Taxonomic status of the legless lizard Ophisaurus (Squamata: Anguidae) in Taiwan: Molecular data, morphology, and literature review

Si Min Lin, Wen Shiang Chang, Szu Lung Chen, Gaus Shang, Kuang Yang Lue

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

5 Citations (Scopus)


The legless lizard genus Ophisaurus is in the family Anguidae. Two species are currently recognized in Taiwan: O. harti with blue dorsal markings, and O. formosensis with uniform dorsal coloration. However, due to the secretive life history and extremely few records, the taxonomic status of O. formosensis remains problematic. In order to resolve this controversy, molecular and morphology data were obtained from 14 Ophisaurus individuals with blue dorsal markings (O. harti) and 5 without markings (O. formosensis). Complete 12S rRNA and partial cytochrome b sequences revealed no genetic differentiation between these 2 color morphs, in addition, some of their haplotypes ace shared. We reviewed the related literature and evaluated 8 different morphological characters that were once mentioned or still apply for species recognition, but none of them provided a diagnostic distinction between these 2 color morphs in our samples. Furthermore, some characters of O. formosensis proposed by recent herpetologists are incongruent with the description of the holotype in the original paper. Based on their sympatric distribution, we conclude that there is only 1 Ophisaurus species in Taiwan, and O. formosensis should be a synonym of O. harti.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)411-419
Number of pages9
JournalZoological Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2003 Dec 1



  • Anguidae
  • Legless lizards
  • Ophisaurus
  • Taiwan

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology

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