Journal article

Variations on a bauplan: description of a new Malagasy "mermaid skink" with flipper-like forelimbs only (Scincidae, Sirenoscincus Sakata & Hikida, 2003)

Aurelien Miralles, Mirana Anjeriniaina, Christy A Hipsley, Johannes Mueller, Frank Glaw, Miguel Vences



The "forelimbs only" bauplan, characterised by the combined presence of well-developed fingered forelimbs and the complete absence of hindlimbs, is rare among terrestrial tetrapods. It is restricted to three lineages of squamates with elongated worm-like bodies, the amphisbaenian genus Bipes Lacépède, 1788 and the scincid genera Sirenoscincus Sakata & Hikida, 2003 and Jarujinia Chan-ard, Makchai & Cota, 2011. In the present study, we describe a new species of Sirenoscincus from Marosely, Port Bergé region, northwest Madagascar, which presents a remarkable variation of this bauplan. The forelimbs of S. mobydick n. sp. differ from S. yamagishii Sakata & Hikida, 2003 - the only other known spec..

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University of Melbourne Researchers


Awarded by SYNTHESYS grant

Funding Acknowledgements

The work was carried out in collaboration with the Departement de Biologie animate, Universite d'Antananarivo. We are grateful to the Malagasy authorities, in particular the Ministere de l'Environnement et des Eaux et Forets, for research permits, and to Annemarie Ohler and Ivan Ineich (MNHN) for providing us access to specimens under their care. AM was supported by a postdoctoral Research Fellowship from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and by a SYNTHESYS grant (FR-TAF-842). We are also very grateful to Lee Grismer, Jorn Kohler and Annemarie Ohler for their comments and corrections that have significantly contributed to improve this manuscript. Many thanks also to Fanomezana Ratsoavina and Andolalao Rakotoarison for measuring and labeling the paratype specimen, Roger Randrianiaina for transporting the holotype specimen back to the UADBA, and to Falk Eckhardt for making available his photographs of S. yamagishii.