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Trachylepis vato (NUSSBAUM & RAXWORTHY, 1994)

IUCN Red List - Trachylepis vato - Least Concern, LC

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Higher TaxaScincidae, Mabuyinae (Mabuyini), Scincoidea, Sauria, Squamata (lizards)
Common NamesE: Boulder Mabuya 
SynonymMabuya vato NUSSBAUM &. RAXWORTHY 1994: 309
Mabuya vato — GLAW & VENCES 1994: 312
Mabuya vato — GREER & NUSSBAUM 2000
Euprepis vato — MAUSFELD & SCHMITZ 2003
Trachylepis vato — BAUER 2003 

Type locality: south bank of Mananara River between Bevia and Hazofotsy, 24°50' S, 46°31' E, 50 m elevation, Tôlanaro (Ft. Dauphin) Fivondronana, Toliara (Tulear) Province, Madagascar.  
TypesHolotype: UMMZ 196208, mature male, collected 25 Oct 1990, by R.A. Nussbaum. 
DiagnosisDiagnosis. A Mabuya with lower eyelid undivided and bearing a large transparent disk; subocular not narrowed below by intrusion of anterior adjacent supralabial. Scales of soles not spinose; subdigital scales acarinate. Dorsolateral surfaces of head, forelimbs, and anterior half of body black with white (or very pale yellow) spots; white spots on dorsal surface of head and forelimbs irregularly positioned, or at least not in distinct longitudinal rows; white spots on body in nine longitudinal rows; posterior half of body, hindlimbs, and tail reddish tan or bronze (in life) increasing in intensity posteriorly; ventral surfaces lighter in coloration, chin and throat grayish white to darker bluish gray, chest and undersurfaces of forelimb grayish white, midventral body light bluish white, pelvic region and underside of hindlimbs and tail bright reddish bronze (Nussbaum & Raxworthy 1994).

Variation. Morphometric variationof the nine paratypesis summarizedin Table 3. The size range is 41-55 mm SVL. Although the two largest individuals are males, they are only 4 and 5 mm longer than the largest female. This small difference and the small sample size preclude conclusions about sexual size dimorphism. Other than wider and deeper bodies in gravid females, there are no obvious differences in body proportions between the sexes.
There is little variation in scalation (Table 4 in Nussbaum & Raxworthy 1994), and none of it is attributable to sexual or geographic variation. There are two frontoparietals and four supraocular scales per side in all individuals. Six of the paratypes have the same supraciliary formula (5-5) as the holotype, one has 4-4, one has 4-5, and one has 6-6 supraciliaries. The number of midbody scales rows in seven of the paratypes (two could not be accurately counted) varies from 34-38. The number of ventrals (between postmentals and cloacal opening) varies from 54-58 in six paratypes (not countable in three paratypes). Eight of the paratypes have five keels per middorsal scale, and one has four keels. The specimen with four keels is also the smallest paratype, and the reduced number of keels probably reflects ontogenetic variation. The number of subdigital scales on digit IV of the manus varies from 12-15, and there are 16-20 subdigital scales on digit IV of the pes among the nine paratypes.
There is no significant color variation between the sexes, and over the range of available sizes, there is no notable ontogenetic variation in color. Geographic variation in color is also not evident, but the sample sizes are small. Color variation within the topotypic series and the series from Ehara is slight, and is restricted to variation in the exact arrangement and number of white spots on the anterior portion of the body, forelimbs, neck, and head. Some individuals, including the holotype, have an additional short, longitudinal row of white spots beginning behind the ear on each side and running posteriorly.The number of spots per dorsolateral row (counting from the nuchal scales posteriorly) varies from 8-12 (Nussbaum & Raxworthy 1994).

