Scaly, carnivorous creature discovered in China for the first time ever, study says

Last fall, a trio of researchers spotted unusual creatures lurking in China’s far-western frontier.

Sitting at the bottom of a shrub-covered hill in Xinjiang — an autonomous territory in northwestern China — was a group of skinks, a slender-bodied type of lizard.

The sighting, it turned out, marked the first time the species had been officially documented in China, according to a study published April 10 in the journal Herpetozoa.

Discover more new species

Thousands of new species are found each year. Here are three of our most eye-catching stories from the past week.

Volcanic ocean creature — with 'long' legs — discovered in Japan. It's a new species

'Flat'-headed creature — with multicolored eyes — discovered as new species in China

Nocturnal creature — a 'rapidly-running' predator — discovered as new species in India

The researchers, affiliated with various Chinese universities, collected 14 skink specimens Sept. 27 and euthanized them for further analysis.

Their tissue samples were then dissected, preserved in ethanol and subjected to DNA extraction.

Genetic analysis revealed the skinks belonged to the species Ablepharus alaicus, which had been cited in historical literature but never confirmed to exist within the borders of China.

A species of skink, a type of lizard, has been rediscovered in China after more than 100 years, according to a new study.
A species of skink, a type of lizard, has been rediscovered in China after more than 100 years, according to a new study.

The lizards are relatively small, measuring just over 2 inches long and weighing under 3 grams.

Their slender bodies are colored “coppery brown” with dark spots on the fringes of their scales. The bellies of females display an orange-red hue during the mating season.

Like other related skinks, known as common snake-eyed skinks, they cannot move their eyelids.

Because the specimens were all collected during the daytime, they are believed to be diurnal.

In addition, much remains unknown about their diet, but they are considered carnivorous, researchers said.

Researchers also came upon a similar skink, Ablepharus eremchenkoi, in Xinjiang, marking the first record of the species in China.

The discoveries of the both lizard species are just the latest of dozens to be recorded in Xinjiang — a sprawling, but poorly studied territory — in recent years.

“Hence, further research should aim to document the biodiversity of the region,” researchers said.

Multiple new species of skinks have also been found throughout the world in recent years, including in Vietnam and India, according to previous reporting from McClatchy News.

‘Erratic’ mountain creature seen leaping across rocks — and discovered as new species

‘Giant’ creature — with ringed body — discovered in Tanzania. See the new species

Trove of artifacts — including cannonballs and coins — found at French island fort