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Lankascincus merrill WICKRAMASINGHE, VIDANAPATHIRANA & WICKRAMASINGHE, 2020

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Higher TaxaScincidae, Sphenomorphinae (Ristellidae), Scincoidea, Sauria, Squamata (lizards)
Subspecies 
Common NamesSinhala: Merrillgé lak-hikanala
Tamil: Merrillavin arené
E: Merrill‟s Lanka-skink 
SynonymLankascincus merrill WICKRAMASINGHE, VIDANAPATHIRANA & WICKRAMASINGHE 2020 
DistributionSri Lanka

Type locality: Enasalwatte Estate, Sinharaja Division (Army Camp Forest), Rakwana Hills, Matara District, Southern Province, Sri Lanka (06°23' N, 080°36' E, alt. 1,040 m elevation.  
Reproduction 
TypesHolotype. Adult male, NMSL 2011.01.01, SVL 34.9 mm, collected by D.R. Vidanapathirana, N. Ranwella, and L.J.M. Wickramasinghe, on 25 November 2007.
Paratypes (n=3). Adult females, NMSL 2011.01.02, SVL 33.7 mm and DWC 2011.05.02, SVL 34.0 mm; adult male, DWC 2011.05.01, SVL 32.8 mm; same locality as holotype; collected by D.R. Vidanapathirana and L.J.M. Wickramasinghe, on 28 December 2007. 
DiagnosisDiagnosis. Lankascincus merrill sp. nov. is distinguished from its congeners by possessing the following combination of characters: maximum SVL 32.8–34.9 mm; prefrontals in contact; seven supralabials, the last one split; 24 mid-body scale rows; 46–48 paravertebrals; 50– 51 ventrals; 8–10 and 13–16 lamellae on fourth finger and fourth toe, respectively; and a conspicuous dark-brown band from snout to mid-tail, gradually fading posteriad (Wickramasinghe et al. 2020).

Colouration. In life (Fig. 2A), body background light brown. Entire dorsum appearing striped due to irregular dark-brown markings on the light-brown background. Laterally a conspicuous dark-brown band from snout to mid-tail, gradually fading posteriad. Regions above and below this band golden brownish. Upper golden-brown region margined by a narrow dark-brown line dorsally. Lateral head and anterior body up to forelimb with
white spots, irregularly arranged. Entire vent light brown, except throat and tail, which are darker; each scale on vent with a white spot, the spots connecting to give a striped appearance from neck to tip of tail.
After 13 years in preservative, colour slightly faded from dark brown to light brown, black to dark brown, and golden brown and light brown to off white. Ventral white spots indistinct (Wickramasinghe et al. 2020).

Sexual dichromaticism. Based on the female paratype (NMSL 2011.01.02) in life (Fig. 2B), the dorsal and lateral body colour pattern the same as the male but with a darker tinge, where the conspicuous dark-brown line is black and all light-brown regions are dark brown. White spots entirely absent on body. The entire venter off-white, with no white spots (Wickramasinghe et al. 2020).

Comparison. Male specimens of Lankascincus merrill sp. nov. superficially most closely resemble female L. fallax (Peters, 1860), sharing an overall similar body colouration and exhibiting a conspicuous dark-brown lateral band from snout to mid-tail. However, the new species differs from L. fallax in having two frontoparietals (vs one), the last supralabial split (vs single), and in being smaller: maximum SVL 35.0 mm (vs 40.0–44.0 mm). The new species has similar or overlapping scale counts with those of L. gansi. However, the new species differs from L. gansi in having 24 scale rows at midbody (vs 26–28); 79–84 subcaudals (vs 54– 62); and a longer tail, TAL/SVL, 1.44 (vs shorter 1.11).
The new species differs from its congeners in having a smaller adult body size, with maximum SVL 35.0 mm (vs 40.0 mm), and it is further distinguished from Lankascincus deignani and L. greeri by having 24 scale rows at midbody (vs 26–28), last supralabial scale split (vs single), and 13–16 lamellae on fourth toe (vs 22); from L. dorsicatenatus and L. megalops by having 24 scale rows at midbody (vs 28), and 13–16 lamellae on fourth toe (vs 17–18); from L. sripadensis by the last supralabial split (vs single), 24 scale rows at midbody (vs 26), 46–48 paravertebrals (vs 56– 58), 50–51 ventrals (vs 56–58), 13–16 lamellae on fourth toe (17–19); from L. taprobanensis by prefrontals in contact (vs widely separated), 7 supralabials with 5th at mid-orbit position and last supralabial split (vs 6 supralabials, 4th at mid-orbit position and last supralabial single), 46–48 paravertebrals (vs 57–62), 24 scale rows at midbody (vs 26–28), 50–51 ventrals (vs 56– 58); and from L. taylori by having the last supralabial split (vs single), 46–48 paravertebrals (vs 52–53), 24 scale rows at midbody (vs. 26–28), and 50–51 ventrals (vs 56– 58) (Wickramasinghe et al. 2020). 
CommentDistribution: for a map see Kanishka et al. 2020: 117 (Fig. 8). 
EtymologyThe specific epithet is a noun in apposition, honoring Mr. Merrill J. Fernando, founder of Dilmah and Dilmah Conservation, for his support of biodiversity conservation in Sri Lanka. 
References
  • Kanishka, A.S. et al. 2020. A new species of Lankascincus Greer, 1991 (Reptilia: Scincidae) with an overview of the L. gansi group. TAPROBANICA 9 (1): 103-119 - get paper here
  • Wickramasinghe, L. J. Mendis; Dulan Ranga Vidanapathirana & Nethu Wickramasinghe 2020. A NEW SPECIES OF Lankascincus GREER, 1991 (REPTILIA: SCINCIDAE) FROM THE RAKWANA HILLS OF SRI LANKA. TAPROBANICA 9 (1): 23–30, pls. 9–11 - get paper here
 
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