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Psammophilus dorsalis (GRAY, 1831)

IUCN Red List - Psammophilus dorsalis - Least Concern, LC

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Higher TaxaAgamidae (Draconinae), Sauria, Iguania, Squamata (lizards)
Common NamesE: South Indian Rock Agama, Peninsular Rock Agama 
SynonymAgama dorsalis GRAY in GRIFFITH & PIDGEON 1831: 56
Agama dorsalis — DUMÉRIL & BIBRON 1837: 486
Charasia dorsalis — GRAY 1845
Charasia dorsalis — ANDERSON 1871: 151
Charasia dorsalis — BOULENGER 1885: 332
Charasia dorsalis — HORA & CHOPRA 1923
Psammophilus dorsalis — SMITH 1935: 309
Psammophilus dorsalis — WERMUTH 1967: 95
Psammophilus dorsalis — DAS 1996: 45
Psammophilus dorsalis — MURTHY 2010
Psammophilus cf. dorsalis — KARTHIK et al. 2018 
DistributionS India (Malabar, Mysore, Nilgiris, S Arcot, Nallamali Hills, Bihar, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu)

Type locality: India.  
DiagnosisDiagnosis (genus). The genus Psammophilus can be distinguished from the genera Cophotis, Ceratophora, Lyriocephalus, Ptyctolaemus, Phoxophrys, Japalura otai Mahony 2009, J. planidorsata Jerdon, 1870, J. sagittifera Smith, 1940 and Otocryptis by the presence of an external tympanum (Boulenger, 1885; Smith, 1935; Inger, 1960; Pethiyagoda & Manamendra-Arachchi 1998; Schulte II et al. 2004; Bahir & Silva 2005; Manamendra-Arachchi et al. 2006; Samarawickrama et al. 2006); from other members of genus Japalura by the absence of heterogenous dorsal scales and short and thick nuchal scales.
The genus Psammophilus can be diagnosed from all other species of draconinae lizards from the Indian subcontinent except Calotes minor, in having a dorso-ventrally compressed body. Psammophilus differs from Calotes minor in having small body scales and higher number of around the body scales 80–150 (vs 48–60). Psammophilus are characterized by a medium to large adult body size (SVL mm to mm); body dorso-ventrally compressed; presence of an antehumeral fold; supratympanic spines present, reduced in size; dorsal and lateral scales rows slightly irregular; nuchal and dorsal crest small, reduced; dorsal and lateral scales small, keeled, scale rows directed postero-dorsally. Psammophilus can be distinguished from its sister genus Monilesaurus gen. nov. and Calotes in having a dorso-ventrally compressed body (vs dorso-laterally compressed) and higher number of scales on the mid-body scales (more than 80 vs less than 65) and reduced nuchal crest (vs. well developed); and from Microauris gen. nov. by having a relatively large tympanum (Fig. 9d vs 9b). Scales on head large uniform shield like (vs small, sub-triangular) (Fig. 10c vs 10d). Supratympanic spines are present, in the form of two separated spines vs clusters in Calotes. Psammophilus are sexually dimorphic, adult males are larger than females and have enlarged cheeks. Psammophilus are also sexually dichromatic; during breeding season males acquire bright yellow and orange colors on the dorsum while females remain dull to dark brown with or without orange/ yellow spots (Pal et al. 2018: 437).

