The herpetofauna of the Orange Free State : with special emphasis on biogeographical patterning.
The taxonomic status, distribution and ecology of the herpetofauna of the Orange Free State are discussed, based on the examination of 10 096 specimens housed in various southern African museums. The majority of specimens were collected during the years 1972 - 1978 and 1983 - 1992, and are housed at the National Museum, Bloemfontein. A total of 25 amphibian and 95 reptilian (one translocated species) forms have been determined as occurring in the Orange Free State, 12 (three amphibians, nine reptiles) of which are new (or recently published) records for the province. An additional 10 amphibian and 28 reptilian forms have been determined as occurring nearby but extralimitally to the O.F.S., and several of these forms are expected to occur in the province. New distributional records have resulted in the amendment of the ranges of several species. Detailed taxonomic data on new material, including rare species, have been given. Some problem areas in the taxonomy of O.F.S. taxa have been higlighted. An analysis of habit utilization indicated that 84,0% of amphibians and 61,1% of reptiles are terricolous, whereas up to 21,5% of reptiles are rupicolous. The majority of snakes (72,2%) are terrestrial in habits, but 13,9% are fossorial. More than half of all lizards (52,8%) are terrestrial, although 34,6% are rupicolous. A total of six amphibian and 27 reptile forms utilize inactive termitaria as a microhabitat, including several basically terrestrial forms. Snake forms were particularly well represented in termitaria, 60,6% of all forms known from the O.F.S. having been recorded from inactive termitaria. General features of the ecology of O.F.S. amphibians and reptiles have also been discussed. The biogeographical analysis indicated that O.F.S. amphibian forms can be classified into one of nine range clusters (common patterns of distribution), and reptiles into 13 such cluster groups. By testing these classifications by means of a transect through the northern O.F.S. (from eastern to western borders), it was determined that a fairly distinct east-west subtraction of amphibian and reptilian species and subspecies occurs in the O.F.S. Clustering of range boundaries and high species and subspecies diversity at the western and eastern ends of the transect zone suggest dynamic biogeographical situations occurring in those areas - the western group being associated with the transition from grassland to bushveld, and the eastern group associated with the transition from Highveld Grassland to Drakensberg Mountains. The general eastern and western groupings of taxa appear to be associated with the cooler, wetter and mountainous east vs the warmer, drier and lower-lying west, respectively. Despite a great deal of collecting having been conducted in the O.F.S. from 1972 to 1992, an analysis of the number of taxa collected in each quarter-degree unit in the O.F.S. indicated that additional collecting would be required in order to conduct effectively a mathematically-based biogeographical analysis.