Diploderma aorun WANG, JIANG, ZHENG, XIE, CHE & SILER, 2020
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|Higher Taxa||Agamidae (Draconinae), Sauria, Iguania, Squamata (lizards)|
|Common Names||E: Aorun Mountain Dragon|
Chinese: 敖闰龙蜥 (Pinyin: Ao Run Long Xi)
|Synonym||Diploderma aorun WANG, JIANG, ZHENG, XIE, CHE & SILER 2020: 238|
Japalura flaviceps ZHAO & YANG 1997: 165 (part
Japalura flaviceps — ZHAO et al. 1999: 111 (part)
Japalura flaviceps — YANG & RAO 2008: 200 (part)
|Distribution||China (Sichuan Province, Derong County to NW Yunnan, Deqin County), elevation below 3,000 m|
Type locality: Dari Village, Deqin County, Yunnan Province, China (99.1733° E, 28.5804° N, elevation 2,198 m, WGS 84)
|Types||Holotype: KIZ 044735, adult male, from Dari Village, Deqin County, Yunnan Province, China (99.1733° E, 28.5804° N, elevation 2,198 m, WGS 84). Collected by Kai WANG, Xiankun HUANG, and Zhuoyu LU on June 17, 2019.|
Paratypes: KIZ 032734, 032736, 032737, adult males; KIZ 032735, adult female, all from areas near Benzilan township, Deqin County, Yunnan Province, China (99.3827° E, 28.1774° N, elevation 2010 m, WGS 84); collected by Kai WANG, Shuqi LI, and Gadeng Nima on June 4, 2017. KIZ 044431, adult male, KIZ 044432, 044433, adult females, from Rongzong Village, Deqin County, Yunnan Province, China (99.1733° E, 28.5804° N, elevation 2,198 m, WGS 84); KIZ 044740, adult male, KIZ 044742, adult female, near Zhidu, Deqin County, Yunnan Province, China (99.2241° E, 28.3545° N, elevation 2037 m, WGS 84); CIB 116315–16, subadult females, CIB 116318, adult male, all from Songmai Township, Derong County, Sichuan Province (99.292382° E, 28.701581° N, elevation 2520m, WGS 84), collected by Gang Wang and Puyang Zheng on August 29, 2019; KIZ 044764, adult male near Derong township, Sichuan Province, China (99.2773° E, 28.6714° N, elevation 2,412 m, WGS 84); all collected by Kai WANG, Zhuoyu LU, and Xiankun HUANG on June 19, 2019.
|Diagnosis||Diagnosis: The new species can be diagnosed from congeners by a combination of the following morphological characteristics: (1) body size moderate, SVL 56.3–61.2 mm in males, 57.0–66.5 mm in females; (2) tail long, TAL 212.0%–221.1% SVL in males, 191.4%–207.7% in females; (3) hind limbs moderate, HLL 73.7%–82.7% SVL in males, 71.8%–80.5% in females; (4) head moderate, HW 66.8%–75.1% HL; (5) MD 36–45; (6) T4S 19–24; (7) post-rictal conical or sub-pyramidal scales weak and few, 1–3; (8) tympanum concealed; (9) nuchal crest well-developed on strong skin folds, serrated; (10) distinct transverse gular fold present; (11) ventral scales of head and body distinctively keeled; (12) ventral head scales and ventrolateral body scales homogeneous in size; (13) gular spots present in both sexes, Pale Cyan (Color 157) to Light Caribbean Blue (Color 163) in life, Plumbeous (Color 295) after longterm preservation; (14) dorsolateral stripes strongly jagged, Cream (Color 12) in males, white in females in life; (15) dark ornamentations (i.e., transverse bands, radial stripes around eyes) with strong contrast; (16) no distinct ornamentation pattern on ventrolateral body; (17) ventral body white in most individuals, sometimes pale yellowish in males; and (18) oral cavity, inner lips, and tongue light flesh color (Color 250) (Wang et al. 2021).|
Comparisons: The new species was confused with D. flaviceps, but it can be differentiated from the latter by having a smaller body size in males (SVL 56.3–61.2 mm versus 68.5–82.1 mm), fewer middorsal crest scales (MD 35–46, average 40 versus 45–56, average 51), solid patches along dorsal midline in both sexes (versus hollow, rhomboid-shaped patterns), as well as by the presence of distinct radial stripes around eyes (versus absence or faint), the presence of gular spots in both sexes (versus absence), the absence of crest skin folds in females (versus absence), and the absence of reticulated, vermiculate patterns on the gular region (versus presence). Diploderma aorun is morphologically most similar to D. batangense, which is found further upstream along the Jinsha River. However, D. aorun can still be differentiated from D. batangense by having a longer tail in males (TAL 212.0%–221.1% SVL, average 216.4% versus 187.3%–206.5%, average 194.6%; Tukey's HSD test, p < .05), strongly developed skin fold of nuchal and dorsal crests in males (versus weak and often