Glaw, F., D. Prötzel, F. Eckhardt, N. A. Raharinoro, R. N. Ravelojaona, T. Glaw, K. Glaw, J. Forster & M. Vences

In Issues 2020

Rediscovery, conservation status and genetic relationships of the Malagasy chameleon Furcifer voeltzkowi. pp. 342-354 plus Supplementary video.

Abstract. The chameleon Furcifer voeltzkowi (Boettger, 1893) from northwestern Madagascar was considered to be a synonym of Furcifer rhinoceratus for many decades and was resurrected only recently based on studies of the morphology and osteology of a few male specimens, which were collected more than 100 years ago. However, basic data on this species remain unavailable, including its conservation status, life history, colouration in life, morphology of the female, genital morphology of the male, phylogenetic affinities, and genetic differentiation from F. labordi and other congeners. During a targeted expedition, we rediscovered F. voeltzkowi in its natural habitat close to its type locality, allowing us to fill some gaps of knowledge. Furcifer voeltzkowi is a sexually dimorphic species. The life colouration of males is largely green, whereas that of females is highly variable and can be extremely colourful. Both, morphology and life colouration of males and females show close similarities to F. labordi from west and southwest Madagascar, but also a number of distinct differences (e.g. a larger size of F. voeltzkowi and a smaller rostral appendage in both sexes), enabling a clear distinction of the two species in both sexes. DNA sequences of the nuclear CMOS gene and two mitochondrial markers (16S rRNA and ND4) also confirm that F. voeltzkowi is a distinct species and sister to F. labordi (pairwise differences in the 16S gene 3.5–3.6%). We estimate the distribution range (extent of occurrence) of F. voeltzkowi to comprise ca. 1.000 km² and suggest that it qualifies as Endangered B1ab(iii) under the IUCN Red List Criteria as its populations are expected to be severely fragmented, and there is continuing decline in the extent and quality of its habitat. Similar to F. labordi, F. voeltzkowi might be an extremely short-living chameleon with a post hatching life span of only several months in the rainy season. The assumed short life might also partly explain why this splendid species got “lost” for many decades, since most roads in its habitat are not accessible in the wet season.

Key words. Squamata, Chamaeleonidae, morphology, molecular genetics, rediscovery, conservation.

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