Kaiser, Hinrich, Carvalho, Venancio Lopes, Ceballos, Jester, Freed, Paul, Heacox, Scott, Lester, Barbara, Richards, Stephen J., Trainor, Colin R., Sanchez, Caitlin & O'Shea, Mark, 2011, The herpetofauna of Timor-Leste: a first report, ZooKeys 109, pp. 19-86 : 37-38

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Genus Carlia Fig. 14 View Figure 14

Common names.

(E) Four-fingered Skinks. *(T) Mamór liman-fuan haat ( mamór = skink, haat = four, liman fuan = finger).


Skinks of the genus Carlia are small lizars that are often found foraging in grassy vegetation or under decaying palm fronds. Their identifying characteristic is a four-fingered forefoot - all other lizards in Timor-Leste possess five-fingered forefeet. In common with all other lizards, they possess pentadactyl hindfeet. Identification within the genus Carlia is often difficult and involves scale counts, color patterns, morphometrics, and natural history characters. George Zug (USNM) preliminarily verified the initial division of our specimens into groups.

Collection and natural history.

We encountered four phenotypically distinct four-fingered skinks of the genus Carlia ( Fig. 14 View Figure 14 ) throughout our survey. Considering how morphologically conservative species in this genus are, we are as yet unable to assign them to existing taxa with confidence. Comparisons with specimens of Carlia peronii , Carlia spinauris , and Carlia fusca (including the holotypes of Carlia peronii and Carlia fusca and a syntype of Carlia spinauris ) show that the groups we found in Timor-Leste are similar to the former based on overall body morphology and size. There are, however, differences with Carlia peronii and Carlia spinauris (fide Zug 2010) that require further study. We acknowledge that a collection of Carlia in a relatively short time span may not allow us to assess the true breadth of morphological variation since coloration may depend on the degree of sexual maturity or reproductive readiness (G. Zug, pers. comm.). A more detailed morphological and genetic analysis is therefore underway.

Among our Carlia specimens, we can differentiate two high-altitude forms and two low-altitude forms. One of the high-altitude forms from the Maubisse and Same areas (Ainaro and Manufahi District, respectively) on the eastern slopes of Mt. Ramelau (altitudes 600-1500 m) resembles species in the Carlia peronii group (sensu Zug 2010), and we believe that this form may have previously been listed in the literature as Carlia peronii (e.g., Greer 1976). Based on our fresh material and on comparisons with preserved material, we are more comfortable with listing this form as Carlia sp. 1 [Ca CMD 354] ( Fig. 14A View Figure 14 ) until we have completed a survey of material in herpetological collections. Similarly, a second high-altitude form from the western versant of Mt. Ramelau in Ermera District (altitudes near 1200 m) is also similar to species in the Carlia peronii group, and the orange ventral coloration of sexually mature individuals makes it readily distinguishable ( Fig. 14C View Figure 14 ). At this time, we prefer to list this form as Carlia sp. 2 [Ca CMD 400] until additional work is completed. This form was found exclusively during the daytime and near dusk, in clearings at the edge of coffee plantations, amongst scattered piles of bamboo husks, and on grassy areas surrounding bamboo stands. Several individuals were also found in a pile of construction debris (metal piping and wooden boards). We noted the absence of Carlia specimens in open spaces with no nearby form of cover (as measured in a few lizard body lengths).

The two lowland forms are not easily placed in either of the above groups. Even though their morphology is conservative, there are differences in overall gestalt and coloration. Since our collections were conducted during what is considered a mainly dry time of the year, we may see some changes when we return during the wet season, as individuals may change color as they mature or reach reproductive readiness. At this point, we consider the form from the coastal dry forest near Loré ( Lautém Di strict) as Carlia sp. 3 [Ca CMD 471] ( Fig. 14B View Figure 14 ). The collection of a single specimen from the Baucau area provides insufficient material to determine with clarity what its specific status should be, but given its distinct morphology and pending the collection of additional material we consider this form as Carlia sp. 4 [Ca CMD 522] ( Fig. 14D View Figure 14 ). At the Loré site, individuals were most predictably found by turning over decaying palm fronds and in the leaf litter. In a typical display of skink behavior, Carlia were seen each morning, basking, hunting, or displaying in the various sunspots near our campsite.