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Phyllomedusa 1(2):51-56, 2002

2002 Melopsittacus Publicaes Cientficas

ISSN 1519-1397

Herpetofauna of the Quaternary sand dunes of the

Middle Rio So Francisco, Bahia, Brazil. VIII.
Amphisbaena arda sp. nov., a fuliginosa-like
checkered patterned Amphisbaena (Squamata,
Miguel Trefaut Rodrigues
Departamento de Zoologia, Instituto de Biocincias, Universidade de So Paulo, Caixa Postal 11.461, CEP 05422-970,
So Paulo, SP, Brazil. E-mail:

Herpetofauna of the Quaternary sand dunes of the Middle Rio So Francisco,
Bahia, Brazil. VIII. Amphisbaena arda sp. nov., a fuliginosa-like checkered
patterned Amphisbaena (Squamata, Amphisbaenidae). Amphisbaena arda sp. nov.
is described based on a specimen obtained at Mocambo do Vento, on the left bank of
the So Francisco river, Bahia State, Brazil. A. arda is a medium sized amphisbaenian
with a checkered black and white color pattern similar to the one present in the fuli-
ginosa group but differing from that by having a lighter pigmentation, an uniformly
white ventral surface, and by several other important morphological characters. A. arda
is similar to Amphisbaena vermicularis in meristic characters currently used to assist
amphisbaenian identification but can be separated from it by its color pattern, its flatter
cephalic shields, and by the more ventral position of nostril.

Keywords: Amphisbaena arda, Amphisbaenidae, Squamata, Caatingas, Brazil.

Introduction South America. Four new genera and a total of

21 new species of squamates, most endemic,
The squamate fauna of the fossil dunes of were described from the region (Rodrigues
the middle Rio So Francisco in the Brazilian 1984a, b, c, 1986, 1991a, b, c, d, 1993a, b,
semiarid Caatingas, State of Bahia, is 1996, Rodrigues and Junc 2002, Rodrigues et
characterized by high richness and endemism. al. 1988, Vanzolini 1991a, b). It has been
An important part of squamates from the area suggested that some of the endemic squamates
was described in the last few years, including form allopatric pairs of sister species occupying
new genera, some showing unsuspected adjacent and opposite sand habitats along the
morphological adaptations for life on sand in river (Rodrigues 1996, Rodrigues and Junc
2002). Although additional surveys in the area
Received 19 November 2002 are still revealing the existence of undescribed
Accepted 29 December 2002 lizards, snakes, amphisbaenians, and frogs, and

Phyllomedusa - 1(2), December 2002


confirming the uniqueness of this region, most and parietals, 242 body and 30 caudal annuli,
of the invertebrate fauna remains largely 23 dorsal and 23 ventral segments per annuli at
unexplored (see Rodrigues 1996 and Rodrigues midbody, 4 precloacal pores, 4 supralabials, and
and Junc 2002, respectively, for a detailed 3 infralabials. The distance between nostril and
description of the area and a list of references upper lip equals distance from nostril to suture
on the fauna). between nasals. Additionally the new species
Six species of amphisbaenians are known to differs from all other Amphisbaena by
occur in the dunes of middle Rio So Francis- presenting a checkered black and white pattern
co; three of them are endemics: Amphisbaena which is restricted to dorsal and lateral parts of
frontalis, A. hastata, and A. ignatiana (Rodri- body; the ventral surface is immaculate creamy
gues 1996, Vanzolini 1991a, b). The other three white.
species are A. pretrei, A. vermicularis, and
Leposternon polystegum. Description of the holotype - (Figures 1 and
In a recent trip to the region, an unusual 2). A medium-sized amphisbaenid with an
medium-sized Amphisbaena with a characte- elongate snout, a total length of 330 mm (285
ristic checkered black and white pattern, + 45) and 9 mm diameter at midbody. Head not
reminding that present in the fuliginosa group distinct from neck, mouth ventral. Rostral
of Amphisbaena, was obtained in the dunes of scarcely visible from above, subtriangular,
the left bank of the Rio So Francisco. However, contacting first supralabial, and nasal, their
after a more careful examination, this unique larger contact with the latter. Nasals, frontals
specimen revealed to be unrelated to the fuligi- and parietals in broad contact at midline. Nasal
nosa group. Although keyed out and apparently large, quadrangular, in broad contact with first
close to A. vermicularis the specimen is so supralabial and frontal. Nostril lateral, in the
distinct from that species and all other anteroventral part of nasal. Frontal larger than
congeners that it is herein described as a new nasal, longer than wide, shorter at midline
species. suture, longer at labial border; suture between
frontals about the same size of suture between
Species Description nasals and parietal suture. Parietals
subtriangular, longer than wide, following
Amphisbaena arda sp. nov. frontals and in slight contact with ocular. A pair
(Figures 1 and 2) of enlarged occipitals in contact at midline
followed posteriorly by smaller scales towards
Holotype - MZUSP 91638, Mocambo do the first body annulus. Four supralabials in the
Vento (104913S, 425226W), Ibiraba: following order of decreasing size of their base:
State of Bahia: Brazil, collected by M. T. first, second, third and fourth. The first three
Rodrigues, F. Curcio, F. F. Oliveira, J. C. diagonally oriented. First supralabial below na-
Passoni, and M. Dixo on 16 May 2000; field sal, in slight contact with frontal. Second and
number MRT 3642. third supralabials higher than long, second one
contacting prefrontal and ocular, third one
Etymology - from the Greek arda, dirty; contacting the ocular and temporal. Ocular
a reference to the unclean color pattern of the quadrangular, with the eye in the dorsoposterior
new species, predominantly milky-white with part of scale. Between occipital and the fourth
irregular and scattered black spots. supralabial level, two longitudinal rows of
temporals decreasing gradually in size ventrally;
Diagnosis - A medium-sized Amphisbaena anterior scale of the dorsal row larger,
with an elongate snout, paired nasals, frontals contacting ocular.

