Lacerta capensis Smith, 1838,

Sebastian Kirchhof, Johannes Penner, Mark-Oliver Rödel & Johannes Müller, 2017, Resolution of the types, diagnostic features, and distribution of two easily confused Sand Lizards, Pedioplanis laticeps (Smith, 1845) and P. burchelli (Duméril & Bibron, 1839) (Squamata: Lacertidae), Zootaxa 4318 (1), pp. 82-109: 88-89

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Lacerta capensis Smith, 1838


Lacerta capensis Smith, 1838 

The specimen BMNH 1946.8.7.86 (previously IV.42.a; Fig. 3View FIGURE 3), presented by Lord Derby to the collection, is considered to be the type of Lacerta capensis Smith, 1838  ( Table 1). However, after careful examination we found that neither this nor any of the other specimens presented by Smith or Lord Derby match exactly the original description provided by Smith (1838). With the exception of BMNH 1946.8.7.86, BMNH 1865.5.4.87 and BMNH 1865.5.4.88, none of the specimens collected by Smith or presented by Lord Derby (including all Southern African specimens of Lacertidae  ) can be the original type of L. capensis  as they lack the feature mentioned in the species’ description of possessing granules surrounding the inner edges of the supraoculars. Of the three specimens that have these granules, only BMNH 1946.8.7.86 and BMNH 1865.5.4.87 have 11 or 12 femoral pores, (although BMNH 1946.8.7.86 has 11 on both legs, with one additional but underdeveloped pore on the left leg, whilst BMNH 1865.5.4.87 has 12 on both legs, including one underdeveloped pore on the left leg). Finally, BMNH 1865.5.4.87 clearly has 9 enlarged scales in the collar, as in Smith’s (1838) description, whereas BMNH 1946.8.7.86 has 10. In 1845, when Smith published drawings of E. capensis  , he must have examined both these specimens as both appear to be depicted in the plates. The specimen depicted in Plate 45: 2 ( Smith 1845) conforms with its colouration and pattern with BMNH 1865.5.4.87, whilst the figures 7 and 7a in Plate 48 agree with BMNH 1946.8. 7.86 in depicting an incomplete inner row of granules around the supraoculars ( Fig. 3View FIGURE 3) (this is more complete in BMNH 1865.5.4.87). However, the presence of scales between the subocular and the freno-ocular shown in the drawing fits only BMNH 1946.8.7.86, assuming that the image has not been reversed in the lithographic process and that it does depict the left side of the head. As noted by FitzSimons (1937) this should not be the case and the drawing should actually be mirrored and show the opposite (right) side. This would then conflict with the number of scales between the subocular and the frenoocular in this specimen ( Fig. 3View FIGURE 3, Table 2). However, as indicated in previous articles ( FitzSimons 1937, Branch & Bauer 2005), these figures are not the original first description of L. capensis  , and Smith’s (1945) illustrations may be based on different individuals from that used in the original description. Finally, neither BMNH 1946.8.7.86 nor BMNH 1865.5.4.87 match the total length of the type of around 8 inches [197.8 mm] given in Smith’s (1838) description, with BMNH 1946.8.7.86 measuring only 148 mm (including its original tail) and BMNH 1865.5.4.87 measuring 170 mm total length (although a few mm may be missing from the broken tail).

Since the name Lacerta capensis Smith, 1838  is a primary junior homonym (and therefore unavailable following Article 57.2 of the Code; ICZN 1999), there are no nomenclatural consequences for the taxon Pedioplanis laticeps ( Smith, 1845)  in maintaining the current status of BMNH 1946.8.7.86 as the holotype of Lacerta capensis Smith, 1838  , despite the minor inconsistencies between its scalation and that detailed in the original description.