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Phrynocephalus przewalskii STRAUCH, 1876

IUCN Red List - Phrynocephalus przewalskii - Least Concern, LC

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Higher TaxaAgamidae (Agaminae), Sauria, Iguania, Squamata (lizards)
Common NamesE: Przewalski's Toadhead Agama; birulai: Tsarewsky's Toadhead Agama; steindachneri: Steindachner's Toadhead Agama; parvulus: Slight Toadhead Agama
Chinese: 荒漠沙蜥 
SynonymPhrynocephalus Przewalskii STRAUCH 1876: 10
Phrynocephalus affinis STRAUCH 1876: 10
Phrynocephalus przewalskii — BOULENGER 1885: 377
Phrynocephalus affinis — BOULENGER 1885: 377
Phrynocephalus affinis — BOULENGER 1885: 377
Phrynocephalus steindachneri BEDRIAGA 1907: 207
Phrynocephalus carinilabris BEDRIAGA 1909: 412
Phrynocephalus elegans TZAREVSKY 1927
Phrynocephalus birulai TZAREVSKY 1927: 304
Phrynocephalus carinatus ZAREVSKY 1927
Phrynocephalus parvulus TZAREVSKY 1927
Phrynocephalus przewalskii — POPE 1935: 470
Phrynocephalus przewalskii — WERMUTH 1967: 85
Phrynocephalus przewalskii — WERMUTH 1967: 86
Phrynocephalus vlangalii — WERMUTH 1967: 91
Phrynocephalus steindachneri — WERMUTH 1967: 89
Phrynocephalus przewalskii — WANG et al. 2003
Phrynocephalus affinis — BARTS & WILMS 2003
Phrynocephalus elegans — BARTS & WILMS 2003
Phrynocephalus birulai — BARTS & WILMS 2003
Phrynocephalus steindachneri — BARTS & WILMS 2003
Phrynocephalus parvulus — BARTS & WILMS 2003
Phrynocephalus (Phrynocephalus) przewalskii — BARABANOV & ANANJEVA 2007
Phrynocephalus suschkinianus ZAREVSKY 1927 (? syn. fide POPE 1935)
Phrynocephalus bogdanowi — MANILO et al. 1993
Phrynocephalus przewalskii — SINDACO & JEREMČENKO 2008
Phrynocephalus birulai — MILTO & BARABANOV 2012
Phrynocephalus parvulus — MILTO & BARABANOV 2012: 162
Phrynocephalus przewalskii — MILTO & BARABANOV 2012: 162
Phrynocephalus steindachneri — MILTO & BARABANOV 2012: 163
Phrynocephalus przewalskii — DUNAYEV et al. 2021 
DistributionChina (Nei Mongol = Inner Mongolia), Ningxia, Gansu, Qinghai), elevation 1000 to 1500m

affinis: China (Inner Mongolia: Ala-Shan, Ordos deserts); Type locality: “in provincia Chinensi, Ordos dicta, nec non in deserto Alaschanico”.

birulai: China (Inner Mongolia: southern Ala-Shan desert); Type locality: “südliches Alashan an der Grenze von Kansu und längs des Flusses Tangar, östliches Nan-shan” (fide WERMUTH 1967).

elegans: China (Inner Mongolia, NE Ala-Shan desert); Type locality: “östlicher Ala-shan, zwischen Tingyuan-ying und Scharuzan-sumé, ning-sia” (fide WERMUTH 1967).

parvulus: China (Inner Mongolia: Eastern Ala-Shan desert);Type locality: östliche Alashan, zwischen Tingyuangying and Scharuzan-sume, Ningsía (fide WERMUTH 1967: 90)

steindachneri: C Asia (northern Nan-schan); Type locality: “Gaotai, am Nordrande des Nan-schan” (only known from the type locality fide WERMUTH 1967). No type known fide BARABANOV & ANANJEVA 2007

Type locality: in deserto Alaschanico (= Alashan desert).  
TypesHolotype: ZISP 3928
Holotype: ZISP 8157, “in GaoTaï, also am Nordrande des Nan-schan” [Ruo river, northern limit of Nan-shan mountains near Gaotai, approx. 39°22’ N 99°48’ E, Gansu province, China]. Leg: G. E. Grum-Grzimailo, 1891 [steindachneri] 
DiagnosisPholidosis. 27 – 36 scales across cap (32 on average); 3 – 5 internasals; 12 – 17 scales between parietal and supranasals; 14 – 20 supraand infralabials on each side of head; 3 – 5 rows of infraorbitals; 27 – 34 scales on outside of fourth finger of hindlimb; 1 – 2 edges on the subdigital plates (3 – 4 in joint regions) (Dunayev et al. 2021).

