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Striped creature — with ‘window’ in its eyelid — found in forest. It’s a new species


As the sun set over a rocky forest in Vietnam, a striped creature with a “window” in its eyelid hid under the leaves. Maybe it was looking for something to eat. Or maybe it was settling in for the night.

Visiting scientists spotted the scaly animal — and discovered a new species.

Researchers visited a nature reserve in Hoa Binh Province in 2014 and 2023 to survey local wildlife, according to a study published March 20 in the peer-reviewed journal Zootaxa.

While searching the rocky forest, researchers found several striped lizards that didn’t match any known records, the study said. They looked closer and realized they’d discovered a new species: Scincella ouboteri, or Ouboter’s smooth skink.

Ouboter’s smooth skinks are considered “medium”-sized, reaching about 4.8 inches in length, the study said. In their lower eyelids, the skinks have an “opaque window”-like scale.

A Scincella ouboteri, or Ouboter’s smooth skink.

A Scincella ouboteri, or Ouboter’s smooth skink.

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A photo shows the “bronze”-colored new species. The lizard has several black stripes running down its back. Its sides have a reddish-orange hue. Underneath, its belly has a grayish-cream color.

Ouboter’s smooth skinks were found in the leaves of a rocky karst forest in the evening, the study said. The area had a mixture of limestone, trees, shrubs and vines.

Researchers said they named the new species after Paul E. Ouboter, a herpetologist who “provided the first comprehensive taxonomic revision” of Scincella skinks in Asia.

So far, Ouboter’s smooth skinks have only been found at the Ngoc Son–Ngo Luong Nature Reserve in Hoa Binh Province, the study said. This province is in northern Vietnam and about 40 miles southwest of Hanoi.

The new species was identified by its size, eyelid, scale pattern, scale texture and coloring, the study said. DNA analysis found the new species had at least 8% genetic divergence from other Scincella skinks.

The research team included Anh Van Pham, Cuong The Pham, Minh Duc Le, Hai Ngo Ngoc, Thomas Ziegler and Truong Quang Nguyen.

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