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Taxonomy of Lampropholis (Reptilia: Scincidae) in Australia


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Posted by Richard Wells on March 24, 2002 at 05:29:23:

Hello All,

For those interested in the family Scincidae I attach a copy of my revcent revision of the genus Lampropholis which appeared recently in the Australian Biodiversity Record, 2002 (8): 1-24

Best Regards from

Richard Wells

AUSTRALIAN BIODIVERSITY RECORD
____________________________________________________
2002 (No 8) ISSN 1325-2992 March, 2002
____________________________________________________
Some Taxonomic Changes to the Genus
Lampropholis (Reptilia: Scincidae) from Australia

by

Richard W. Wells
“Shiralee”, Major West Road, Cowra, New South Wales, Australia

In consideration of the considerable morphological differences that exist between the various members of the genus Lampropholis as diagnosed by Cogger (2000), it is clear to me that this genus represents a number of quite separate evolutionary lineages. Consequently, I have decided to restrict the genus Lampropholis to members of the guichenoti complex, and formally describe new genera for the remaining groups of species.

Genus Lampropholis Fitzinger, 1843
[Type Species: Lygosoma guichenoti Dumeril and Bibron, 1839 - Erpetologie Generale ou Histoire Naturelle Complete des Reptiles. Roret, Paris (Volume 5, p. 713)]. Diagnosis: A genus of small, oviparous and terrestrial lizards of the family Scincidae, readily identified by the following combination of characters: body-form robust; tail long, fragile and round in section; body scales mostly smooth, in 22-31 rows at mid-body (but usually 27-28, vs usually 30 in Helioscincus gen. nov., usually 26-28 in Ndurascincus gen. nov., and usually 22 in Adrasteia gen. nov.); paravertebrals 51-61; nuchals 1-5 (usually 2); frontoparietals fused; interparietal small and distinct; supraoculars 4; rostral and frontonasal suture about as wide as the frontal; supralabials 7 (5th subocular); infralabials 7; ear-opening present and conspicuous; lower eyelid movable, and with a palpebral disk that is smaller than the eye; presuboculars 1-2 (usually 1, vs usually 2 in Ndurascincus gen. nov.); supraciliaries 5-8 (usually 6 or 7, vs usually 7 in Helioscincus gen. nov. and Ndurascincus gen. nov., and usually 5 in Adrasteia gen. nov.); well-developed pentadactyl limbs, that just fail to overlap when adpressed (or in some species barely overlap); supradigital scales 11-17 (usually 13-17, vs 9-11 in Adrasteia gen. nov. and Ndurascincus gen. nov.); subdigital lamellae beneath 4th toe 20-30, smooth; presacral vertebrae 26-28 (usually 27, vs usually 28-31 in Adrasteia, usually 26 in Helioscincus gen. nov. and Ndurascincus gen. nov.); diploid chromosome number 2N=28 or 2N=30. Content: Lampropholis colossus Ingram, 1991; Lampropholis delicata (De Vis, 1888); Lampropholis guichenoti (Dumeril and Bibron, 1839); Lampropholis longleyi (Wells and Wellington, 1985); Lampropholis lunneyi Wells and Wellington, 1984; Lampropholis swani Wells and Wellington, 1985.
Greater Litter Skink
Lampropholis colossus Ingram, 1991

