New Lizard Species Found In Cambodia

Scientists have announced the discovery of a previously unknown skink in the southeast Asian country of Cambodia which is characterized by its very short legs, long tail and striking iridescent skin. The skink was found during a Rapid Assessment Program expedition in northeast Cambodia, led by Fauna & Flora International (FFI) in partnership with Conservation International (CI).

Distinctive Appearance
This skink has been accorded the scientific name of Lygosoma veunsaiensis to honor the Veun Sai-Siem Pang Conservation Area in Ratanakiri where it was found. It is the latest in a string of new species discovered in this area, including Walston’s tube-nosed bat (Murina walstoni) and the northern yellow-cheeked gibbon (Nomascus annamensis).

The skink is unusual in having extremely short limbs and a very long tail, which is considerably longer than its body. In sunlight, a refracting quality to the scales creates a rainbow-like effect along its body.

"This is the third new species in the last two years to be discovered in Veun Sai," said Ben Rawson, Conservation International site manager. "Last year a new type of bat was found here, and in 2010 a new gibbon species was described. Naming this new skink Lygosoma veunsaiensis is a nice tribute to the area's biological value."

A Subterranean Existence
"These creatures are difficult to find because they spend so much of their life underground," said Neang Thy, a Cambodian national working for FFI and the first herpetologist to see the new skink. "Some similar species are known from only a few individuals. We were very lucky to find this one."

"Three decades of conflict effectively prevented herpetological investigations until the late 1990s, but Cambodia is proving a biodiversity hot spot for new discoveries, especially new reptiles," said Peter Geissler from Zoologisches Forschungsmuseum Alexander Koenig in Germany, and one of the authors who described the skink. "Now we have a chance to uncover many of the things that have previously been missed."

Reference: Peter Geissler, Timo Hartmann and Thy Neang: A new species of the genus Lygosoma Hardwicke & Gray, 1827 (Squamata: Scincidae) from northeastern Cambodia, with an updated identification key to the genus Lygosoma in mainland Southeast Asia. Zootaxa 3190: 56–68 (2012). Available on-line here.

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