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Sepsiscus pluto (INGRAM, 1977)

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Higher TaxaScincidae, Sphenomorphinae (Sphenomorphini), Scincoidea, Sauria, Squamata (lizards)
Common NamesE: Cape York Worm-skink 
SynonymAnomalopus (Vermiseps) pluto INGRAM 1977
Anomalopus pluto — GREER & COGGER 1985: 24
Coeranoscincus pluto — WELLS & WELLINGTON 1985: 26
Anomalopus pluto — COGGER 2000: 385
Anomalopus pluto — WILSON & SWAN 2010
Sepsiscus pluto — HUTCHINSON et al. 2021
Suppressascincus pluto 
DistributionAustralia (Queensland)

Type locality: McDonald Crossing, Cockatoo Creek, 115 km S of Bamaga, Cape York, in 11° 33’ S, 142° 26’ E, Qld.  
TypesHolotype: QM J26261 
DiagnosisDiagnosis (genus). Body serpentiform; limbless. Eyelids moveable, scaly; ear opening absent but external ear differentiated as a vertically elongate trough with small weakly ossified scales (Fig. 3C in Hutchinson et al. 2021).
Head shields (Fig. 4C); nasals separated medially, nasal fused to first supralabial; prefrontals present, small, widely separated; loreals two; supraoculars two; supraciliaries three (not in a continuous series) with the first two separated from the third by the second supraocular projecting laterally into the supraciliary row; parietal margined laterally and posteriorly by a single upper secondary temporal in contact with a single enlarged nuchal; subocular scale row much reduced; frontoparietals separate; postmental contacting a single infralabial on each side.
Parietal and pulmonary peritoneum not pigmented; right oviduct absent (Greer and Cogger, 1985).

Cranial osteology (Figs. 5C, 6E); premaxillae completely separated in adults; premaxillary teeth 5; all teeth upright, cylindrical, relatively stout and tapering rapidly to apical points; prefrontal contacts nasal, separating maxilla from frontal; parietal foramen open; upper temporal fenestra closed or reduced to small posterior opening by postfrontal; posttemporal fenestrae closed; descending process of the frontals weakly developed, well separated from the apices of the medial flanges of the prefrontals; enlarged orbitosphenoids in point contact anteromedially, connecting with the skull roof via the prefrontals; ventral process of the jugals strongly truncated, widely separated from the prefrontals; palatal rami of the pterygoids terminating posteromedially in greatly elongated slightly curved projections that extend posteriorly to the bases of the basipterygoid processes; stapes with very short cylindrical shaft, directed posterolaterally and not extending as far as the quadrate; LARST present as a small vertically oriented slot posterior to the stapes; angular fused to surangular + articular. (Hutchinson et al. 2021).

Postcranial osteology (Figs 8C, 9D); presacral vertebrae 59–63 (Greer, 1989); eight cervical vertebrae; sacral vertebrae fused and sacral ribs fused distally; interclavicle a minute vestige; two pairs of sternal ribs; inscriptional ribs connected via triradiate medial elements; second and third cervical intercentra fused into single crest; pelvis reduced to a pair of medially separated, anteroventrally oriented rods with medially inflected pubic regions (Hutchinson et al. 2021).

Similar Taxa. Distinguished from all other limbless Australian skinks by the fusion of first supralabial to the nasal, trough-like external auditory depression and loss of the right oviduct. Further distinguished from all except Ophioscincus spp. by the presence of strongly elongated posterior palatal processes of the pterygoids. Other limbless Australian sphenomorphines distinguished by presence (if minute) of an ear opening (Lerista), nasals in contact (Praeteropus gen. nov.), supraciliary row not interrupted by a supraocular (Anomalopus), recurved, fang-like teeth, small nasals and unreduced prefrontals that are only narrowly separated (Coeranoscincus) (Hutchinson et al. 2021).

