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Aspronema cochabambae (Squamata: Lacertilia: Scincidae): its discovery in Argentina, morphological variation and extent of suitable habitat

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SALAMANDRA 55(2) 135–139 15 May 2019 ISSN 0036–3375
Aspronema cochabambae (Squamata: Lacertilia: Scincidae):
its discovery in Argentina, morphological variation
and extent of suitable habitat
F B-GM H
1) Instituto de Ecorregiones Andinas (INECOA), Universidad Nacional de Jujuy – Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones
Cientícas y Técnicas (UNJU-CONICET), Facultad de Ciencias Agrarias, Catedra de Evolución, Alberdi 47,
CP 4600, San Salvador de Jujuy, Jujuy, Argentina
2) Department of Biological Sciences, Broward College, 3501 SW Davie Road, Davie, FL 33314, USA
Corresponding author: F B-G, e-mail: freddygburgos@gmail.com
Manuscript received: 19 September 2018
Accepted: 8 March 2019 by S L
As currently dened, the genus Aspronema H 
C,  contains two species, A. cochabambae (D,
) and A. dorsivittatum (C, ) (H  C
). e latter species is widely distributed in Bolivia,
Brazil, Paraguay Uruguay, and Argentina. In Argentina,
A.dorsivittatum occurs in Chacoan grasslands and forests
below , m a.s.l., yet has been poorly sampled (C ,
A et al. ).
Prior to its rediscovery by M  L ()
and H et al. (), A. cochabambae was considered
a subspecies of Mabuya frenata (currently Notomabuya).
H et al. () redescribed A. cochabambae based
on the holotype, available museum specimens, and new
material from the department of Cochabamba (H
et al. ). Based on comparisons with A. dorsivittatum,
these authors identied a suite of diagnostic characters
distinguishing A. cochabambae from all congeners. Until
now, A. cochabambae seemed to be endemic to the An-
des in the departments of Cochabamba and Santa Cruz,
Bolivia, and has been classied as “Vulnerable” due to its
known occurrence at only ten localities (A  H-
 ).
During eldwork on  and  December , we ob-
tained two specimens of A. cochabambae at Las Cuevas,
Cerro Bravo, , m a.s.l., near Los Toldos, Santa Victoria
Department, Salta Province, Argentina. Additionally, we
observed ve specimens of this skink in the same area. At
this site, humid pastures consisting primarily of the grasses
Festuca spp. and Stipa spp. border streams and are populat-
ed by a mosaic of patches of the tree Polylepis australis and
mixed brush, including the shrubs Berberis commutata,
Schinus sp., Baccharis spp., Hieracium argentinense, Ono-
seris hastata, Mutisia spp., Bomarea edulis, and Chuquiraga
longiora (Fig. ).
e two collected specimens were deposited in the
herpetological collection of the Laboratorio de Genética
Evolutiva (LGE), Instituto de Biología Subtropical, UN-
aM-CONICET, Posadas, Misiones, Argentina. In Table
, we compare the new specimens of A. cochabambae to
those of Aspronema examined previously by H et
al. (). Both new specimens are females: LGE ,
snout–vent length (SVL) . mm, tail length . mm,
from -.° -.°, , m a.s.l.; and LGE
, SVL . mm, tail length . mm, from -.°,
Figure 1. Habitat of Aspronema cochabambae in Argentina: Las
Cuevas, Santa Victoria, Salta, Argentina, 2,700 m as.l.
136
Correspondence
Table 1. Comparison of selected characters between two populations of Aspronema cochabambae and A. dorsivittatum.