Phyllomedusa - 1(2), December 2002

Amphisbaena arda sp. nov.

Mental smaller than rostral, as long as

wide, wider anteriorly, their lateral margins
concave and converging posteriorly to a large
and truncate posterior margin. Postmental
single, longer than wide, about twice as long as
mental; its posterior part triangular indenting
deeply two symmetric and slightly enlarged chin
shields (postgenials) in contact at midline.
Between the latter and infralabials a much larger
malar which additionally contacts second and
third infralabials, and postmental. Malar
contacting posteriorly a slightly enlarged scale,
the only differentiated in the annulus and in
contact with third infralabial. Three infralabials,
second the largest; first as long as wide, third
longer than wide.
Body annuli well marked with regular and
conspicuous segments separated by lateral
grooves. Segments of first three annuli as long
as wide, from there on becoming gradually
longer than wide; 242 body and 30 caudal
annuli; 23 dorsal and 23 ventral segments per

Figure 1 - Amphisbaena arda: ventral, lateral, and dorsal

views of head (MZUSP 91638, holotype).
Bar = 1 mm.

Figure 3 - Regression of head width on body length for

the specimens of Amphisbaena vermicularis
Figure 2 - Amphisbaena arda: color in life of the holotype from Santo Incio and Vacaria, State of Bahia,
(MZUSP 91638) from Mocambo do Vento, Brazil (r 2 = 0.78). For comparison, the
State of Bahia, Brazil. holotype of A. arda (triangle) is indicated.

Phyllomedusa - 1(2), December 2002


annuli at midbody. First complete annulus fuliginosa in having a checkered black and
separated from the parietal by three scales. Ven- white pattern, these two amphisbaenians are
tral segments larger towards the midventral area, very distinct. There is no overlapping in counts
the two midventral segments of each annulus of body annuli (190-220; 242), as well as in
distinctively enlarged between the seventh body number of dorsal and ventral segments at
segment and precloacal region. midbody (10-13/9-13, 23/23), number of pores
Four distinctive precloacal pores. Anal (6-10; 4), and body color. A. arda has an
flap semicircular, with eight enlarged scutes, the immaculate venter whereas in A. fuliginosa the
central ones the largest, longer than wide. Tail ventral color varies from a checkered pattern
with regular segmentation, characteristically identical to dorsal color to a slightly black
with segments longer than those of body after mottled ventral surface but never immaculate. A.
the autotomic annulus. Autotomic site marked arda keys out perfectly as A. vermicularis,
at eighth annulus and defined either by its longer traditional counts currently used to assist
segments and the beginning of the wider part of amphisbaenian identification being
tail. Tip of tail smooth, rounded. inappropriate to distinguish these two species
Dorsal ground color creamy white with (Vanzolini, 2002): number of body annuli (211-
scattered and irregularly shaped black spots. 254; 242 in A. arda); tail annuli (23-30; 30);
Head creamy white except for the right parietal dorsal and ventral segments at midbody (18-26/
which is black. Venter creamy white, immacu- 18-25; 23/250); number of pores (4); and
late. Tip of tail entirely black. presence or absence of major cephalic shields.
The picture is the same if we restrict our
Natural History - The specimen of comparisons to specimens of A. vermicularis
Amphisbaena arda was collected at Mocambo from Santo Incio and Vacaria, two geogra-
do Vento, along with 25 specimens of A. hastata phically closer localities in the State of Bahia,
and 5 specimens of Leposternon polystegum. both on the right bank of the Rio So Francisco
Except for the holotype of A. arda, most of the in the dune area: body annuli (230-244; 242),
other specimens are damaged because they were tail annuli (28-29; 30), and dorsal and ventral
obtained following a tractor preparing the area segments at midbody, respectively (18-23/19-23;
for setting up a road connecting Ibiraba to Bar- 23/25).
ra across the dunes. All specimens are in Despite this apparent similarity, the two
MZUSP collection and were found directly in species are very different. The head scales of
the sand. A detailed description of the general A. arda are flat, never swollen whereas in A.
area can be found in Rodrigues (1991a, 1996). vermicularis the head scales are
Collection effort following the tractor during characteristically swollen. A. vermicularis has
two consecutive days was equivalent to 40 a typical occipital depression middorsally
hours/men and suggests that Amphisbaena arda marked by a definite sulcus extending from
is rare in this area. the posterior border of parietals to the 3rd-5th
annulus posterior to the angulus oris,
Discussion segmental scales in the occipital depression
being inclined toward midline. On the other
Comparisons below are based on Vanzolini hand, there is no such occipital depression in
(1991b, 2002), supplemented by data from a A. arda. Another important distinctive
series of specimens of Amphisbaena vermi- difference is the position of the nostril, which
cularis recently obtained from Santo Incio, is more ventrally placed in A. arda. In the
Bahia (MZUSP 91639 91643). latter, straight distance between nostril and
Although Amphisbaena arda resembles A. upper lip equals straight distance from nostril

Phyllomedusa - 1(2), December 2002

Amphisbaena arda sp. nov.

to suture between nasals whereas in A. References

vermicularis the distance from the nostril to Rodrigues, M. T. 1984a. Nothobachia ablephara: novo
the midnasal suture is much larger than the gnero e espcie do nordeste do Brasil (Sauria:
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significant because, considered together with Rodrigues, M. T. 1984b. Uma nova espcie brasileira de
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Phyllomedusa - 1(2), December 2002