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The delusion of stripes: A century-old mystery of five-lined sun skinks (Reptilia: Scincidae: Eutropis) of Peninsular India elucidated

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We re-evaluate the taxonomic identities of five-lined skinks of the genus Eutropis (E. trivittata, E. beddomei, E. nagarjunensis, and E. bibronii) inhabiting the Indian subcontinent. Previously it has been considered that E. trivittata is distributed in the western India and E. dissimilis in the northern India (from north-eastern India up to Pakistan). Based on our analysis, we revealed that the illustration (iconotype) of the untraceable type specimen of E. trivittata depicted by Hardwicke in Gray (1834) from “Dumdum” near Kolkata, West Bengal matches the typical E. dissimilis, also described from “Bengal”. The senior synonym, E. trivittata is a morphologically unique species, which is also supported by divergence in the mitochondrial 12S and 16S regions. E. trivittata is clearly separated with divergences of 5–7% from E. beddomei, E. vertebralis and E. nagarjunensis for 16S rRNA. After placing E. dissimilis with the synonymy of E. trivittata, the taxonomic status of the western Indian ‘E. trivittata’ required to be clarified. Therefore, we resurrect Mabuia vertebralis Boulenger, 1887, a junior synonym of western Indian E. trivittata, and redescribe its holotype collected from “Belgaum”, Karnataka. Although, morphologically closest to E. beddomei, Eutropis vertebralis comb. nov. is sister to E. nagarjunensis with divergence of 4% in the same mitochondrial regions. Based on our update of the currently confirmed localities for E. vertebralis comb. nov. and E. trivittata, we conducted Species Distribution Modelling (SDM) using the Maximum Entropy algorithm to predict its distribution range, and we discuss its conservation status.
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Despite a global surge in research on amphibians and reptiles, insufficient work has been completed in Pakistan. We conducted the present study to examine factors influencing the diversity and spatial distribution of herpetofauna in the Chakwal District (Chakwal Tehsil), Punjab, Pakistan. We gathered data from March 2011 through July 2013 in selected sampling sites of the study area using standard methods. We used satellite images to identify and classify different landscape features. We found that the herpetofaunal diversity varied from 2.07 (unprotected tropical thorn forest) to 0.27 (mixed habitat in a wildlife sanctuary), while evenness oscillated between 1.76 (unprotected tropical thorn forest) and 0.21 (mixed habitat in a wildlife sanctuary). The two units with the highest similarity (0.82) were wetlands inside a protected area and wetlands outside of a protected area. Of the 12 variables tested, the factor analysis produced seven significant variables (r > 0.80) influencing the herpetofauna of the study area. These included hard substrate, water availability, agriculture activities, road network, traffic, road mortality, and habitat conversion. The processed image of the area shows that the area is still dominated by natural vegetation and forest. However, the natural areas are intersected by road networks that make them easily accessible. Changes in the land-use practices such as habitat conversion for residential development, housing schemes, and road development may cause reductions in the diversity of amphibians and reptiles. Data on current diversity and distribution is needed for planning and we have suggested options for herpetofauna conservation and management.
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The infrageneric phylogenetic position of the Brazilian skink Mabuya atlantica was inferred from 859 bp of the mitochondrial 16S and 12S rRNA genes. It could be shown that M. atlantica belongs to the Afro-Malagasy rather than to the South American Mabuya radiation. Mabuya atlantica probably represents an independent transmarine colonization directly from the coast of Southwest Africa, thus representing another example of the extraordinary dispersal abilities of members of this group. Moreover, the present analysis revealed that intercontinental relationships within the genus Mabuya are far more complex than previously thought. The molecular analysis suggests that Mabuya consists of several long-separated evolutionary lineages, representing distinct and well-supported monophyletic radiations. To reflect the independent origins of the South American, Asian, Afro-Malagasy and Cape Verdian groups we partition the genus Mabuya into four genera.