This is a diurnal highly active skink that may be readily observed basking on leaf-litter or amidst forest debris around sheltered, or well-shaded situations along the edges and clearings of subtropical rainforest. The Greater Litter Skink is another highly restricted species in its distribution, being only known from the vicinity of the Bunya Mountains of south-eastern Queensland. It is a small terrestrial skink closely related to Lampropholis delicata, but differs from that species in its scalation, colouration and usually larger size (the name 'colossus' recalls the giant of ancient mythology, and was bestowed on the species because of its larger size). It attains a maximum total length of around 130 mm., and a snout-vent length of about 55 mm. The dorsum is bronze-brown, with the upper lateral zone dark brownish-black, and the lower lateral parts greyish. Although the lateral pattern is very similar to some populations of L. delicata - in that there is a clear midlateral line of demarcation between the dark upper lateral zone and the paler lower lateral - the venter of L. colossus is yellowish, with blackish flecks on the throat and along the subcaudal area. In Lampropholis delicata the venter is whitish. Some significant features of this species' morphology are: body scales smooth, in 25-28 rows at mid-body; paravertebrals 52-57; nuchals 2-5 (usually 2); frontoparietals fused; interparietal distinct; supraoculars 4; supralabials 7; ear-opening present and conspicuous; lower eyelid movable, and with a palpebral disk that is much smaller than the eye; presuboculars 1-2 (usually 1); supraciliaries 7; small, but well-developed pentadactyl limbs, that overlap when adpressed; supradigital scales 12-16; subdigital lamellae beneath 4th toe 21-25, smooth; presacral vertebrae 27. This is an oviparous species, producing up to 5 eggs in a clutch, and its diet comprises solely the tiny invertebrates of leaf-litter, decaying vegetation and around rotting logs. The survival status of this skink is at present unknown, and although this is believed to be a common species wherever it occurs, it may be considered as potentially vulnerable in some areas due to its restricted distribution. Protected under the Queensland Nature Conservation Act (1992).

Delicate Grass Skink
Lampropholis delicata (De Vis, 1888)

As presently defined, this is one of Australia’s most well-known and abundant lizards. It is a terrestrial and diurnal species of the leaf-litter, where it forages around the bases of trees and rock outcroppings and shelters mainly in earth cracks or loose bark around the bases of trees, amongst grass tussocks, under ground litter, under rocks, or inside rotting logs. Delicate Grass Skinks inhabit a wide variety of habitats ranging from heathland, woodland and forest communities, and most sites are usually in cooler mountainous areas, or the higher rainfall parts of coastal regions. They are often found in association with rock outcroppings within woodlands, and in the sheltered or moister parts of well-vegetated areas - such as along stream verges, beside soaks or marshes, and in rainfall runoff areas around the bases of hills, where plant life is denser. This skink has apparently adapted well to disturbed areas such as roadside verges, suburban gardens and agricultural areas, and has probably been extensively introduced from different populations to some urban areas through transfer of rubbish, garden waste, compost and simply through the movement of goods. This could possibly explain the puzzling periodic appearance of diverse colour forms in some suburban areas - particularly around rubbish tips - where unnatural assemblages may be rapidly introduced through waste transfer. It occurs across a wide part of south-eastern Australia, as a number of geographically isolated populations (which may be taxonomically distinct), ranging from Eyre Peninsula, Kangaroo Island, south-eastern South Australia, southern and eastern Victoria, eastern and north-eastern Tasmania, through most of the coastal plain and Great Dividing Range of New South Wales (including the Australian Capital Territory, but excluding the northern tablelands), and into south-eastern Queensland. This species (as presently defined) as been accidentally introduced into Hawaii and New Zealand. As its name implies, it is a small, somewhat depressed species, with a long fragile tail that is round in section (the name 'delicata' in effect means 'weak' or 'delicate' and alludes to the appearance of the species). A maximum total length of only around 80 mm. is attained, and of this the snout-vent length is about 40 mm. (although a large specimen may reach up to 50 mm SVL). The dorsum is rich brown, coppery-brown, or greyish-brown, with the head being a slightly more bronzy-brown. Overall, the dorsal part of the body and tail is usually unpatterned, but in some it may be flecked along the mid-line with dark brown or black and these flecks may have a longitudinal alignment. There is a thin pale creamish dorsolateral stripe running from the nape, along the body to about the base of the tail, and this dorsolateral line is often thinly edged above and below with black - particularly along the anterior part of the body; the line may continue along the tail as an irregular series of paler dashes or dots. The upper lateral of the body and head is darker than the dorsum, being very dark brown, progressively fading to greyish-brown towards the lower lateral and covered with a scattering of darker and paler dots on the scales. Usually there are short blackish transverse bars on the sides of the tail. In some populations individuals may be found with a thin pale creamish mid-lateral stripe along the body as well, and this often causes confusion with L. guichenoti. The limbs are blackish dorsally and paler brown underneath, and the palmer surfaces and subdigital lamellae are black; the labials are whitish with black spotting. Ventrally the body is greyish to whitish, with scattered black flecks, usually in obscure longitudinal lines beneath the throat. Some significant features of this species' morphology are: body scales smooth, in 22-28 rows at mid-body; paravertebrals 51-60; nuchals 1-2 (usually 2); frontoparietals fused; interparietal distinct; supraoculars 4; supralabials 7 (5th subocular); ear-opening present and conspicuous; lower eyelid movable, and with a palpebral disk that is much smaller than the eye; presuboculars 1-2 (usually 1); supraciliaries 6-8 (usually 7); small, but well-developed pentadactyl limbs, that just overlap when adpressed; supradigital scales 11-14; subdigital lamellae beneath 4th toe 21-30, smooth; presacral vertebrae 26-28; diploid chromosome number 2N=28. It should be noted that variation in morphology suggests that this species may be composite. Despite its abundance, the reproductive biology of this species has been poorly studied, but it is known to be oviparous, producing up to 6 (but usually 3 or 4) eggs in a clutch. Sometimes two clutches are produced in a single season, and communal egg deposition is well-known in this species, where up to 400 eggs have been found at a single laying site. Communal laying sites are nearly always associated with habitat disturbance of some sort, such as in disturbed, disclimax or regenerating situations. The diet is confined to small litter invertebrates. Protected under the New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Act (1974) but not listed in that State as a Threatened Species in any of the Schedules of the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act (1995). Also protected under the Qld Nature Conservation Act (1992), the SA National Parks and Wildlife Act (1972), the Tasmanian National Parks and Wildlife Act (1970), and the ACT Nature Conservation Act (1980). Protected under the Victorian Wildlife Act (1975) but not listed in Schedule 2 of the Victorian Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act (1988).
Guichenot's Grass Skink
Lampropholis guichenoti (Dumeril and Bibron, 1839)

