New lizard species found in Mindanao named after Filipino scientist

Published May 16, 2021, 5:18 PM

by Jhon Aldrin Casinas

A newly discovered species of lizard found in the southwestern tip of Zamboanga Peninsula has been named after National Scientist Angel C. Alcala.

The description of the new species named Eutropis alcalai was published in the Philippine Journal of Systematic Biology (PJSB) in May 2021.

Scientists Anthony J. Barley, Marites B. Sanguila, and Rafe M. Brown said Eutropis alcalai is a new species of sun skink related to Eutropis rugifera, which was described as “a secretive, forest-adapted skink that ranges widely outside the Philippines.”

Photos by Rafe M. Brown via PJSB

“We take great pleasure in naming this distinctive new species for our colleague Angel C. Alcala, in recognition of his numerous foundational contributions to the natural history, systematics, ecology, and conservation of Philippine lizards of the family Scincidae,” the researchers said.

The new species has been given common names “Alcala’s Quinque-carinate (five-keeled) Sun Skink,” or “Alcala’s Rough-scaled Sun Skink.”

Alcala is a Filipino biologist who is known for his work in establishing protective sanctuaries and in promoting biodiversity in the aquatic ecosystems of the country.

He was named as one of the country’s national scientists in 2014 in recognition of his seminal and original research on the systematic, ecology, and diversity of Philippine amphibians and reptiles, and, marine biodiversity, reef fishes and conservation.

According to the study, the newly discovered species is related to Eutropis rugifera, a type of skink that is not commonly found in the Philippines.

“The discovery of a new, morphologically distinct, and genetically highly divergent Sun Skink lineage in the low elevation forests of Zamboanga Peninsula creates a puzzling disjunct geographic distribution,” the researchers said.

Experts believe that “the colonization by the new species may have been facilitated by pre-Pleistocene overseas long-distance dispersal, saltatory range expansion and subsequent contraction/extinction in the Sulu Archipelago, and/or possibly paleotransport on the ancient crustal fragment of Zamboanga.”

“The new species is known only from Zamboanga City’s primary surface water supply catchment at the lowest elevations inside the boundaries of Pasonanca Natural Park, despite the fact that there have been historical surveys of herpetological diversity at multiple sites to the northeast (Zamboanga, western Mindanao) and to the southwest (Sulu Archipelago),” the researchers noted.

“The new species, thus, may be limited to just the tip of the Zamboanga Peninsula, possibly rendering Pasonanca’s low elevation forests its most critical habitat resource for long term persistence and survival of the species,” they added.