Taxonomy and conservation of Grassland Earless Dragons (Agamidae: Tympanocryptis): documenting new species and an assessment of the first possible extinction of a reptile in Australia.
Taxonomic research is of fundamental importance in conservation management of threatened species, providing an understanding of species diversity on which management plans are based. The Grassland Earless Dragon lizards (Agamidae: Tympanocryptis) of south-eastern Australia have long been of conservation concern but there have been ongoing taxonomic uncertainties. We provide a comprehensive taxonomic review of this group, integrating multiple lines of evidence, including phylogeography (mtDNA), phylogenomics (SNPs), external morphology and micro x-ray CT scans. Based on these data we assign the lectotype of T. lineata to the Canberra region, restrict the distribution of T. pinguicolla to Victoria and name two new species: T. osbornei sp. nov. (Cooma) and T. mccartneyi sp. nov. (Bathurst). Our results have significant conservation implications. Of particular concern is T. pinguicolla, with the last confirmed record in 1967, raising the possibility of the first extinction of a reptile on mainland Australia. We emphasise the urgent need for continued intensive surveys to locate any remaining populations of T. pinguicolla, plus a full revision of conservation management plans for all the Grassland Earless Dragons.