Once considered to be widespread in southeastern Australia, as herein defined this species is restricted to a small area of southern South Australia, centred upon Kangaroo Island and the adjacent mainland, where it inhabits cool temperate eucalypt forest and woodland with tussock grass ground cover. Elsewhere the Lampropholis guichenoti complex is represented by at least two different species - Lampropholis swani from the central and Northern Tablelands of New South Wales, and Lampropholis lunneyi occupying eastern NSW, the ACT, VIC., and south-eastern SA (however, it is likely that L. lunneyi itself is composite). Guichenot's Grass Skink is a diurnal, terrestrial species that forages amongst dry leaf-litter, particularly around the bases of trees, and shelters amongst ground litter, beneath or inside rotting logs, in grass tussocks, under piles of rocks and in earth cracks. It is a small, robust-bodied lizard, with a long fragile tail that is round in section, and attains a maximum total length of around 110 mm., with a snout-vent length of about 50 mm. The dorsum may be brown, olive-brown, or greyish-brown, with the head being a slightly more paler bronze-brown or coppery-brown in the breeding season. The most conspicuous feature on the dorsal part of the body is a prominent to obscure dark blackish vertebral stripe that extends from the nape to the base of the tail. The rest of the dorsum may be lightly flecked with dark brown and greyish flecks, and this is particularly the case with immature specimens. The upper lateral zone has a broad dark brown stripe, beginning on the side of the head, and running along the body to the base of the tail. This upper lateral stripe is thinly bordered above and below by a white stripe, but that along the upper margin is very weak, and barely discernible, whereas that on the lower margin is much more prominent. In some specimens the lower white line may be very bold and represent a distinct mid-lateral stripe. The lower lateral area is much paler grey, with darker and paler flecking and gradually merging into the ventral colour of whitish, creamish to creamish-yellow. Some significant features of this species' morphology are: body scales mostly smooth, in 24-31 rows at mid-body; paravertebrals 57-61; nuchals 2-5 (usually 2); frontoparietals fused; interparietal small and distinct; supraoculars 4; rostral and frontonasal suture about as wide as the frontal; supralabials 7 (5th subocular); infralabials 7; ear-opening present and conspicuous; lower eyelid movable, and with a palpebral disk that is smaller than the eye; presuboculars 1-2 (usually 1); supraciliaries 5-7 (usually 6); well-developed pentadactyl limbs, that barely overlap; supradigital scales 12-14; subdigital lamellae beneath 4th toe 20-27, smooth; presacral vertebrae 27-28; diploid chromosome number 2N=30. The reproductive biology of this population has been hardly studied at all, but it is known to be oviparous, producing up to 4 (but usually 3) eggs in a clutch. Occasionally 2 separate clutches may be laid in the one year - one during early summer, and the other at the end of summer, and this species also practices communal laying behaviour at suitable sites, with large aggregations of eggs sometimes being found. The diet is restricted to small invertebrates. The survival status of this species is unknown, and although it can be locally common, its restricted distribution could make it vulnerable in some parts of its range. Protected under the SA National Parks and Wildlife Act (1972).


