Research Article
Research Article
Distribution extension of Calotes irawadi Zug, Brown, Schulte & Vindum, 2006, previously confused with C. versicolor (Daudin, 1802): first record from China
expand article infoShuo Liu, Changsheng Zuo§, Dingqi Rao
‡ Kunming Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Kunming, China
§ Tongbiguan Provincial Natural Reserve Management and Protection Bureau, Yingjiang, China
Open Access


We report the first country record of Calotes irawadi, identified previously as C. versicolor, from China based on four specimens collected from Tongbiguan Nature Reserve, Western Yunnan, China. Morphologically, the specimens show good agreement with the original description of C. irawadi, and phylogenetically clustered with specimens (including holotype) of C. irawadi from Myanmar with strong support. This is also the first record of C. irawadi from outside Myanmar.

Key Words

Agamidae, lizard, mtDNA, Tongbiguan Nature Reserve, Western Yunnan


The agamid genus Calotes Cuvier, 1816 currently consists of 25 species (Uetz et al. 2021). Six of them are recorded in China, namely: C. emma Gray, 1845; C. jerdoni Günther, 1870; C. medogensis Zhao & Li, 1984; C. mystaceus Duméril & Bibron, 1837; C. paulus (Smith, 1935) and C. versicolor (Daudin, 1802) [Wang et al. 2020]. The Garden Fence Crested Lizard C. versicolor, an agamid lizard found commonly across the Indian subcontinent and the Indo-Chinese region, has a complicated taxonomic history because it was described without a locality (Matyot 2004; Gowande et al. 2016; Chaitanya et al. 2017). In China, C. versicolor is recorded from Guangdong, Hainan, and Yunnan provinces, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, and Guangxi Autonomous Region (Zhao et al. 1999; Yang and Rao 2008; Uetz et al. 2021). The Ayeyarwady Crested Lizard C. irawadi (Zug, Brown, Schulte & Vindum, 2006), a species which was separated from the C. versicolor complex, was previously only known from Myanmar (Zug et al. 2006; Uetz et al. 2021).

During our field surveys in Western Yunnan, China, from 2018 to 2020, some specimens of lizard previously confused with C. versicolor were collected from Tongbiguan Nature Reserve. Detailed morphological comparisons and molecular analysis indicated these specimens to be C. irawadi. Herein, we report this new record for China in detail.

Materials and methods

Field surveys were conducted in Tongbiguan Nature Reserve, Yingjiang County, Dehong Prefecture, Yunnan Province, China, under the permit of Tongbiguan Provincial Natural Reserve Management and Protection Bureau. The specimens that were collected, by the authors, were euthanized with ethyl acetate and then fixed in 75% ethanol for storage after taking photographs. Liver tissue samples were preserved in 99% ethanol for molecular analysis. The specimen was deposited at Kunming Natural History Museum of Zoology, Kunming Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences (KIZ), Yunnan, China.

Total genomic DNA was extracted from liver tissues with a universal protocol of DNA extraction (Aljanabi and Martinez 1997). A region of the mitochondrial gene NADH dehydrogenase subunit 2 (ND2) and its flanking tRNAs was amplified and sequenced by using the primers L3705 (5’-ATT AGG GTC TGC TAC ACA AGC AGT TGG-3’) and H5162 (5’-GGT TGA RAG TAR TCA TCG AGT TAA GAA CGAC-3’) (Huang et al. 2013). PCR was conducted as in Huang et al. (2013): an initial denaturing step at 95 ℃ for 4 min; 35 cycles of denaturing at 94 ℃ for 35 s, annealing at 65 ℃ for 45 s, and extending at 72 ℃ for 90 s; and a final extending step of 72 ℃ for 8 min. PCR products were electrophoresed in 0.8% agarose gels, visualized with ethidium bromide. The products were purified and sequenced by Invitrogen Trading (Shanghai) Co., Ltd, using the same primers as in PCR. All new sequences were deposited in GenBank. Draco blanfordii Boulenger, 1885; Pseudocalotes kakhienensis (Anderson, 1879) and Gonocephalus grandis (Gray, 1845) were chosen as outgroups based on Zug et al. (2006) and Giri et al. (2019). Homologous and outgroup sequences were obtained from GenBank (Table 1).

