RESEARCH: JAPALURA SAGITTIFERA IN INDIA

JapaluraSagittiferaCompositeThe genus Japalura Gray, 1853 (Sauria: Agamidae: Draconinae) has 26 species (as of 2009) distributed from the Western Himalaya to China, Japan, Taiwan and northern Vietnam. Its center of diversity is in southern China, where 13 species occur. The Indian Himalaya and northeastern India host seven species, two (kumaonensis and major) in the Western Himalaya, four (andersoniana, kaulbacki, tricarinata and variegata) in the Eastern Himalaya, and one (planidorsata) from the Meghalaya Plateau in northeastern India to the Chin Hills in Myanmar. If you have been to the Himalayas at mid-elevation (1,000 to 2,500 m asl), you have probably seen a species or two from this genus, as they tend to be the most prominent lizards at this elevation.
 

Perhaps the most elusive and narrowly endemic member of the genus is Japalura sagittifera Smith, 1940. It was described from the specimens collected by Ronald Kaulback in The Triangle area in northern Myanmar; specifically, from Pangnamdim in Nam Tamai Valley and Dadung in Taron Valley. The species had not been seen since Smith's description of the species in 1940, and only the original two localities were known for this species. Nothing was known of its habitat, habits and current status.
 

As luck would have it, in May 2008 Krushnamegh Kunte stumbled upon this lizard (later identified by Ulrich Manthey from Krushnamegh's pictures) while surveying butterflies at Mehao Lake in Mehao Wildlife Sanctuary in Arunachal Pradesh, northeastern India, 200 km west of Kaulback's collection sites. He saw three specimens, two males and a female. His pictures to the right show some of the distinctive characteristics of the species: (1) tympanum concealed, (2) top of head with large, unequal, keeled scales; occiput with spinose tubercles; a series of 3 or 4 enlarged scales behind the eye, (3) gular scales smaller than the ventrals; a small gular sac distinct in life, the scales covering it not markedly smaller than the surrounding ones; and (4) no nuchal crest; dorsal crest a serrated ridge.

 

This rediscovery is important in several respects. This is the first record of the species since Kaulback’s specimens collected about 70 years ago. In terms of geographic distribution, the record is a mere 200 km of range extension of the species into northeastern India. However, it represents an addition to the Indian herpetofauna. The species is now known only from three localities worldwide and from a single locality in India. If you suspect that you have seen this species at Mehao or elsewhere, please contact us. It would be useful to learn more about this very rare species.

 


 


References:

Kunte, K.
and U. Manthey. 2009. Rediscovery of Japalura sagittifera (Sauria: Agamidae) from the Eastern Himalayas, Arunachal Pradesh: An addition to the Indian herpetofauna. Sauria, 31:49-55. PDF file (800KB, has color figures. This is in a bilingual journal published from Berlin, Germany, so the PDF file has text first in German and then in English. The table and figures are shared between the English and German versions).