January 24, 2022 2:01 pm

They describe a new genus and species of lizard in the Venezuelan Amazon

A group of scientists, of which he is part Ignacio de la Riva, researcher of the National Museum of Natural Sciences (MNCN-CSIC), has described a new genus of lizard of the family Gymnophthalmidae, Kataphraktosaurus gen. nov., which includes a single species, Kataphraktosaurus ungerhamiltoni sp. nov.

The finding, published in the magazine Zootaxa, has been produced thanks to the combination of information genetics and morphological of the species.

The lizard has been discovered thanks to the combined analysis of molecular data and the morphology of a specimen

“Gymnophtalmidae is a very diverse family of Neotropical lizards, whose species richness is still unknown. At present, it includes 267 species belonging to 52 genera, but thanks to the sampling and morphological study of these, combined with the analysis of molecular data, more and more members of this group are being discovered ”, explains de la Riva.

“In our case, we did a phylogenetic analysis studying the morphology of a single specimen found in the Amazon rainforest of the Serranía del Cuao”, the researcher points out.

A lizard similar in appearance to the crocodile

The species, belonging to the subfamily Cercosaurinae, is part of a group of lizards with adaptations for aquatic or semi-aquatic life, which makes them have superficially similar characteristics to those of the crocodiles, like the scales and skin plates, reminiscent of these animals.

The fact that we have only been able to observe one specimen of the species is indicative of the rarity or the stealthy way of life of these animals

Ignacio de la Riva (MNCN)

However, this species also has unique traits like the presence of dorsal scales with different size and arrangement, cephalic scales large and symmetrical, the compressed tail and claws on all the fingers, among others.

“The fact that we have only been able to observe one specimen of the species in a single location is indicative of the rarity or the stealthy way of life of these animals, which prevents us, for the moment, from taking into account the morphological variation between individuals, ”says de la Riva.

“For this reason and due to the lack of data on its ecology, population status and threats, we have classified the species as’Insufficient data‘(DD) within the threat categories of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (UICN).

It is necessary to continue investigating to reveal the biology of this mysterious animal and the diversity that hides this interesting group of reptiles ”, concludes the researcher.


Rojas-Runjaic et al. “Discovery of an additional piece of the large gymnophthalmid puzzle: a new genus and species of stream spiny lizard (Squamata: Gymnophthalmidae: Cercosaurinae) from the western Guiana Shield in Venezuela”. Zootaxa.

Rights: Creative Commons.


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