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Zygaspis vandami (FITZSIMONS, 1930)

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Higher TaxaAmphisbaenidae, Amphisbaenia, Lacertoidea, Squamata (lizards)
SubspeciesZygaspis vandami vandami (FITZSIMONS 1930)
Zygaspis vandami arenicola BROADLEY & BROADLEY 1997 
Common NamesVan Dam’s Dwarf Worm Lizard
arenicola: Sand-dwelling Dwarf Worm Lizard 
SynonymAmphisbaena vandami FITZSIMONS 1930
Zygaspis violacea vandami — FITZSIMONS 1943: 380
Zygaspis violacea vandami — LOVERIDGE 1951
Zygaspis violacea vandami — WELCH 1982: 12
Zygaspis vandami vandami — BROADLEY & BROADLEY 1997
Zygaspis vandami — GANS 2005: 39
Zygaspis vandami — BATES et al. 2014: 157

Zygaspis vandami arenicola BROADLEY & BROADLEY 1997
Amphisbaena violacea PETERS 1854: 620 (part.)
Zygaspis violacea — WEVER & GANS 1973: 190 (part.)
Zygaspis arenicola — GANS 2005: 38
Zygaspis vandami arenicola — BATES & MAGUIRE 2009
Zygaspis arenicola — BATES 2018 
DistributionSouth Africa (Northern and Mpumalanga Provinces)

arenicola: Mozambique plain south of the Save River, SE Zimbabwe, N KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa. Type locality: Maputo, Mozambique.

Type locality: Louw’s Creek, Mpumalanga Province, South Africa.  
TypesHolotype: DNMNH (= TM) (Transvaal Museum)
Holotype: DNMNH (= TM) 2921, paratype: PEM R10382 (formerly TMP 3001 and re-catalogued as AMG 2626) [arenicola] 
DiagnosisDESCRIPTION. Snout rounded, prominent; rostral moderate, triangular; a nasals forming a suture behind rostral; followed by a pair of large pre-frontals, a pair of frontals and a pair of narrow occipitals; suture between pre-frontals and frontals about equal in length, but slightly longer than suture between nasals; temporals six on either side, arranged in two semi-vertical rows of three, largest superiorly and smallest inferiorly; superiormost temporal of anterior row largest, lying between frontal and third labial, just behind ocular; three upper labials, anterior smallest, posterior by far the largest; ocular moderate, eye distinct; no infra-ocular, the ocular forming a suture with second and third labials; mental trapezoidal in shape, followed by a large median pentagonal to heptagonal chin shield, and a pair of smaller chin shields with median suture; three lower labials, second very large; two chin shields on either side, the anterior in contact with second and third labials. About 196 annuli on body, and 49 to 50 on tail; each annulus contains 16 dorsal and 16 ventral segments; the two median ventral segments broader than the others. Lateral line, separating dorsal and ventral segments, distinct. Four, well-defined, much enlarged anal segments and four pre-anal pores. (FITZSIMONS 1930)

COLOUR. (Spirit specimen.) Dull purple above; lighter below, with scattered whitish segments. (FITZSIMONS 1930) 
CommentEastern race of Z. vandami. Has been treated as synonym of Zygaspis violacea (e.g. LOVERIDGE 1941). Sympatric with Z. quadrifrons in the N Krüger National Park.

Habitat: Z. v. vandami FitzSimons usually under stones or logs on sandy or humus-rich soils along the eastern escarpment of South Africa, while Z. v. arenicola is found in alluvial sands on the Mozambique Plain, extending into north-eastern KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, north-eastern Swaziland, and inland to the Cretaceous sands of south-eastern Zimbabwe (Jacobsen 1989, as Z. violacea; Broadley & Broadley 1997; Litschka, Koen & Monadjem 2008).

Typically, Zygaspis v. vandami has discrete anterior and posterior temporals, and anterior and posterior post-supralabials, as well as two postoculars, whereas Z. v. arenicola typically has the temporals and post-supralabials all fused into a single large shield, with a single elongated postocular (Broadley & Broadley 1997). While there is some variation to this head shield arrangement, most specimens of Z. v. arenicola exhibit considerable scale reduction (Broadley & Broadley 1997). 
Etymologynamed after the collector of the types, G.P.F. van Dam, Esq. 
  • BATES, M.F., & MAGUIRE, D. 2009. Zygaspis vandami arenicola Broadley & Broadley, 1997. African Herp News (47): 43-44 - get paper here
  • 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.
  • Bates, Michael F. 2018. Catalogue of reptiles from Mozambique in the collection of the National Museum, Bloemfontein, South Africa. Indago 34 (2): 135–147
  • Beolens, Bo; Michael Watkins, and Michael Grayson 2011. The Eponym Dictionary of Reptiles. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, USA - get paper here
  • Broadley, Donald G. & Broadley, Sheila 1997. A revision of the African genus Zygaspis Cope (Reptilia: Amphisbaenia). Syntarsus 4: 1-24
  • 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
  • FitzSimons, V. F. 1930. Descriptions of new South African Reptilia and Batrachia, with distribution records of allied species in the Transvaal Museum collection. Annals Transvaal Mus. 14: 20-48. - get paper here
  • FitzSimons, V.F. 1943. The lizards of South Africa. Transvaal Museum Memoir No.1 (Pretoria), 528 pp.
  • Gans, C. 2005. CHECKLIST AND BIBLIOGRAPHY OF THE AMPHISBAENIA OF THE WORLD. Bull. Am. Mus. Nat. Hist. 289: 1-130 - get paper here
  • Loveridge, A. 1951. On reptiles and amphibians from Tanganyika Territory collected by C.J.P. Ionides. Bull. Mus. comp. Zool. Harvard 106 (4): 175- 204. - get paper here
  • Loveridge, ARTHUR 1941. Revision of the African lizards of the family Amphisbaenidae. Bull. Mus. Comp. Zool. Harvard 87: 353-451. - get paper here
  • Measey, John & Krystal A. Tolley 2013. A molecular phylogeny for sub-Saharan amphisbaenians. African Journal of Herpetology 62 (2): 100-108 - get paper here
  • Welch, K.R.G. 1982. Herpetology of Africa; a checklist and bibliography of the orders Amphisbaenia, Sauria, and Serpentes. Robert E. Krieger Pub. Co., Malabar, FL 293 pp.
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