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Vhembelacerta rupicola (FITZSIMONS, 1933)

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Higher TaxaLacertidae, Eremiadinae, Sauria, Lacertoidea, Squamata (lizards)
Common NamesE: Soutpansberg Rock Lizard 
SynonymLacerta rupicola FITZSIMONS 1933: 278
Lacerta rupicola — FITZSIMONS 1943: 325
Australolacerta rupicola — KIRCHHOF et al. 2010
Vhembelacerta rupicola — EDWARDS et al. 2013 
DistributionRepublic of South Africa (Soutpansberg in N Transvaal)

Type locality: Lake Fundusi, Zoutpansberg Mtns., N. Tvl.  
TypesHolotype: DNMNH (= TM) 13989, half-grown female 
DiagnosisDiagnosis (genus). The monophyly of the monotypic genus Vhembelacerta is established on the basis of a suite of mitochondrial and nuclear markers (Edwards et al. 2012, 2013). Morphologically similar to Australolacerta (differences noted in brackets below), it can be distinguished from all other lacertids by the following combination of characteristics (FitzSimons 1943; Jacobsen 1989; Branch 1998;Kirchhof & Richter 2009): size small, (SVL ~52mm), maximum snout-vent length (SVL) 70mm, tail somewhat depressed basally, cylindrical distally, nearly 1.5x SVL (up to 2x SVL); upper head shields smooth; nostril pierced between a supranasal, 2 postnasals and narrowly separated from first upper labial (in contact with first upper labial); supranasals in contact behind rostral; frontonasal much broader than long; prefrontals in contact; frontal hexagonal; supraoculars 4, 1st smallest and separated from frontal; parietals in contact with 4thsupraocular; shallow parietal foramen present (absent); rostral not entering nostril; 5 (4) upper labials anterior to subocular, whose lower border is not distinctly narrowed (lower border much shorter than upper) and only feebly keeled; lower eyelid scaly but with a about 3 enlarged and elongate scales in the middle (no enlarged scales in lower eyelid); elongate tympanic shield on upper anterior border of large, exposed ear-opening; five pairs of chin shields, first smallest, first 3 in contact in midline; gular fold distinct (present, but not strongly marked); collar present, straight, free, composed of 7–8 scales; dorsal scales flat, hexagonal, faintly keeled posteriorly and in 34–43 rows across midbody (small, granular, non-keeled and about 68 across midbody); ventral plates quadrangular, feebly imbricate and in 6 longitudinal and about 26 (28) transverse rows; a very large preanal plate, bordered by smaller plates (enlarged preanal preceded by two smaller ones); femoral pores 15–19; subdigital lamellae smooth, about 26 below 4th toe (23–25); and the adpressed hindlimb reaches the armpit (to collar). 
CommentType species: Lacerta rupicola FitzSimons 1933 is the type species of the genus Vhembelacerta Edwards, Herrel, Vanhooydonck, Measey, Tolley & Branch 2013.

Coloration: top of head and dorsum dark brown, back with paired narrow reddish brown vertebral stripes, and a white dorsolateral stripe that extends from the eye to the tail base (head and dorsum olive-green, body with numerous spots that are yellow dorsally and white on flanks, demarcated by a dorsolateral series of orange spots). 
EtymologyNamed after Latin “rupicola”, meaning rock-inhabiting.

The genus was named after the Vhembe region of Limpopo Province, South Africa, where the species is endemic. The second part of the name “lacerta’ (L. lizard) also retains the historical link to the genus Lacerta to which the single species was originally referred. 
  • Bates, M.F.; Branch, W.R., Bauer, A.M.; Burger, M., Marais, J.; Alexander, G.J. & de Villliers, M.S. (eds.) 2014. Atlas and Red List of the Reptiles of South Africa, Lesotho, and Swaziland. Suricata 1. South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria, 512 pp.
  • Bischoff, W. 1990. Übersicht der Arten und Unterarten der Familie Lacertidae 1. Die Gattungen Acanthodactylus, Adolfus, Algyroides und Australolacerta. Die Eidechse 1 (1): 18-23 - get paper here
  • EDWARDS, SHELLEY; WILLIAM R. BRANCH, BIEKE VANHOOYDONCK, ANTHONY HERREL, G. JOHN MEASEY, KRYSTAL A. TOLLEY 2013. Taxonomic adjustments in the systematics of the southern African lacertid lizards (Sauria: Lacertidae). Zootaxa 3669 (2): 101–114 - get paper here
  • FitzSimons, V.F. 1943. The lizards of South Africa. Transvaal Museum Memoir No.1 (Pretoria), 528 pp.
  • FitzSimons, VIVIAN 1933. Description of five new lizards from the Transvaal and Southern Rhodesia. Annals Transvaal Mus. 15 (2): 273-280. - get paper here
  • Kirchhof, S., M. Krämer, J. Linden & K. Richter 2010. The reptile species assemblage of the Soutpansberg (Limpopo Province, South Africa) and its characteristics. Salamandra 46 (3): 147-166 - get paper here
  • Kirchhof, S., N. Jacobsen & K. Richter 2012. Intraspecific variation of morphology, colouration, pholidosis, and tail loss rate in a relic lacertid of South Africa, Australolacerta rupicola (Sauria: Lacertidae). Salamandra 48 (3): 125-132 - get paper here
  • Kirchhof, S.; Engleder, A.; Mayer, W. & Richter, K. 2011. Die Radiation der Lacertiden des südlichen Afrikas. Elaphe 19 (4): 6-11
  • Kirchhof, Sebastian & Klaus Richter 2009. Eine kaum bekannte Eidechse: die Soutpansberg-Felseidechse, Australolacerta rupicola (FITZSIMONS, 1933). Die Eidechse 20 (2): 33-40 - get paper here
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