Creature with ‘wedge-shaped snout’ found on riverbank in Angola. It’s a new species

Along a riverbank in Angola, a “long”-tailed creature with a “wedge-shaped snout” sat on the sand. The sun shone and the water flowed in a scene that, on any other day, would have been peaceful.

But not today. Visiting scientists arrived at the riverbank and captured the sand-loving animal.

This was just one of the many sites researchers visited during a yearslong project to study lizards in the southern African country of Angola, according to a study published Feb. 20 in the Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History.

Researchers had an ambitious goal: document every species of the Trachylepis lizard genus in Angola, the study said. The country has an “extraordinary diversity” of these lizards, known as skinks.

During their surveys, researchers encountered some sand-loving skinks with unique snouts that didn’t match any known species. They took a closer look and realized they’d discovered a new species: Trachylepis suzanae, or Suzana’s wedge-snouted skink.

Suzana’s wedge-snouted skinks are considered “medium-sized,” reaching about 6.5 inches in length, the study said. They have a “robust” body, “long” tail and “wedge-shaped snout.” On their eyelids, the skinks have a “transparent,” window-like scale.

A photo shows the striped coloring of a Suzana’s wedge-snouted skink. Overall, the lizard has a light brown body. Three white stripes run down its back with a mosaic-like mixture of light brown, cream and dark brown spots inbetween the stripes.

A Trachylepis suzanae, or Suzana’s wedge-snouted skink.
A Trachylepis suzanae, or Suzana’s wedge-snouted skink.

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Suzana’s wedge-snouted skinks are sand-loving lizards and have been found on beaches, riverbanks, savannahs and other sandy habitats. The skinks “dig burrows in the sand” that are “sometimes so close to the shore that they are in reach of the waves,” the study said.

Researchers said they named the new species after Suzana Bandeira, an “Angolan herpetologist and conservationist” who “has been a fundamental part of our team.”

Bandeira “started participating in this project” as a student and went on to become a leader in her field, one of the study’s co-authors Luis Ceríaco said in a Feb. 21 news release from the Carnegie Museum of Natural History.

So far, Suzana’s wedge-snouted skinks have only been found in coastal provinces of Angola, the study said. Researchers suspect the new species might live in neighboring countries.

Angola borders the Atlantic Ocean to the west, the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the north, Zambia to the east and Namibia to the south.

The new species was identified by its snout, scale pattern, coloring and other physical features, the study said. DNA analysis found the new species had at least about 1% genetic divergence from other skinks.

The research team included Luis Ceríaco, Mariana Marques, Diogo Parrinha, Arthur Tiutenko, Jeffrey Weinell, Brett Butler and Aaron Bauer.

The team also discovered six more new species of skink.

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