Table 1.

Sequences used for phylogenetic analysis.

Taxon Voucher no. Locality GenBank no.
Calotes calotes WHT 1679 Navinna, Galle, Sri Lanka AF128482
Calotes ceylonensis WHT 1624 Yodaganawa, Galle, Sri Lanka AF128483
Calotes chincollium CAS 220582 Kan Pelet, Min Dat, Chin, Myanmar DQ289458
Calotes chincollium CAS 215505 Sagaing, Myanmar DQ289459
Calotes emma MVZ 224102 Tam Dao NP, Vinh Phuc, Vietnam AF128489
Calotes htunwini USNM 524044 Chatthin WS, Sagaing, Myanmar DQ289461
Calotes htunwini CAS 204851 Mandalay, Myanmar DQ289462
Calotes htunwini USNM-GZ 36408 Magwe, Myanmar DQ289464
Calotes irawadi USNM 520543 Chatthin WS, Sagaing, Myanmar DQ289465
Calotes irawadi USNM-GZ 36709 Mandalay, Myanmar DQ289467
Calotes irawadi CAS 204862 Sagaing, Myanmar DQ289468
Calotes irawadi KIZ 059191 Yingjiang, Dehong, Yunnan, China MW591520
Calotes irawadi KIZ NB20180905 Yingjiang, Dehong, Yunnan, China MW591517
Calotes irawadi KIZ HBH20200913 Yingjiang, Dehong, Yunnan, China MW591519
Calotes irawadi KIZ HBH20200914 Yingjiang, Dehong, Yunnan, China MW591518
Calotes jerdoni CAS 219992 Nat Ma Taung NP, Chin, Myanmar GQ502783
Calotes liocephalus WHT1632 Kirimetiyakanda, Knuckles, Sri Lanka AF128484
Calotes liolepis WHT1808 Puwakpitiya, Knuckles, Sri Lanka AF128485
Calotes minor NCBS AQ035 Chotila, Saurashtra, India KT952396
Calotes minor CESG 162 Gujarat, Kutch, India KT952397
Calotes mystaceus CAS204848 Mandalay, Myanmar AF128488
Calotes nigrilabris WHT 1680 Sita Eliya, Galle, Sri Lanka AF128486
Calotes paulus NCBSAQ-AC696 Meghalaya, Cherrapunjee, India MK795773
Calotes cf. versicolor CAS 205008 Mwe Hauk, Ayeyarwadi, Myanmar DQ289469
Calotes cf. versicolor CAS 222606 Mudon, Mawlamyine, Mon, Myanmar DQ289472
Calotes cf. versicolor CAS 230481 Ywa-Ngan, Shan, Myanmar DQ289477
Calotes zolaiking NCBS-AU155 Mizoram, Hmuifang, India MK795774
Draco blanfordii MVZ 222156 Gia Lai, Vietnam AF128477
Gonocephalus grandis TNHC 56500 Ulu Gombak, Selangor, Malaysia AF128496
Pseudocalotes kakhienensis CAS 207492 Qushi, Baoshan, Yunnan, China GQ502784

Sequences were aligned using ClustalW (Thompson et al. 2002) with default parameters in Mega X (Kumar et al. 2018). The genetic distance (uncorrected p-distance) between species was calculated in Mega X (Kumar et al. 2018) with pairwise deletions of missing data and gaps. The substitution model GTR+G was used according to Giri et al. (2019). Bayesian Inference (BI) was performed in MrBayes v3.2.6 (Ronquist et al. 2012). Two runs were performed simultaneously with four Markov chains starting from the random tree. The chains were run for 1 000 000 generations and sampled every 100 generations. The first 25% of the sampled trees were discarded as burn-in after the standard deviation of split frequencies of the two runs was less than 0.01. The remaining trees were then used to create a consensus tree and to estimate Bayesian posterior probabilities. Maximum Likelihood (ML) analysis was performed in RaxmlGUI 1.5 (Silvestro and Michalak 2012) and nodal support values were estimated by 1,000 rapid bootstrap replicates.