Diagnosis and comparison (dorsalis). A medium to large sized Psammophilus characterized by the posterodorsal orientation of lateral scales; antehumeral fold well developed; 94–148 midbody scale rows (vs 115–140 in Boulenger, 1885; 115–150 Smith, 1935); ventral scales 112–152; nuchal crest reduced, composed of 15–18 very small, triangular spines, continuous with almost equal to or even smaller dorsal crest which appears like slightly raised denticulation; dorsal crest absent in females and juveniles; two separated, very small supratympanic spines; dorsal and lateral scales keeled, ventral scales strongly keeled; paired postmentals, first pair separated by 1–2 scales; 24–28 subdigital lamellae under fourth finger, 26–34 subdigital lamellae under fourth toe; 11–13 supralabials and 10–12 infralabials; adult males with uniform greyish brown to black body, dorsum lighter; indistinct lighter blotches on the sides, lip scales lighter grey or off-white; females and juveniles with a pair of dorsolateral stripes from neck to above tail, dorsum and lateral speckled with lighter spots.
Morphologically, P. dorsalis is similar to P. blanfordanus, the only other species known from this group, but can be distinguished by a combination of the following characters: 100–140 midbody scale rows (vs 80–100); three samples collected from eastern India close to the type locality of P. blanfordanus also had lower number 84–94 (80–100 Boulenger 1885 & Smith, 1935). Midbody scales row counts clearly overlap with P. dorsalis. Furthermore, all the meristic characters we checked for few specimens overlap (Appendix 3). There is, therefore a need for more thorough examination of morphological and morphometric characters with a larger sample size to diagnose P. dorsalis from P. blanfordanus. 
CommentType species: Agama dorsalis GRAY in GRIFFITH & PIDGEON 1831 is the type species of the genus Psammophilus FITZINGER 1843: 17. Agama dorsalis GRAY is also the type species of the genus Charasia GRAY 1845: 246. Boulenger (1885), considered Oriocalotes and Charasia to be synonyms of Acanthosaura Gray 1831. 
EtymologyNone provided but probably from Latin “Psammo” meaning sand and “Philus” meaning loving. 
  • Anderson, J. 1871. On some Indian reptiles. Proc. Zool. Soc. London 1871: 149-211 - get paper here
  • Balakrishna, S., Amdekar, M. S., & Thaker, M. 2021. Morphological divergence, tail loss, and predation risk in urban lizards. Urban Ecosystems, 1-8 - get paper here
  • Balakrishna, S., Batabyal, A. and Thaker, M. 2016. Dining in the city: dietary shifts in Indian rock agamas across an urban–rural landscape. Journal of Herpetology 50 (3): 423-428 - get paper here
  • Balakrishna, Shashank and Nitin Achari. 2014. Preliminary observations on the ovipositional behavior of the Peninsular Rock Agama Psammophilus dorsalis (Gray, 1831) from Savandurga forest area of Southwestern Karnataka, India. Herpetology Notes 7: 319-322 - get paper here
  • Boulenger, G.A. 1885. Catalogue of the lizards in the British Museum (Nat. Hist.) I. Geckonidae, Eublepharidae, Uroplatidae, Pygopodidae, Agamidae. London: 450 pp. - get paper here
  • Boulenger, George A. 1890. The Fauna of British India, Including Ceylon and Burma. Reptilia and Batrachia. Taylor & Francis, London, xviii, 541 pp. - get paper here
  • Das, Indraneil & Abhijit Das 2017. A Naturalist’s Guide to the Reptiles of India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. John Beaufoy Publishing Ltd., Oxford, 176 pp.
  • Duméril, A. M. C. and G. Bibron. 1837. Erpétologie Générale ou Histoire Naturelle Complete des Reptiles. Vol. 4. Libr. Encyclopédique Roret, Paris, 570 pp. - get paper here
  • Ganesh, S. R.; M. Arumugam 2016. Species Richness of Montane Herpetofauna of Southern Eastern Ghats, India: A Historical Resume and a Descriptive Checklist. Russ. J. Herpetol. 23 (1): 7-24 - get paper here
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  • Ganesh, S.R.; S. Bhupathy, P. Karthik, G. Babu Rao & S. Babu 2020. Catalogue of herpetological specimens from peninsular India at the Sálim Ali Centre for Ornithology & Natural History (SACON), India. JoTT 12 (9): 16123–16135 - get paper here
  • GOLUSU BABU RAO1, BUDDI LAXMI NARAYANA & KUMMARI SWAMY 2014. A note on behaviour of the peninsular rock agama (Psammophilus dorsalis) at Yellampet, in Telangana, India. Herpetological Bulletin (130) - get paper here
  • Gray, J. E. 1831. A synopsis of the species of Class Reptilia. In: Griffith, E & E. Pidgeon: The animal kingdom arranged in conformity with its organisation by the Baron Cuvier with additional descriptions of all the species hither named, and of many before noticed [V Whittaker, Treacher and Co., London: 481 + 110 pp. [1830]
  • Hora, S.L.; Chopra, B. 1923. Reptilia and Batrachia of the Salt Range, Punjab. Records of the Indian Museum 4 (25): 369-376
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  • Murthy, T.S.N. 1986. Lizards of the Kurnool District, Andhra, India. Bull. Maryland Herp. Soc. 22 (3): 134-143 - get paper here
  • Murthy, T.S.N. 1990. A field book of the lizards of India. Records Zool. Survey India 115: 1-122 - get paper here
  • Murthy, T.S.N. 2010. The reptile fauna of India. B.R. Publishing, New Delhi, 332 pp.
  • PAL, SAUNAK; S.P. VIJAYAKUMAR, KARTIK SHANKER, ADITI JAYARAJAN & V. DEEPAK 2018. A systematic revision of Calotes Cuvier, 1817 (Squamata: Agamidae) from the Western Ghats adds two genera and reveals two new species. Zootaxa 4482 (3): 401–450 - get paper here
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  • Smith, M.A. 1935. The fauna of British India, including Ceylon and Burma. Reptiles and Amphibia, Vol. II. Sauria. Taylor and Francis, London, 440 pp.
  • Veeranagoudar, Dheeraj K.; Bhagyashri A. Shanbhag, Srinivas K. Saidapur. 2010. A novel thermoregulatory behavior in a gravid rock lizard, Psammophilus dorsalis. Herpetology Notes 3: 101-103.
  • Venugopal, P.D. 2010. An updated and annotated list of Indian lizards (Reptilia: Sauria) based on a review of distribution records and checklists of Indian reptiles. Journal of Threatened Taxa 2 (3): 725-738. - get paper here
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