Longley's Grass Skink
Lampropholis longleyi (Wells and Wellington, 1985)
This is a terrestrial, diurnal species closely related to Lampropholis delicata that inhabits the grass clumps and leaf-litter of woodland. Longley's Grass Skink (the name 'longleyi' honours Australian herpetologist the late George Longley) is one the most ubiquitous lizards of the eastern highlands, being very common even in disturbed habitats. It shelters mainly in earth cracks or loose bark around the bases of trees, amongst grass tussocks, under ground litter, under rocks, or inside rotting logs and forages around the bases of trees and rock outcroppings. Its principal habitat is cool temperate montane woodland and sclerophyll forest, with a dense ground cover of tussock grasses and leaf-litter and may often be found in association with rock outcroppings. As presently defined, this species is confined to the northern tablelands of New South Wales, but populations on the north-east coast of NSW may possibly represent this species as well. It is a small, somewhat depressed lizard, with a long fragile tail that is round in section, and may attain a maximum total length of around 80 mm., with a snout-vent length of only about 35 mm. The dorsum is rich brown or coppery-brown with the head being a slightly more bronze-brown. Overall the dorsal part of the body and tail is usually patterned with darker flecking, but in some may be flecked only along the mid-line with dark brown or black and these flecks may have a longitudinal alignment. There is a thin pale creamish dorsolateral stripe running from the nape, along the body to about the base of the tail, and this dorsolateral line is often thinly edged above and below with black - particularly along the anterior part of the body; the line may continue along the tail as an irregular series of paler dashes or dots. The upper lateral of the body and head is darker than the dorsum, being very dark brown, progressively fading to greyish-brown towards the lower lateral and covered with a scattering of darker and paler dots on the scales; usually there are short transverse blackish bars on the sides of the tail. There is usually a thin pale creamish-white mid-lateral stripe along the body. The limbs are blackish dorsally and paler brown underneath, and the palmer surfaces and subdigital lamellae are black. Ventrally creamish, with scattered dark brown or black flecks, usually in obscure longitudinal lines beneath the throat; under tail dark greyish, with blackish flecking. Some significant features of this species' morphology are: body scales smooth, in 26-30 rows at mid-body; paravertebrals 54; frontonasal in contact with rostral; prefrontals separated; frontoparietals fused, in contact with 2nd, 3rd, 4th supraoculars; interparietal small and distinct; parietals in contact behind interparietal; supraoculars 4 (2nd the largest); 1 pair of enlarged nuchals; supralabials 7 (5th subocular); infralabials 6; ear opening present and conspicuous; lower eyelid movable, and with a palpebral disk, that is much smaller than the eye; supraciliaries usually 6; small, but well-developed pentadactyl limbs, that overlap when adpressed; subdigital lamellae beneath 4th toe 20-24, smooth. Oviparous, Longley's Grass Skink may produce up to 5 eggs (but usually 3) in a clutch each year, but sometimes individuals may lay two clutches in a single season and communal egglaying has also been recorded - where dozens of eggs may be deposited together in a single mass under a granite rock on soil. It feeds solely on small invertebrates. Protected under the New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Act (1974) but not listed in that State as a Threatened Species in any of the Schedules of the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act (1995).