Measurements were taken with a digital caliper to the nearest 0.1 mm, except tail length (TL) which was measured using a string and a ruler. Morphological terminology followed Zug et al. (2006). Morphometric characters included: Eye-ear length (EyeEar, distance from anterior edge of tympanum to posterior of orbit); Head height (HeadH, dorsoventral distance from top of head to underside of jay at transverse plane intersecting angle of jaws); Head length (HeadL, distance from anterior edge of tympanum to tip of snout); Head width (HeadW, distance from left to right outer edge of temporal or jaw muscles at their widest point without compression of soft tissue); Interorbital width (Interorb, transverse distance between anterodorsal corners of left and right orbits); Jaw width (JawW, distance from left to right outer edge of jaw angles: this measurement excludes jaw musculature broadening of head); Naris-eye length (NarEye, distance from anterior edge of orbit to posterior edge of naris); Snout-eye length (SnEye, distance from anterior edge of orbit to tip of snout); Snout width (SnW, transverse distance between left and right nares); 4th finger (4FingLng, distance from juncture of 3rd and 4th digits to distalmost extent of 4th finger); 4th toe (4ToeLng, distance from juncture of 3rd and 4th digits to distal end of 4th digit on hindfoot); Crus length (CrusL, length of crus from knee to heel); Forefoot length (ForefL, distance from proximal end of forefoot to tip of fourth digit); Hindfoot length (HindfL, distance from proximal end of hindfoot to distalmost surface of fourth toe); Lower arm length (LoArmL, distance from elbow to distal end of wrist); Pectoral width (PectW, distance between left and right axilla, posterior to forelimb insertions, measured on ventral side); Pelvic width (PelvW, distance between left and right inguen, posterior to hindlimb insertions); Snout-vent length (SVL); Snout-forelimb length (SnForel, distance from anterior of forelimb to tip of snout); Tail height (TailH, distance from dorsal to ventral surface of tail base measured just posterior to vent); Tail length (TailL, distance from vent to distal end of tail); Tail width (TailW, distance from left to right side of tail base just posterior to vent); Trunk length (TrunkL, distance between posterior edge of forelimb insertion to anterior edge of hindlimb insertion); Upper arm length (UparmL, distance from anterior insertion of forelimb to elbow); Upper leg length (UplegL, distance from anterior edge of hindlimb insertion to knee). Meristic characters included: Canthus rostralis (CanthR, number of elongate scales along dorsolateral snout ridge from above posterodorsal corner of nasal scale to and including posterior most supraciliary scale); Intralabials (Inflab, posterior end defined by posteriormost enlarged scales that touches with Supralabials at rear corner of mouth); Snout scales (Sns, number of scales on line transversally between left and right nasal scales); Supralabials (Suplab, posterior end defined by posteriormost enlarged scales that touches Intralabials at rear corner of mouth); Forefoot lamellae (4FingLm, number of 4th digit lamellae, from 1st lamella at digits’ cleft that is wider than deep and touches dorsal digital scale to most distal lamella, the fragmented proximal scales are excluded); Hindfoot lamellae (4ToeLm, as for 4FingLm); Dorsal scales or spines (Dorsal, number of middorsal scales, beginning with first enlarged spine-like scale on nape to above vent); Midbody scale rows (Midbody, number of scale rows around trunk at midbody). Other abbreviations are: NR: Nature Reserve, NP: National Park, WS: Wildlife Sanctuary.