Color in life. Cap of Ph. przewalskii covered in dense black speckles, in adult individuals it very often form a large coal-black (ater, anthracinus) spot. In supraorbital region spot often has zebra pattern consisting of several (2 – 4, most often 3) black transverse bands, or light transverse lines visible on a black background. Main color of back wax-yellow (cerinus) or greenish-yellow (viridulo-flavus, flavo-virens). Sides of head and body are bodily dark (intense incarnatus), golden-yellow (aureus, aurarius), Isabel or dark-blased (isabellinus), ocher (ochraceus), or yellow-brown (flavo-fuscus). Occasionally background of lateral surface extends to entire dorsal side of body. Thin black line with irregular edges starts at cap, continues along chine and widens noticeably in dorsal region. It ends between hips and only occasionally reaches base of tail, splitting into several spots. In many cases line crossed by transverse stripes that may look like short crossbeams, oblique lines (occasionally reminiscent of schematic contour of spruce crown, spruce sign on topographical maps), or groups of merging elongated spots or specks (Fig. 5). Young specimens are characterized by a back pattern with median band fragmented into pairs of spots with addition of randomly placed bright spots on back with blackish edging (Bedriaga, 1909: p. 436). Between fore and hind limbs occurs an unclear light (often in background color of dorsum) stripe or series of spots with a thin dark frame. Contrasting border between mouse-gray (murinus) or darksandy (atro-arenicolor) coloration of lateral and abdominal surfaces wavy due the white spots located along it, which have a thin black border along upper margin. Side of body and head of Ph. przewalskii covered in scarce black specks (each occupies 1 – 2 scales) or small spots (4 – 8 scales). Similar scarce specks present on top part of limbs. Sides of body and top parts of limbs have grayish darkened tint. No spots of red shades in axillary region. Tail pale-grayish (pallido-griseolus), occasionally with 2 – 4 grayish transverse bands and with very slightly expressed white longitudinal stripe. Distal third of tail usually darkened from top. Throat, chest and side parts of abdomen white with rare or slightly condensed black speckles, occasionally almost black (Fig. 5E). Black longitudinal stripe on central part of abdomen, in most individuals (most pronounced in sexually mature males) it occupies almost entire surface of abdomen. Throat and abdomen of juveniles white, tail white or slightly yellowish. 1 – 4 black transverse bands occur on distal half of tail underside. Black tip of tail. Underside of shins and thighs covered in black speckles or blackened (Dunayev et al. 2021). 
CommentSynonymy after BARABANOV & ANANJEVA 2007 and WERMUTH 1967 who lists Phrynocephalus carinatus and P. elegans as synonyms with question marks. WERMUTH 1967 gives POPE 1935 as source for this synonymization. P. parvulus was listed as synonym of Phrynocephalus versicolor by WERMUTH 1967 (with a question mark). POPE 1935 suggested to synonymize Phrynocephalus affinis with Phrynocephalus przewalskii. Phrynocephalus frontalis STRAUCH 1876 has been considered as a synonym of Phrynocephalus przewalskii by BARABANOV & ANANJEVA 2007 but treated as valid by more recent authors.

Distribution: Wang & Fu (2004) suggested to apply the name P. versicolor only to the populations in the northwestern part of its distribution area. Populations from Tengger Desert, Ordos highland, and further east include P. frontalis, P. przewalskii, and P. versicolor and should be called P. przewalskii. Some populations may contain a new species that remains to be described. Guo & Wang (2007) suggested that the Lanzhou population of P. frontalis is part of P. przewalskii. 
EtymologyNamed after General Nikolai Mikhailovitch Przewalski (1839-1888), a Russian Cossack naturalist who explored Central Asia (Beolens et al. 2009).

Etymology [parvulus]: Named after Latin “parvulus, -a, -um” = very small. 
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  • BARABANOV, A.V. & N.B. ANANJEVA 2007. Catalogue of the available scientific species-group names for lizards of the genus Phrynocephalus Kaup, 1825 (Reptilia, Sauria, Agamidae). Zootaxa 1399: 1-56 - get paper here
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