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Rhampholeon nebulauctor BRANCH, BAYLISS & TOLLEY, 2014

IUCN Red List - Rhampholeon nebulauctor - Vulnerable, VU

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Higher TaxaChamaeleonidae, Sauria, Iguania, Squamata (lizards)
Common NamesE: Mount Chiperone Pygmy Chameleon 
SynonymRhampholeon (Rhinodigitum) nebulauctor BRANCH, BAYLISS & TOLLEY 2014
Rhampholeon (Rhinodigitum) nebulauctor — GLAW 2015 
DistributionMozambique (Zambézia: Mt. Chiperone Massif)

Type locality: shrub understorey of evergreen forest on the southeast slopes of Mt. Chiperone Massif, Zambézia Province, Mozambique 16 ̊30'25.9”S, 35 ̊43'33.4”E, ca 1000 m elevation.  
Reproductionoviparous (not imputed, fide Zimin et al. 2022) 
TypesHolotype: PEM R17278, adult female collected by J. Bayliss, 1 December 2008
Allotype. An adult male (PEM R17281), collected by J. Bayliss on 27 November 2008; same locality details as holotype. Paratypes. Three specimens, comprising an adult female (PEM R17277) and two subadult females (PEM R17279-80), all collected by J. Bayliss between 26 November and 3 December 2008, same locality details as holotype. 
DiagnosisDiagnosis: The Chiperone Pygmy Chameleon is referable to the Rhampholeon (subgenus Rhinodigitum Matthee et al. 24) by having an unpigmented parietal peritoneum, claws that are strongly bicuspid, smooth plantar surfaces, a rostral process, and short tail (<27% of total length in adult males). It can be distinguished from most other species in Rhampholeon (Rhinodigitum) by having deep inguinal (absent or indistinct in Rh. boulengeri, Rh. nchisiensis, Rh. uluguruensis, and Rh. moyeri) and axillary pits (also absent in Rh. nchisiensis). It is geographically closest to Rh. chapmanorum, but differs from that species by its smaller size, the presence of a relatively large rostral process in males, and accessory planter spines that are very poorly developed in both sexes. It is well differentiated from Rh. platyceps and Rh. maspictus sp. nov. by its smaller size (SVL <53 mm), relatively larger rostral process, and weakly developed dorsal crest crenulation. It is morphologically closest to the Mt Namuli chameleon, but has a slightly narrower head and appears to lack the cranial flexure of the head present in male chameleons from Mt Namuli (further material is required to confirm both these features). The female holotype also displayed a bright green and orange coloration (Fig. 7A, B), but whether this is diagnostic also awaits the collection of further material. Finally, the species is genetically well differentiated from all other Rhampholeon, and all chameleons examined from Mt. Chiperone form a monophyletic clade. 
CommentSize. Presumably a small species, as all except the smallest female were reproductively active. Largest male—PEM R17281 (allotype) 32.3 + 11.6 = 43.9 mm; largest female—PEM R17277 (paratype) 48.9 + 13.2 = 62.1 mm.

Habitat. wet forest at 1 m dominated by Khaya anthotheca, Strombosia schefflerii, Rawsonia burtt-davyi, and Drypetes arguta.

Abundance: only known from its original description (Meiri et al. 2017). 
EtymologyThe specific epithet is a noun in apposition and derived from nebula (L. = cloud, mist) and auctor (L. = maker), i.e. ‘cloudmaker’, alluding to the ‘Ciperoni’, the local name for the cold drizzle that comes to the Shire Highlands of southern Malawi as moist air from the Indian Ocean is forced to rise over Mt. Chiperone. 
  • BRANCH, WILLIAM R.; JULIAN BAYLISS & KRYSTAL A. TOLLEY 2014. Pygmy chameleons of the Rhampholeon platyceps compex (Squamata: Chamaeleonidae): Description of four new species from isolated ‘sky islands’ of northern Mozambique. Zootaxa 3814 (1): 001–036 - get paper here
  • CONRADIE, WERNER; WILLIAM R. BRANCH, & GILLIAN WATSON 2019. Type specimens in the Port Elizabeth Museum, South Africa, including the historically important Albany Museum collection. Part 2: Reptiles (Squamata). Zootaxa 4576 (1): 001–045 - get paper here
  • Glaw, F. 2015. Taxonomic checklist of chameleons (Squamata: Chamaeleonidae). [type catalogue] Vertebrate Zoology 65 (2): 167–246 - get paper here
  • Meiri, Shai; Aaron M. Bauer, Allen Allison, Fernando Castro-Herrera, Laurent Chirio, Guarino Colli, Indraneil Das, Tiffany M. Doan, Frank Glaw, Lee L. Grismer, Marinus Hoogmoed, Fred Kraus, Matthew LeBreton, Danny Meirte, Zoltán T. Nagy, Cristiano d 2017. Extinct, obscure or imaginary: the lizard species with the smallest ranges. Diversity and Distributions - get paper here
  • Zimin, A., Zimin, S. V., Shine, R., Avila, L., Bauer, A., Böhm, M., Brown, R., Barki, G., de Oliveira Caetano, G. H., Castro Herrera, F., Chapple, D. G., Chirio, L., Colli, G. R., Doan, T. M., Glaw, F., Grismer, L. L., Itescu, Y., Kraus, F., LeBreton 2022. A global analysis of viviparity in squamates highlights its prevalence in cold climates. Global Ecology and Biogeography, 00, 1–16 - get paper here
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