A previous genetic study of the California legless lizard (Anniella pulchra) revealed five deep genetic lineages and alluded to morphological differences among them. Here we show that three of these genetic lineages can be readily diagnosed from topotypic A. pulchra through a combination of coloration, scalation, and skeletal characters (trunk vertebra number). A fourth lineage is cryptic, but can be diagnosed from A. pulchra by its karyotype. We argue that these genetic clades of A. pulchra are strong candidates for species recognition because they exhibit properties that corroborate the DNA evidence for lineage separation. We therefore hypothesize that each of the five genetic clades of A. pulchra (“Anniella clades A–E”) are distinct species and so describe four new species (Anniella alexanderae, sp. nov., Anniella campi, sp. nov., Anniella grinnelli, sp. nov., and Anniella stebbinsi, sp. nov.). In naming these new species we have chosen to honor four natural historians whose contributions to the study of California's vertebrate biodiversity are an ongoing inspiration for students of natural history and natural history museum curators. Two of these new species have small and poorly characterized ranges in the San Joaquin Valley and Carrizo Plain (A. alexanderae and A. grinnelli). A third restricted-range species (A. campi) is known from just three sites in the eastern Sierra Nevada. The fourth new species (A. stebbinsi) is a wide-ranging cryptic lineage that occurs throughout Southern California and into Baja California, Mexico. The limited distribution and fragile habitats occupied by the new species of Anniella warrant additional scientific research and conservation attention.
Vol. 536 • No. 1
Vol. 536 • No. 1