The two new species Asaccus gardneri and Asaccus margaritae have been found well distributed in the Musandam Peninsula and are endemic to the northernmost part of the Al Hajar mountain range. The latest research indicates that the species were originally classified as Asaccus caudivolvulus.
“It is in fact an assemblage of three species. As a result of that, we have described two new species. Earlier studies did not use molecular data (genetic sequences) and did not include many specimens from lots of different locations as in our study, so we could not get the whole picture,” Dr Salvador Carranza told Muscat Daily in an e-mail interview from Barcelona.
Dr Carranza has been carrying out research on reptile fauna in the sultanate for more than ten years. With the two new species described, the number of endemic reptile species of the Al Hajar mountain range has increased to 19.
A. caudivolvulus was described by Arnold and Gardner in 1994 based on collections from two different localities in Khor Fakkan, UAE and Khasab, but were not described as a new species. “Before our study people thought that A. caudivolvulus was widely distributed across the northern Hajar mountain range.
However, since we have described the two new species, the range of A. caudivolvulus has been restricted to just a coastal stretch of rocky escarpments of the UAE,” he said. Dr Carranza said Asaccus gardneri is named after the British herpetologist Dr Andrew S Gardner for his contribution to Arabian herpetology.
Asaccus margaritae is named to honour Greek scientist Dr Margarita Metallinou who died while doing fieldwork in Africa in July 2015. Talking about threats, Dr Carranza said that the only area where A. caudivolvulus lives is under heavy development. “One of only two localities where this species has ever been found is zoned for dynamite blasting as part of the construction of a new tourist resort. Therefore efforts are to be made to locate and protect other remaining populations of the species.”