A. cochabambae Bolivia
(H et al. 2008)
A. cochabambae Argentina
is work
A. dorsivittatum
is work
Internasals Contact n = 15 (94%)
Separate n = 1 (6%)
Contact n = 0
Separate n = 2 (100%)
Contact n = 12 (92.3%)
Separate n = 1 (7.7%)
Prefrontals Contact n = 0
Separate n = 16 (100%)
Contact n =0
Separate n = 2
(100%)
Contact n = 3 (21.5%)
Separate n = 11 (78.5%)
Frontoparietals Fused Fused Paired
Supraoculars 3 n = 32 (100%) 3 n = 2/2 (100%) 3 n = 25 (92.5%)
4 n = 2 (7.5%)
Supraciliaries 3 n = 26 (93%)
4 n = 2 (7%)
3 n = 2/2 (100%) 3 n = 3 (12%)
4 n = 4 (88%)
Supralabial below eye 4 n = 0
5 n = 19 (68%)
6 n = 9 (32%)
4 n = 0
5 n = 1/1 (50%)
6 n = 1/1 (50%)
4 n = 9 (24.4%)
5 n = 28 (75.6%)
Lamellae under fourth nger 11.9 ± 1.0, n = 15
10 n = 2 (15%)
11 n = 2 (15%)
12 n = 5 (39%)
13 n = 4 (31%)
11 (n =2) 12.4 ± 0.7, n = 13
10 n = 0
11 n = 1 (7.6%)
12 n = 5 (38.4%)
13 n = 7 (53.8%)
Lamellae under fourth toe 14.9 ± 1.0, n = 14
12 n = 0
13 n = 1 (7%)
14 n = 3 (21%)
15 n = 7 (50%)
16 n = 2 (14%)
17 n = 1 (7%)
14 or 15
14 n =1
15 n =1
17.0 ± 1.0, n = 14
12 n = 0
13 n = 0
14 n = 1
15 n = 1 (7.14%)
16 n = 3 (21.4%)
17 n = 4 (28.5%)
18 n = 5 (35.7%)
Dorsals 57–62 (59.7 ± 1.9, 14) 58–62 (n = 2) 53–60 (57.3 ± 2.3, 13)
Scales around midbody 28–32 (30.9 ± 1.1, 16) 29–32 26–32 (28.6 ± 1.8, 13)
Ventrals 34–43 (38.5 ± 2.6, 13) 37–39 29–38 (35.2 ± 2.9, 13)
Dorsolateral white stripe Present Present Present
Ventrolateral white stripe Present Present Present
Palms and soles Usually darker than venter Darker than venter Pale
Figure 2. Adult specimen of Aspronema cochabambae (LGE 18998) from Las Cuevas, Argentina, illustrating fused frontoparietals and
black palms that are diagnostic of this species.
137
Correspondence
-,°, , m a.s.l. e two specimens possess each
of the characters used to diagnose this species by H
et al. () (Table , Fig. ): () prefrontals paired, usu-
ally separated medially; () frontoparietals fused; () pari-
etals usually in contact with each other behind interpari-
etal; () secondary nuchals absent; () supraciliaries usu-
ally three, rst longer than combined second and third;
()palm and sole usually darkly pigmented (rarely pale);
() narrow vertebral and paravertebral brown stripes
present dorsally; lateral black band edged dorsally and ven-
trally by prominent pale stripes; () lamellae under fourth
nger –; () lamellae under fourth toe –; () limbs
relatively short; fourth toe just reaching wrist when legs are
adpressed against anks; () supraoculars three, the rst
Figure 3. Known distribution of Aspronema cochabambae in Bolivia (green circles) and Argentina (green square) and extent of suitable
habitat identied by bioclimatic modelling.
138
Correspondence
larger than remaining two combined; () supralabials –,
the h or sixth largest and positioned under eye; () in-
ternasals (= supranasals) usually in contact; () postmen-
tal entire. is combination of characters immediately dis-
tinguishes the new specimens from their only known con-
gener, A. dorsivittatum.
H et al. () noted that a surprisingly low ge-
netic distance separates A. cochabambae from A. dorsivitta-
tum. It is therefore noteworthy that this distant population
has retained the same distinctive combination of diag-
nostic characters. ough genetically close and distribut-
ed parapatrically, these two species appear to be retaining
their specic cohesiveness.
