, F., Grismer, L. L., Itescu, Y., Kraus, F., LeBreton 2022. A global analysis of viviparity in squamates highlights its prevalence in cold climates. Global Ecology and Biogeography, 00, 1–16 - get paper here
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