Lunney’s Litter Skink
Lampropholis lunneyi Wells and Wellington, 1984

Lunney’s Litter Skink is a small abundant lizard from Australia’s coastal forests and woodlands, and was named in recognition of Australian ecologist Daniel Lunney’s pioneering work on the ecology of Lampropholis skinks. This robust-bodied lizard is slightly larger than Lampropholis guichenoti, attaining a maximum total length of around 140 mm., with a snout-vent length of about 60 mm. However, some populations may only attain around 85 mm. in total length and about 55 mm. in SVL. Like its congenors, it is a diurnal, terrestrial species that forages amongst dry leaf-litter, particularly around the bases of trees. It shelters underneath ground litter, beneath or inside rotting logs, amongst grass tussocks, in piles of rocks and in earth cracks. Lunney’s Litter Skink occurs in a wide range of vegetation communities, including wet and dry sclerophyll forest, coastal heathlands on sand, and even the margins of temperate rainforest, although it is primarily a species of open woodland habitats. Its distribution as presently defined covers a broad area of south-eastern Australia, including south-eastern New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory as well as eastern and southern Victoria and south-eastern South Australia. In keeping with such a wide distribution, the colour and pattern may vary considerably from one area to another. Usually the dorsum may be rich brown, or greyish-brown, with the head and anterior body being uniform brown or coppery-brown in the breeding season. However, spectacular departures from this range may occur with some populations - a green-coloured morph is even known from parts of southern New South Wales. Nevertheless, the most conspicuous feature on the dorsal part of the body is usually a prominent black vertebral stripe that extends from about the shoulders, along the body and onto the tail, continuing to the tip even on regenerated portions (in mature specimens). The rest of the dorsum may be lightly flecked with blackish and greyish flecks, and this is prominent on the tail, which may have a mottled pattern. The upper lateral zone has a broad black stripe, beginning on the side of the head, and running along the body to the base of the tail. This upper lateral stripe is thinly bordered below by a prominent white mid-lateral stripe. The lower lateral is much paler grey, with darker and paler flecking and gradually merging into the ventral colour of whitish-cream. Some significant features of this species' morphology are: body scales mostly smooth, in 24-30 rows at mid-body; anal scales only slightly larger than ventrals; parietals in broad contact behind interparietal; frontoparietals fused; prefrontals separated; interparietal very small and distinct; frontal in contact with first 2 supraoculars; supraoculars 4; rostral and frontonasal suture about as wide as the frontal; supralabials 7; infralabials 6; ear opening present and conspicuous; lower eyelid movable, and with a palpebral disk, that is smaller than the eye; palpebrals 19; supraciliaries 5; well-developed pentadactyl limbs, that just fail to overlap or in some populations barely overlap, when adpressed; subdigital lamellae beneath 4th toe 18-26, smooth. It should be noted that variation in morphology suggests that this species may be composite. Lunney’s Litter Skink is oviparous, producing up to 4 eggs in a clutch, and occasionally 2 separate clutches may be laid in the one year - one during early summer, and the other at the end of summer. This species also practices communal laying behaviour at suitable sites, with aggregations of between 200 and 300 eggs sometimes being found. The diet comprises a range of small litter-dwelling invertebrates. It is protected under the New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Act (1974) but not listed in that State as a Threatened Species in any of the Schedules of the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act (1995). Also protected under the Victorian Wildlife Act (1975) [but not listed in Schedule 2 of the Victorian Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act (1988)], the SA National Parks and Wildlife Act (1972) and the ACT Nature Conservation Act (1980).