To further investigate the potential distribution of
A. cochabambae, we used Maxent .. (P et al.
) to identify suitable habitat of this species based on
its known localities (Appendix ). We extracted  biocli-
matic variables from the WorldClim Global Climate data-
base (http://www.worldclim.org/) with a resolution of 
arc sec. (F H ). Denition of the area of
study is crucial for precise models of ecological niche and
should be informed by dispersal capacity of the study spe-
cies (B et al. ). erefore, we dened the acces-
sible area (,, hectares) by considering the known
range of A. cochabambae, the potential for habitat in the
eastern Yungas ecoregion (O et al. ), and the low
vagility of reptiles compared to other vertebrates (V 
C ). We modelled  interactions with the
following parameters: maximum training sensitivity plus
specicity, do jackknife to measure variable importance,
random seed, and cross-validity as the replicated run
type. e background was dened as the area of interest
and , random points were set. We used the default
CloLog to represent the potential suitability of the habi-
tat of the species as a probability, with the highest values
representing conditions favourable for the species’ pres-
ence (P et al. ). We evaluated performance of
the model by using area under the AUC curve (F
B ), where AUC =  indicates perfect t of the
model and AUC ≤ . indicates that the model performed
no better than random (E et al. ). We then divided
habitat suitability values from our model into two classes:
high and moderate.
e Maxent model predicted the presence of A. cocha-
bambae with high performance (AUC = .) for the train-
ing and testing data set. In Fig. , we show areas of moder-
ate (AUC = .–.) and high (AUC = .–.) habi-
tat suitability. Although the largest expanse of highly suit-
able habitat surrounds previously known localities in the
departments of Cochabamba and Santa Cruz, the model
identied smaller patches of suitable habitat in the depart-
ments of Chuquisaca and Tarija, Bolivia. Interestingly, the
model also detected suitable habitat to the south of the new
localities, suggesting that this secretive species may have a
more expansive distribution in Salta and, possibly, in Jujuy
provinces. ough resembling the habitat of A. cochabam-
bae in Bolivia, as described by H et al. (), the
suitable habitat in Argentina is more localised, consist-
ing of small patches in the “Bosque montano” phytogeo-
graphic district sensu C (). Plausibly, the new
localities of A. cochabambae represent relict populations of
a previously continuous distribution. However, additional
research in intervening areas of Bolivia and biogeographic
studies are required to test this hypothesis.
Acknowledgements
We thank J B and D B for providing ac-
cess to museum specimens. Financial support was provided
by CONICET, and C M provided assistance with
eldwork.
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Appendix 1
Locality records of Aspronema cochabambae used to identify suit-
able habitat using Maxent (DatumWGS).
BOLIVIA: Cuenca Taquiña, -., -. (CBG
); Inernillo, -., -. (CBG ); Montepunko,
-., -. (CBG ,, ,); Pocona, -.,
-. (MCZ , UMMZ ); Serrania de Siberia,
-., -. (CBF , , UTA ); Siberia,
-., -. (CBG); Toralapa, -., -.
(CBG ); Santa Cruz, no data, (UMMZ ).
ARGENTINA: Las Cuevas, -., -. (LGE
); Las Cuevas, -., -. (LGE ); Las
Cuevas unvouchered (): -., -.; -.,
-.; -., -.; -., -.;
-., -..
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(1862): Catalogues of the reptiles obtained during the explorations of the Parana, Paraguay, Vermejo and Uruguay rivers
  • J M Cei
Cei, J. M. (1993) : Reptiles del Noroeste, Nordeste y Este de la Argentina. Herpetofauna de las selvas subtropicales, puna y pampas. -Museo Regionali di Scienze Naturali, Torino. Cope, E. D. (1862): Catalogues of the reptiles obtained during the explorations of the Parana, Paraguay, Vermejo and Uruguay rivers, by Capt. Thos. J. Page, U.S.N.; and of those procured by Lieut. N. Michier, U. S. Top. Eng., Commander of the expedition conducting the survey of the Atrato River. -Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, 1862: 346-359.
ARGENTINA: Las Cuevas
  • Santa Cruz
  • Data
Santa Cruz, no data, (UMMZ 68098). ARGENTINA: Las Cuevas, -22.234377, -64.772725 (LGE