Comparisons: Mabuya vato differs from M. gravenhorsti, M. elegans, and M. madagascariensis in having (1) a subocular that is not narrowed on its ventral border by the intrusion of the anterior supralabial (narrowed ventrally in the latter three species) and (2) a distinctive color pattern in which the head and anterior half of the body are black with longitudinl rows of white spots and the posterior half of the body and tail are reddish bronze (head, body, and tail gray to brown with longitudinal stripes along the entire length of the body in the others). Mabuya vato also differs from M. gravenhorsti in having two frontoparietals,which are fused into one in the latter species.
Mabuya vato is similar to M. aureopunctata, M. boettgeri, and M. betsiliana in subocular shape (not narrowed ventrally) and in other details of scutellation but it differs from these three in color pattern. In coloration, M. vato is most similar to M.aureopunctata. The two species share the distinctive pattern of an abrupt change in color at midbody, with the anterior body and head dark with white spots, and the posterior body and tail lighter in color and without pale spots. Mabuya boettgeri and M. betsiliana do not have this bicolored pattern. The dorsolateral ground color of M.boettgeri is uniformly olive brown with longitudinal stripes the length of the body. Mabuya betsiliana is unicolor dark olive brown dorsolaterally.
Although Mabuya vato and M. aureopunctata are similar in color, close examination reveals distinctive and consistent differences (Figs. 1, 2, 3, 5, 6). The anterior dark dorsolateral coloration of M. vato is black, whereas M. aureopunctata is very dark brown. The head scales of M. vato, with the exception of the white spots, are uniformly black, whereas the head scales of M. aureopunctata have a variable pattern of light tan to darkerbrown colors surrounding the white spots. The darker color on the supralabials of M. aureopunctata is nearly obscured by the large white spotson each scale (Fig. 5), whereas in M. vato, the white spots on the supralabials are smaller leaving a relatively large dark border (Figs. 1 and 2). In M. aureopunctata, the longitudinal rows of white spots are more variable in pattern. Some individuals have four, and others five, dorsolateral rows, but none has the lowermost (infralabial) row of white spots, which is present in all M. vato. The white spots of M. vato are usually more distinct than the spots of M. aureopunctata, and the latter species has no spots on the dorsal surfaces of the forelimbs (rarelya few on the proximal segment) and manus, which are always present in M. vato. The posterior dorsolateral coloration and the posterior ventral coloration of M. vato is reddish bronze whereas the posterior dorsolateral coloration of M. aureopunctata is grayish brown, and the posterior ventral coloration is light to dark gray.
Mabuya vato is a much smaller species than M. aureopunctata (Fig. 7). The largest known M. vato has a SVL of 55 mm. Numerous specimens of M. aureopunctata exceed this size. Brygoo (1983) reported that four of 37 specimens of the latter species available to him are > 70 mm SVL, the largest being 75 mm. Among a sample of 45 M. aureopunctata collected by us at various localities, 27 exceed 55 mm SVL, and the largest is 82 mm (Nussbaum & Raxworthy 1994). 
CommentSimilar species: M. aureopunctata. 
EtymologyThe specific name "vato" (pronounced "vahtoo") is Malagasy for "rock", and is used as a noun in apposition. 
  • D'Cruze, Neil; Annette Olsonn, David Henson, Sunil Kumar, and David Emmett. 2009. The Amphibians and Reptiles of the Lower Onilahy River Valley, a Temporary Protected Area in Southwest Madagascar. Herp. Cons. Biol. 4: 62-79 - get paper here
  • Glaw ,F. & Vences, M. 1994. A Fieldguide to the Amphibians and Reptiles of Madagascar. Vences & Glaw Verlag, Köln (ISBN 3-929449-01-3)
  • Greer,A.E. & NUSSBAUM,R.A. 2000. New character useful in the systematics of the scincid lizard genus Mabuya. Copeia 2000 (2): 615-618 - get paper here
  • Lima, Alexandra; D. James Harris, Sara Rocha, Aurélien Miralles, Frank Glaw, Miguel Vences 2013. Phylogenetic relationships of Trachylepis skink species from Madagascar and the Seychelles (Squamata: Scincidae). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 67 (3): 615-620 - get paper here
  • MAUSFELD, Patrick & Andreas SCHMITZ 2003. Molecular phylogeography, intraspecific variation and speciation of the Asian scincid lizard genus Eutropis Fitzinger, 1843 (Squamata: Reptilia: Scincidae): taxonomic and biogeographic implications. Org. Divers. Evol. 3: 161–171 - get paper here
  • Nussbaum, R. A. and C. RAXWORTHY. 1994. A new species of Mabuya FITZINGER (Reptilia:Squamata:Scincidae) from southern Madagascar. Herpetologica 50 (3): 309-319. - get paper here
  • Nussbaum, R.A. & C.J. Raxworthy 1995. A new Mabuya (Reptilia: Squamata: Scincidae) of the aureopunctata-group from southern Madagascar. Journal of Herpetology 29 (1): 28-38 - get paper here
  • Ramanamanjato, Jean Baptiste, Ronald A. Nussbaum and Christopher J. Raxworthy. 1999. A new species of Mabuya Fitzinger(Reptilia: Squamata: Scincidae) from the Onilahy River of south-west Madagascar. The Herpetological Journal 9 (2): 65-72. - get paper here
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