BI and ML analyses shows the same topology, consistent with that of Zug et al. (2006) and Giri et al. (2019). The specimens collected from Tongbiguan NR, Western Yunnan, China, clustered with Calotes irawadi from Myanmar (including holotype); this was strongly supported by both BI and ML (Fig. 1). The genetic distance (uncorrected p-distance) between species within the genus ranged from 5.33% to 38.02% and the genetic distance (uncorrected p-distance) between the specimens from China and C. irawadi from Myanmar (including holotype) was 1.58% (Table 2). Furthermore, morphological characters of the specimens from China agreed with the original description of C. irawadi by Zug et al. (2006). Therefore, we considered that the specimens from Western Yunnan, China belong to C. irawadi.

Table 2.

Genetic uncorrected p-distances (%) based on the mtDNA ND2 sequences and its flanking tRNAs.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18
1 Calotes calotes
2 Calotes ceylonensis 19.81
3 Calotes chincollium 25.65 27.94
4 Calotes emma 27.44 28.54 10.43
5 Calotes htunwini 14.93 21.45 24.54 26.30
6 Calotes irawadi (China) 16.53 22.71 28.24 28.63 18.30
7 Calotes irawadi (Myanmar) 16.34 20.94 27.16 27.27 18.02 1.58
8 Calotes jerdoni 20.75 23.76 27.00 25.41 23.65 23.58 22.65
9 Calotes liocephalus 19.66 19.07 26.97 28.53 21.85 21.94 21.31 23.27
10 Calotes liolepis 20.53 20.26 29.12 29.92 22.99 23.36 22.17 25.40 19.82
11 Calotes minor 25.64 31.16 31.80 32.51 27.95 24.99 25.23 24.54 26.19 28.98
12 Calotes mystaceus 26.73 27.99 22.67 24.03 26.01 30.59 29.10 29.41 27.57 26.88 31.42
13 Calotes nigrilabris 17.77 15.77 25.15 26.27 19.44 19.90 18.90 24.20 17.11 12.42 26.47 25.04
14 Calotes paulus 31.24 33.31 33.19 33.06 34.88 35.83 35.71 29.31 32.97 32.20 32.55 31.61 32.02
15 Calotes cf. versicolor 15.02 21.62 26.63 28.25 17.83 5.72 5.33 22.38 21.29 23.17 24.57 29.03 19.96 34.55
16 Calotes zolaiking 33.29 37.38 35.51 35.42 38.02 37.85 37.62 32.82 34.39 35.98 34.36 34.77 36.90 13.81 36.07
17 Draco blanfordii 44.95 47.25 45.42 46.00 45.83 46.77 43.63 45.47 46.09 50.20 52.90 48.20 45.23 55.96 43.28 57.59
18 Gonocephalus grandis 38.74 46.58 44.05 45.14 41.25 44.50 41.92 42.77 44.90 44.85 49.07 44.17 44.03 54.79 42.59 58.46 51.64
19 Pseudocalotes kakhienensis 36.21 40.62 37.77 37.70 38.11 43.70 39.31 36.96 39.82 41.21 44.27 37.50 39.40 45.62 39.13 49.11 45.19 38.82
Figure 1. 

Bayesian Inference tree based on mtDNA sequences of ND2 and its flanking tRNAs. Numbers before slashes indicate Bayesian posterior probabilities (> 0.9) and numbers after slashes indicate bootstrap support for Maximum Likelihood analyses (> 70).