indistinct), and much stronger contrast between the dorsal dark and light ornamentations (versus much weaker contrast and faint). For the remaining species in the same clade (Figure 2), Diploderma aorun differs from D. drukdaypo, D. vela, and D. slowinskii by the presence of distinct gular spots in both sexes (versus absence in both sexes); from D. iadinum by having fewer dorsolateral rows of enlarged keeled scales on each side of the body (1 versus 2–3), strongly jagged dorsolateral stripes (versus smooth), distinct body coloration in both sexes (Pale Buff [Color 1] in males, Chamois [Color 84] in females versus Yellowish Spectrum Green [Color 128] to Emerald Green [Color 143] in males, Buff [Color 5] to Pale Greenish Yellow [Color 86]), and a distinct gular coloration (Pale Cyan [Color 157] to Light Caribbean Blue [Color 163] in both sexes versus Caribbean Blue [Color 168] in males, Medium Greenish Yellow [Color 88] in females); from D. yulongense by having a distinct coloration for gular spots in life (Pale Cyan [Color 157] to Light Caribbean Blue [Color 163] versus Chartreuse [Color 89] to Opaline Green [Color 106]) and dorsolateral stripes (white to Cream Color [Color 12] versus Pale Greenish Yellow [Color 86]), as well as by the absence of green patches on the dorsolateral surface of body (versus presence); from D. laeviventre by having distinctively keeled ventral scales (versus smooth or feebly keeled) and distinct gular coloration (Pale Cyan [Color 157] to Light Caribbean Blue [Color 163] versus Light Chrome Orange [Color 76]); from D. chapaense and D. yunnanense by the presence of a distinct transverse gular fold (versus absence) and differential coloration of gular spot (Pale Cyan [Color 157] to Light Caribbean Blue [Color 163] versus Light Chrome Orange [Color 76]). For the remaining species in the different phylogenetic clade, D. aorun differs from D. micangshanense, D. varcoae, and all species from East Asian islands (D. brevipes, D. luei, D. makii, D. polygonatum, and D. swinhonis) by the presence of a distinct transverse gular fold (versus absence); from D. dymondi, D. swild, D. slowinskii, and D. varcoae by having a concealed tympanum (versus exposed) and distinct coloration of oral cavity (Light Flesh Color [Color 250] versus Light Chrome Orange [Color 76] in D. swild and D. varcoae; Jet Black [Color 300] or Spectrum Violet [Color 186] in D. dymondi); from D. splendidum by having distinct transverse gular fold (versus feeble), homogeneous ventral head scales (versus heterogeneous), and jagged dorsolateral stripes in males (versus smooth-edged); and from D. zhaoermii by having a smaller body size (maximum SVL 61.2 mm in males versus up to 81.7 mm), distinct vermiculate stripes on the ventral head (versus faint or absence), and a distinct gular coloration (Pale Cyan [Color 157] to Light Caribbean Blue [Color 163] versus Chartreuse [Color 89]). For the species that lack genetic data, D. aorun differs from D. brevicaudum by having a longer tail (TAL ≥ 191.4% versus ≤160.0%) and longer hind limbs (>71.5% versus ≤64.0%) and the presence of gular spots after preservation (versus absence); from D. grahami by having distinct appearance of dorsal body scales (spiky versus granular), a distinct transverse gular fold (versus feebly), and a larger body size (56.3–66.5 mm versus 49.3 mm); from D. fasciatum by having smaller and non-differentiated nuchal crest scales (versus much larger and distinctively differentiated from dorsal crests), the presence of dorsolateral stripes (versus absence), and by the absence of single hourglass-shaped pattern on the mid-dorsum (versus presence); and from D. hamptoni by having parallel dorsolateral stripes on dorsal body (versus diagonally away from dorsal midline). For new species described above, D. aorun differs from D. angustelinea by having wider and strongly jagged dorsolateral stripes in males (versus much narrower, smooth or feebly jagged), a distinct gular spot coloration (Pale Cyan [Color 157] to Light Caribbean Blue [Color 163] versus Dark Spectrum Yellow [Color 78]), a much gradual transition from dorsal to ventral coloration (versus sharp and distinct), and by the presence of strongly developed skin folds under nuchal and dorsal crests in males (versus absence), and the presence of distinct black vermiculate stripes on ventral head (versus absent) (Wang et al. 2021).
