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Maracaiba meridensis (MIRALLES, RIVAS & SCHARGEL, 2005)

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Higher TaxaScincidae, Mabuyinae (Mabuyini), Scincoidea, Sauria, Squamata (lizards)
Common Names 
SynonymMabuya meridensis MIRALLES, RIVAS & SCHARGEL 2005
Mabuya meridensis — MIRALLES et al. 2005
Maracaiba meridensis — HEDGES & CONN 2012: 118
Mabuya meridensis — PINTO-SÁNCHEZ et al. 2015 
DistributionNW Venezuela (Cordillera de Mérida), elevation 1300 m and 2200 m.

Type locality: City of Mérida, Mérida state, Venezuela
(Ciudad de Mérida, Estado Mérida, Venezuela).  
TypesHolotype: ULABG 1570 
DiagnosisDiagnosis (genus). Species in this genus are characterized by (1) frontoparietals, two, (2) supraciliaries, four, (3) supraoculars, four, (4) prefrontal contact, absent (or contact very rarely in M. meridensis), (5) parietal contact, present (occasionally no contact in M. zuliae), (6) rows of nuchals, one, (7) dorsals + ventrals, 127 (one specimen examined by us, using our counting method), (8) total lamellae, not counted, (9) a dark middorsal stripe, present and absent, (10) dark dorsolateral stripes, absent (see Remarks), (11) a dark lateral stripe, present, and (12) dark ventral striping, absent. The range of maximum body sizes among the species is 77–101 mm SVL (Table 2). Maracaiba is distinguished from Brasiliscincus, Manciola, and Notomabuya by having dark (versus pale) palms and soles. The presence of two frontoparietals (unfused) separates this genus from Exila, Notomabuya, and Panopa (one frontoparietal). The presence (versus absence) of dark lateral stripes distinguishes this genus from Alinea. Maracaiba is separated from Brasiliscincus and Varzea by having a higher number of dorsals + ventrals (127 versus 113–126). From Capitellum, Maracaiba differs in having four supraciliaries (versus 5–6). From Marisora, it differs (weakly) by having a high number of dorsals (63 versus 50–63; only three of 80 Marisora examined with 63 dorsals). From Copeoglossum, Maracaiba differs by having parietal contact (versus usually no contact) and a higher number of dorsals + ventrals (127 versus 105–120). In having four supraoculars, Maracaiba is separated from two genera with three supraoculars: Aspronema (rarely four) and Mabuya (rarely two or four). It differs from Manciola in having fewer dorsals + ventrals (127 versus 136–141). The presence of a single nuchal row separates this genus from Exila and Panopa (2–5 nuchal rows) and from most Spondylurus (usually 2–3 rows, rarely one). It also differs from Spondylurus in having poorly-defined dorsolateral dark and pale stripes (well- defined in Spondylurus). Orosaura has what appears to be a pair of irregular, dark nape stripes or lines of spots immediately adjacent to the pale dorsolateral stripes (Miralles et al. 2009) whereas this pattern is lacking in Maracaiba. Maracaiba differs from Psychosaura in having a typical mabuyine head shape (subacuminate) versus a prominent, acuminate head shape in Psychosaura [HEDGES & CONN 2012].

DIAGNOSIS (Species): Mabuya with paired prefrontals and frontoparietals, parietal plates in contact with each other behind the interparietal plate, a single pair of nuchals. Four supraciliaries, the second longest. Palms and soles dark coloured. Seven dark band along body: one very thin vertebral stripe; two dorsolateral stripes ill-defined, formed by a succession of aligned dots; two upper lateral and two lower lateral stripes. (Miralles et al. 2005) 
CommentSynonymy: The sampling of Pinto-Sanchez et al. 2015 had meridensis nested within zuliae and thus meridensis may be a synonym of zuliae.

Mabuya meridensis differs from all other (pre- HEDGES & CONN 2012) Mabuya species by the combined presence of seven dark and four whitish longitudinal stripes, paired frontoparietals, and forelimbs touching hindlimbs when adpressed against body. Mabuya meridensis is the second species of Mabuya to be described from the Andes. The only other species described from the Andes is M. cochabambae, native to the Inner-Andean dry valley of central Bolivia.

Within Mabuya, only three species have seven longitudinal dark stripes on the body: M. cochabambae, M. dorsivittata and M. guaporicola. M. meridensis differs from all of them in having reticulated and not well defined dorsolateral stripes, that widen posteriorly and fuse with each other and to the vertebral thin stripe on the posterior part of the body (vertebral and dorsolateral stripes sharp and well defined throughout all the length of the body). Additionally, M. meridensis differs from both M. cochabambae and M. dorsivittata in having four supraoculars (three); from both M. dorsivittata and M. guaporicola in having a relatively shorter body, fore- and hindlimbs easily touching each other when adpressed against body (fore- and hindlimbs never touch when adpressed to body); from M. cochabambae in having two frontoparietals (a single one); and from M. guaporicola in having 52 to 59 dorsal scales rows (65 to 68) and a whitish stripe on each side separating the dorsolateral from the dark upper lateral stripe (white intermediate stripe absent). [from MIRALLES et al. 2005].

Type Species: Mabuya meridensis Miralles, Rivas, & Schargel, 2005:3 is the type species of the genus Maracaiba HEDGES & CONN 2012: 118. 
EtymologyThe species was named after its type locality.

The genus name (Maracaiba) is a feminine noun and refers to the distribution of the genus, centered around Lago de Maracaibo in northern Venezuela. 
  • Hedges, S.B. & Conn, C.E. 2012. A new skink fauna from Caribbean islands (Squamata, Mabuyidae, Mabuyinae). Zootaxa 3288: 1–244
  • Miralles, A.; Rivas Fuenmayor, G. & Barrio-Amoros, C.L. 2005. Taxonomy of the genus Mabuya (Reptilia, Squamata, Scincidae) inVenezuela. Zoosystema 27 (4): 825-837
  • Miralles, Aurélien; Gilson A. Rivas & Walter E. Schargel 2005. A new species of Mabuya (Squamata, Scincidae) from the Venezuelan Andes. Zootaxa 895: 1–11 - get paper here
  • MIRALLES, AURÉLIEN; GILSON RIVAS FUENMAYOR, CÉLINE BONILLO, WALTER E. SCHARGEL, TITO BARROS, JUAN E. GARCÍA-PEREZ, CÉSAR L. BARRIO-AMORÓS 2009. Molecular systematics of Caribbean skinks of the genus Mabuya (Reptilia, Scincidae), with descriptions of two new species from Venezuela. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 156 (3): 598-616 - get paper here
  • Pinto-Sánchez, Nelsy Rocío; Martha L. Calderón-Espinosa, Aurelien Miralles, Andrew J. Crawford, Martha Patricia Ramírez-Pinilla 2015. Molecular phylogenetics and biogeography of the Neotropical skink genus Mabuya Fitzinger (Squamata: Scincidae) with emphasis on Colombian populations. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2015.07.016 - get paper here
  • RIVAS, GILSON A.; CÉSAR R. MOLINA, GABRIEL N. UGUETO, TITO R. BARROS, CÉSAR L. BAR- RIO-AMORÓS & PHILIPPE J. R. KOK 2012. Reptiles of Venezuela: an updated and commented checklist. Zootaxa 3211: 1–64 - get paper here
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