Taxonomic account

Calotes irawadi Zug, Brown, Schulte & Vindum, 2006

Figs 2, 3A, B Suggested Chinese name: 实皆树蜥 (Wei et al. 2017)

Specimens examined

KIZ 059191 (juvenile) and KIZ NB20180905 (adult male) collected by Shuo Liu on 5 September 2018 from Tongbiguan NR, Nabang Town, Yingjiang County, Dehong Prefecture, Yunnan Province, China (24°45'47"N, 97°34'15"E; at an elevation of 320 m); KIZ HBH20200913 (adult female) and KIZ HBH20200914 (juvenile) collected by Shuo Liu on 13 and 14 September 2020 (respectively) from Tongbiguan NR, Xueli Village, Taiping Town, Yingjiang County, Dehong Prefecture, Yunnan Province, China (24°26'32"N, 97°33'4"E; at an elevation of 350 m).

Morphological description

Morphometric and meristic data are presented in Table 3. Head is triangular and distinct from neck; snout-tip blunt; head behind eyes with edges slightly bowed outward by jaw muscles but edges largely parallel; sides of head flat; dorsally head scales are variable in size and smooth surfaced, most equivalent in size to dorsal trunk scales; 6–7 scales on line transversally between left and right nasal scales; 8–9 elongate and sharply folded scales along dorsolateral snout ridge from above posterodorsal corner of nasal scale to and including the posterior most supraciliary scale; rostral equivalent to the supralabials in height; supralabials 11; laterally head with single large nasal scale on each side abutting rostral; loreal and preocular area with small scales. The tympanum is large and naked with a pair of spines or clusters in supratympanum area; medially the chin throat scales triangular and smooth to lightly keeled; mental triangular; intralabials 9–10.

Table 3.

Measurements (in mm) and scalation data for the specimens of Calotes irawadi collected from China. For character abbreviations see Materials and methods. Paired meristic characters were made on the left side.

KIZ 059191 Juvenile KIZ NB20180905 Male KIZ HBH20200913 Female KIZ HBH20200914 Juvenile
EyeEar 3.1 5.2 4.5 2.5
HeadH 8.6 13.8 12.8 8.2
HeadL 12.3 20.6 18.1 12.1
HeadW 8.8 14.2 13.7 9.0
Interorb 6.3 9.4 8.7 5.7
JawW 8.3 14.7 14.1 8.2
NarEye 2.2 4.7 4.5 2.3
SnEye 5.4 8.6 8.8 5.3
SnW 3.5 5.4 5.2 3.6
4FingLng 7.3 11.5 12.0 7.5
4ToeLng 11.1 17.2 16.1 11.3
CrusL 11.7 19.9 18.4 11.8
ForefL 9.8 16.6 14.5 10.3
HindfL 18.6 28.5 25.8 18.8
LoArmL 9.2 15.7 13.4 8.8
PectW 6.4 11.5 11.4 6.9
PelvW 4.2 8.5 6.9 4.1
SVL 49.3 86.3 80.5 47.8
SnForel 17.9 32.3 28.3 17.2
TailH 4.8 10.5 8.8 4.6
TailL 135.3 260.0 161.5+ 148.9
TailW 4.7 9.4 7.8 4.5
TrunkL 30.6 51.4 49.0 29.5
UparmL 10.5 18.2 16.4 10.3
UplegL 12.4 22.1 17.3 11.9
CanthR 8 9 8 9
Inflab 9 10 10 10
Sns 7 6 7 6
Suplab 11 11 11 11
4FingLm 21 19 23 22
4ToeLm 24 23 25 25
Dorsal 44 46 53 47
Midbody 38 41 46 43

Trunk scalation generally keeled dorsally and laterally; middorsal crest of elongate scales; the dorsal spines scales are blade-like and laterally compressed; 44–53 middorsal scales, 38–46 scale rows around trunk at midbody, all trunk scales are keeled, weakly so on ventrolateral half of neck and trunk. Keel and scale orientation are diagonally upward from neck and supra-axillary area to base of tail; preaxillary scales mostly smooth; ventral scales large and uniform in size from throat to vent and strongly keeled.

Limbs have modest to large scales, all keeled; 19–23 lamellae on fourth finger and 23–25 lamellae on fourth toe; each finger and toe with strongly bicarinate lamellae ventrally, whilst claws are long, thin and sharply pointed on all digits.

