Series: Bulletin of the British Museum (Natural History) Zoology Volume: 31/5
62 pages, 3 plates with b/w photos; 7 b/w line drawings and b/w distribution maps, 6 tables
Until recently, up to thirteen species of the scincid genus, Scincus, were recognized, but examination of some 590 individuals from a wide range of localities suggests that only three or four are valid. Of these, S. mitranus is confined to eastern and southern Arabia and S. hemprichii probably to southwest Arabia. The remaining forms constitute the S. scincus complex, which may consist in North Africa of two largely allopatric species, S. scincus and S. albifasciatus, although evidence for this is not conclusive. The S. scincus complex is represented in southwest Asia by two forms : S. scincus meccensis in southern Jordan, northwest and west Arabia and S. s. conirostris in southern and eastern Arabia, Iraq and southwest Iran.
Scincus appears to have evolved from a primitive scincine, very similar to members of the Eumeces schneideri group, especially E. (schneideri) algeriensis; it does not seem to be directly related to the sympatric genus Scincopus. Within Scincus, the S. scincus complex is the least specialized component of the genus and both S. mitranus and S. hemprichii may have been independently derived from it, or from a closely related form. Possibly the whole range of the genus was once occupied by a S. scincus-like species and its distribution was subsequently restricted by the onset of less desertic conditions leaving reduced populations in North Africa, southwest Arabia and southeast Arabia that gave rise to the S. scincus complex, S. hemprichii and S. mitranus respectively. A renewed expansion of arid areas could then have enabled the S. scincus complex to invade southwest Asia. Some of the characters of its most eastern subspecies, S. s. conirostris, may have arisen, or been maintained, by character displacement through contact with S. mitranus.
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