Swan’s Litter Skink
Lampropholis swani Wells and Wellington, 1985

Swan’s Litter Skink is another very common ground skink of cool temperate woodland habitats in eastern Australia. It is a diurnal, terrestrial species that forages amongst dry leaf-litter, particularly around the bases of trees and shelters underneath ground litter, beneath or inside rotting logs, amongst grass tussocks, in piles of rocks and in earth cracks. Its principal habitat is montane eucalypt woodland in association with granite outcroppings, and it is only known from the northern and central tablelands of New South Wales and parts of south-eastern Queensland. This is a somewhat smaller species than Lampropholis lunneyi, attaining a maximum total length of only around 90 mm., and a snout-vent length of about 35 mm. The dorsum may be pale olive-brown, metallic greenish-grey, greyish-brown, or dark greyish with the head being a pale coppery-brown in the breeding season. There is an obscure dark greyish-brown vertebral stripe that extends from the nape along the body and onto the tail. The rest of the dorsum of the body and original tail has indistinct black flecking, being most intense posteriorly; the flecking is particularly noticeable with immature specimens. Regenerated tails are just uniform brown. The upper lateral zone has a broad dark brown stripe, beginning on the canthus, and running along the body to the base of the tail. This upper lateral stripe is thinly bordered below by a white mid-lateral stripe. The lower lateral is much paler greenish-grey, with darker and paler flecking and gradually merging into the ventral colour of pale greenish, with indistinct darker flecking. Some significant features of this species' morphology are: body scales mostly smooth, in 28-30 rows at mid-body; paravertebrals 55; prefrontals in point contact; frontal in contact with first two supraoculars; frontoparietals fused; interparietal small and distinct; parietals in broad contact behind interparietal; supraoculars 4 (2nd the largest); rostral and frontonasal suture about as wide as the frontal; supralabials 7 (5th subocular); infralabials 7; ear opening present and conspicuous; lower eyelid movable, and with a palpebral disk, that is smaller than the eye; supraciliaries 7; well-developed pentadactyl limbs, that just fail to overlap or in some populations barely overlap, when adpressed; subdigital lamellae beneath 4th toe 18-24, smooth. As in all other species of Lampropholis, it is oviparous, producing up to 3 eggs in a clutch each year, and this species also practices communal laying behaviour at suitable sites. The diet comprises small invertebrates. Etymology: The specific name of ‘swani’ honours Victorian herpetologist, Mike Swan. Protected under the New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Act (1974) but not listed in that State as a Threatened Species in any of the Schedules of the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act (1995), and under the Queensland Nature Conservation Act (1992).

Adrasteia gen. nov.
[Type Species: Lampropholis coggeri Ingram, 1991 - Five new skinks from Queensland rainforests. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum, 30 (3): 443-453].
Diagnosis: A genus of small, oviparous, terrestrial and diurnal lizards of the family Scincidae, readily identified by the following combination of characters: body scales smooth (but the mid-dorsal scales with 3-4 weak striations in some), in 20-23 (usually 22) rows at mid-body (vs 25-30 [usually 26-28] in Ndurascincus, gen. nov. 22-31 [usually 27-28] in Lampropholis, and 30-32 [usually 30] in Helioscincus gen. nov.); paravertebrals 51-65; frontoparietals fused, in contact with 2nd, 3rd, or 2nd 3rd, 4th supraoculars; frontonasal in contact with rostral; interparietal small and distinct; parietals in contact behind interparietal; usually 2 or more enlarged nuchals; supraoculars 3-4; rostral-frontonasal suture wider than frontal; supralabials 6-7 (4th or 5th subocular); infralabials 6; ear opening present and conspicuous; lower eyelid movable, and with a palpebral disk, that is much smaller than the eye; presuboculars usually 1 (vs usually 2 in Ndurascincus gen. nov.); supraciliaries 5-7 (but usually 5, vs usually 6-7 in Lampropholis or usually 7 in both Helioscincus gen. nov. and Ndurascincus gen. nov.); small, but well-developed pentadactyl limbs, that are widely non-overlapping when adpressed (vs just overlapping or barely contacting in Lampropholis, and strongly overlapping in Ndurascincus gen. nov. and Helioscincus gen. nov. ); supradigital lamellae 8-11 (usually 9-11, vs usually 13-17 in Lampropholis or Helioscincus gen. nov.); subdigital lamellae beneath 4th toe 13-21, smooth (vs 20-26 in Ndurascincus gen. nov., 29-33 in Helioscincus gen. nov., and 20-30 in Lampropholis). Additional to the above combination of character states, in Adrasteia gen. nov. there is a higher average presacral vertebral number (28-31, vs usually about 27 in Lampropholis, or usually 26 in Ndurascincus gen. nov. and Helioscincus gen. nov.). The body-form in Adrasteia gen. nov. is accordingly much more elongate and the limbs smaller than in either Ndurascincus gen. nov., Lampropholis or Helioscincus gen. nov.. Content: Adrasteia amicula (Ingram and Rawlinson, 1981); Adrasteia caligula (Ingram and Rawlinson, 1981); Adrasteia elongata (Greer, 1997). Etymology: From the Greek 'Adrasteia', meaning 'the inevitable', a name by which the Greek Goddess of Destiny (Nemesis) was also known.



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