Tail length is 2.7–3.1 times of SVL; tail scalation similar to trunk although more strongly keeled with progressive loss of scale rows distally.


These lizards have a very clear ability to change their body colors. In life, body color varies from yellowish white to almost wholly black with or without dark or light stripes (Fig. 3A, B). In preservative, the dorsal color is dark brown with some indistinct black or white stripes; the ventral color is white with some black stripes (Fig. 2B).

Figure 2. 

The specimens of Calotes irawadi from Tongbiguan NR, Western Yunnan, China in preservative. A. Dorsal view; B. Ventral view.

Sexual dimorphism

The width of the base of tail in adult males is significantly thicker than that in adult females, except for this, there is little difference in morphological characters between females and males, and there is little difference in body color between males and females during the nonbreeding season. It is difficult to distinguish the gender of the juveniles in appearance.

Ecological notes

The specimens from Nabang Town and from Hongbenghe were found on the sides of a small road (Fig. 3C) near a village and on the sides of a big road (Fig. 3D), respectively. Specimens were collected during both the day and night. They were active on the trunks near the ground during the day, and asleep on the higher branches at night. Reproductive behavior was not observed.

Figure 3. 

Calotes irawadi in life and its habitats. A. Adult male (KIZ NB20180905) from Nabang Town, Yingjiang County, Dehong Prefecture, Yunnan Province, China; B. Adult female (KIZ HBH20200913) from Xueli Village, Taiping Town, Yingjiang County, Dehong Prefecture, Yunnan Province, China; C. Habitat at Nabang Town, Yingjiang County, Dehong Prefecture, Yunnan Province, China; D. Habitat at Xueli Village, Taiping Town, Yingjiang County, Dehong Prefecture, Yunnan Province, China.


In Yunnan Province, China, Calotes versicolor was recorded from Wenshan Prefecture, Dehong Prefecture, Nujiang Prefecture, Baoshan City, Dali Prefecture, Pu’er City, and Xishuangbanna Prefecture (Zhao et al. 1999; Yang and Rao 2008). After many years of field surveys in Yunnan and examinations of related specimens, we have never found C. versicolor in Xishuangbanna and the specimens that were identified as C. versicolor collected from Xishuangbanna are actually C. emma. Therefore, we consider the record of C. versicolor from Xishuangbanna as probably incorrect. Additionally, during surveys, we found that the lizards previously identified as C. versicolor from Eastern Yunnan (Wenshan Prefecture) and Western Yunnan (Dehong Prefecture), belong to two different species. Based on morphological comparisons and molecular analyses, we found that the species previously identified as C. versicolor from Dehong Prefecture is actually C. irawadi. As for the species distributed in Nujiang Prefecture, Baoshan City, Dali Prefecture, and Pu’er City, because we have not collected specimens from these places yet, whether they also belong to C. irawadi remains unknown.

Calotes irawadi was known previously only from the Central Dry Zone in Sagaing, Magwe, Mandalay divisions of Myanmar (Zug et al. 2006). This is the first record of C. irawadi from China and from outside of Myanmar. The new localities in China are approximately 210–240 km away from the type locality in Myanmar (Fig. 4). Our work brings the total species number of the genus Calotes in China to seven.

Figure 4. 

Collection sites of Calotes irawadi in China (green dot and blue dot), the type locality (red dot), and other locations (black dots) of C. irawadi recorded in Myanmar.


We would like to thank Decai Ouyang and Lei Ouyang for assistance in the field. Thanks to Hong Hui for providing photos. Thanks also to our colleagues for their help and advice. We also thank the reviewers for their valuable comments on the manuscript. This work was supported by Science-Technology Basic Condition Platform from the Ministry of Science and Technology of the People’s Republic of China (Grant No. 2005DKA21402).


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