Color in life: The background coloration of the dorsal surface of the head is Smoky White (Color 261). Four Dark Neutral Gray (Color 299) transverse bands are evenly distributed on the dorsal surface of head, with the last one between posterior margins of the orbits. A thin, incomplete, transverse band is between the 2nd and the 3rd and between 3rd and 4th thick bands. All of these transverse bands except the most anterior three enter orbits on both sides, which form the radial stripes superior of the eyes. Temporal and occipital regions of the head are dirty Light Neutral Gray (Color 297) to Jet Black (Color 300), with irregular Dark Neutral Gray (Color 299) to Jet Black (Color 300) spots and streaks. The ground coloration of the lateral surface of the head is white. Jet Black (Color 300) radial stripes are present around eyes, where the posterior two stripes are the broadest: One of which extends from the superior posterior corner of orbit to region above the concealed tympanum, while the other extends from inferior posterior corner of orbit to region just superior to the rictus. Some Irregular Dark Neutral Gray (Color 299) speckles are present on the lateral surfaces of head, particularly posterior to orbits. The ground coloration of the dorsal and lateral surface of body is Pale Buff (Color 1). A single strongly jagged, Cream Colored (Color 12) dorsolateral stripe is present from neck to pelvis on each side of the body. Six Jet Black (Color 300) rectangular patches are present on the dorsal body along dorsal midline from neck to pelvis between dorsolateral stripes. Each of the rectangular patches is separated from each other by s Cream Colored (Color 12) transverse streak, which connects the dorsolateral stripes on both sides of the body. Lateral surfaces of the body that are inferior to dorsolateral stripes are Jet Black (Color 300), with Cream Colored (Color 12) scales densely scattered. Dorsal surfaces of limbs are white, with Dark Neutral Gray (Color 299) to Jet Black (Color 300) transverse bands across. The bands are much distinct on forelimbs than hind limbs. The dorsal surface of tail is Smoky White (Color 261). Faint Dark Neutral Gray (Color 299) or Jet Black (Color 300) transverse bands are evenly scattered on the tail from the vent to two third of its length, and the remaining distal portion of the tail is more or less uniform Drab-Gray (Color 256). The ground coloration of the ventral surface of the head is white. Short, Jet Black (Color 300) streaks and speckles are present, some of which connect and form vermiculated patterns. A distinct Medium Blue (Color 169) gular spot is present on the posterior center of ventral head, relatively large in size. Such gular spot ends before the transverse gular fold and does not extend into anterior chest. The ventral surface of the body is uniform white without any distinct ornamentation. The hands and feet are uniform pale Tawny Olive (Color 17), while the remaining ventral surfaces of limbs are uniform white. The ventral surface of the anterior two third of tail is white, while the remaining parts gradually become Smoky White (Color 261) toward the tip (Wang et al. 2021).
|Comment||Similar species: D. batangense|
Distribution: the known extent of occurrence of D. aorun is only approximately 550 km2, which includes low-elevation (i.e., <3,500 m), hot–dry valleys along the isolated upper Jinsha River (from Benzilan to Zongrong Village) and its immediate tributaries (i.e., Dingqu and East Wangxuqu).
Conservation: Although the Baima Snow Mountain Nature Reserve protects the west side of the Jinsha Valley within the range of D. aorun s p. nov., being the most peripheral parts of the reserve, much of the habitats still overlap greatly with rapid human developments, national highways, and tourist infrastructures. In fact, multiple illegal cement mills were observed at the type locality of the species, which devastate the limestone habitats around them. Additionally, the recent major landslides in 2018 and the discharge of its resulting barrier lake on the Jinsha River have led to severe habitat destructions along the Jinsha Valley, and the follow-up road repairs after the natural disaster further destroyed the low-elevation habitats. Despite the abundant individuals in some regions, the population density varies drastically across its range, and numerous human settlements fragment the continuous distribution of the species, leading to isolated populations along the valleys. Therefore, following IUCN criteria D2, we recommend listing D. aorun as Vulnerable (VU).
|Etymology||The species name “aorun” is derived from the name of the legendary Dragon Lord in Chinese mythology (Chinese 敖闰, Pinyin: Ao Run), who is the guardian of the West Ocean and is responsible for creating precipitation. We name the new species after the guardian of the ocean in the hope that the recognition of its endangered status will bring protection to the fragile valley habitats that the species is endemic to, just like the dragon lord protecting its realm in the mythology.|
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