Diagnosis (species): A limbless skink with parietals contacting behind interparietal, no supranasals, lower eyelid scaly and moveable. Distinguished from A. frontalis by lower midbody scale rows (20 vs usually greater than 28), absence of prefrontals, and from A. ophioscincus by the penetration of the second supraocular to the upper ciliaries separating the last two supraciliaries, and from both of these species by a lower number of supra-oculars (2 vs 3), paired and separated frontoparietals, and large nasal inserting between rostral and first upper labial. (Ingram 1977)

Description: Snout-vent length 7.6 cm. Tail (regenerated) 3.9 cm. No supranasals. Nasal large, apparently fused with an upper labial such that it inserts between the rostral and the first upper labial. Rostral large, separating nasals and contacting frontonasals. Frontonasal about twice as broad as wide and contacts broadly the frontal, and narrowly the first loreal. Pre-frontals absent, or greatly reduced such that they may be the first supra-ciliaries. Anterior and posterior loreals large. Frontal very large and bounded by the frontonasal, the first and second supraciliaries, the first supraoculars, the frontoparietals and the interparietal. Frontoparietals paired, separated and reduced. Interparietal large. Parietals large and contacting on midline. Nuchals enlarged, two symmetrical pairs. Temporals small. Two supraoculars, the second inserting between and separating the last two
supraciliaries. Four supraciliaries, the first are the largest and may be reduced prefrontals. Three lower ciliaries, lower eyelid moveable and opaque, eyes much reduced. Four upper labials, no enlarged subocular, three lower labials. Two enlarged preanals. Ear not abvious and covered by scales. No external limbs. Midbody scale rows 20, dorsals not enlarged, lateral and dorsal scales smooth.
Colour in preservative, brown with a darker tail. The nasals, rostral and
mental are covered with a milky dermis. 
CommentLimb morphology: 0 digits 0 toes (Limbless, Singhal et al. 2018, Cogger 2014)

Type species: Anomalopus (Vermiseps) pluto INGRAM 1977 is the type species of the genus Sepsiscus HUTCHINSON et al. 2021.

Morphology: Hutchinson et al. 2021 present a table of morphological character states across 20 Australian sphenomorphine skinks, including this genus. 
EtymologyNamed after the god of the underworld, Pluto.

The genus was named after Latin seps, classically, a small but dangerous snake, but in the herpetological literature associated with limb-reduced skinks, and -iscus, a diminutive, thus ‘‘little seps.’’ 
  • Cogger, H. G. 2014. Reptiles and Amphibians of Australia, 7th ed. CSIRO Publishing, xxx + 1033 pp. - get paper here
  • Cogger, H.G. 2000. Reptiles and Amphibians of Australia, 6th ed. Ralph Curtis Publishing, Sanibel Island, 808 pp.
  • Couper, P., Covacevich, J., Amey, A. & Baker, A. 2006. The genera of skinks (Family Scincidae) of Australia and its island territories: diversity, distribution and identification. in: Merrick, J.R., Archer, M., Hickey, G.M. & Lee, M.S.Y. (eds.). Evolution and Zoogeography of Australasian Vertebrates. Australian Scientific Publishing, Sydney, pp. 367-384
  • Greer A E; Cogger H G 1985. Systematics of the reduce-limbed and limbless skinks currently assigned to the genus Anomalopus (Lacertilia: Scincidae). Rec. Austral. Mus. 37(1) 1985: 11-54 - get paper here
  • Hutchinson, M. N., Couper, P., Amey, A., & Wilmer, J. W. 2021. Diversity and Systematics of Limbless Skinks (Anomalopus) from Eastern Australia and the Skeletal Changes that Accompany the Substrate Swimming Body Form. Journal of Herpetology 55 (4): 361-384 - get paper here
  • Ingram G J 1977. A new species of legless skink Anomalopus pluto from Cape York Peninsula, Queensland. Victorian Naturalist 94 (2): 52-53 - get paper here
  • Singhal, Sonal; Huateng Huang, Maggie R. Grundler, María R. Marchán-Rivadeneira, Iris Holmes, Pascal O. Title, Stephen C. Donnellan, and Daniel L. Rabosky 2018. Does Population Structure Predict the Rate of Speciation? A Comparative Test across Australia’s Most Diverse Vertebrate Radiation. The American Naturalist - get paper here
  • Skinner, Adam; Mark N. Hutchinson, Michael S.Y. Lee 2013. Phylogeny and Divergence Times of Australian Sphenomorphus Group Skinks (Scincidae, Squamata). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 69 (3): 906–918 - get paper here
  • Wilson, S. & Swan, G. 2010. A complete guide to reptiles of Australia, 3rd ed. Chatswood: New Holland, 558 pp.
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