Research Article

Rediscovery, range extension, habitat and phylogenetic relation of the endemic Scaled Sandveld Lizard Nucras scalaris Laurent, 1964 (Sauria: Lacertidae) in the central Angolan plateau


Abstract

The Scaled Sandveld Lizard Nucras scalaris Laurent, 1964 is a poorly known lacertid endemic to north-eastern Angola and is only known from the type series collected more than half a century ago. The original description provided a comprehensive morphological description, but there was a lack of information regarding its evolutionary relationships and habitat associations. A recent discovery of N. scalaris from Cusseque, Bié Province, on the central Angolan plateau provided the opportunity to address some knowledge gaps of this species. A phylogenetic analysis confirmed its distinctiveness at the species level. Despite a limited dataset, the analysis suggests that N. scalaris is sister to N. broadleyi rather than N. lalandii, the latter having been assumed to be the sister species, because of morphological similarity between them. The new record of N. scalaris represents a range extension of more than 350 km to the southwest and extends the elevation range to 1 570 m above sea level, compared to previous known localities at about 1 300 m above sea level (Alto Cuílo and Alto Chicapa, in Lunda Sul Province). The specimen also provides new information on live coloration, as well as the habitat association of grassy shrubland that is dominated by geoxylic suffrutices (the so-called ‘underground forests’) characteristic of the Angolan Miombo Woodlands. This new information raises the question whether poor survey data have led to an under-estimation of faunal diversity in this peculiar and overlooked vegetation type, and reinforces the need for further surveys which could highlight the importance of this habitat.

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