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Sphaerodactylus vincenti
(Saint Vincent dwarf gecko)

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Datasheet

Sphaerodactylus vincenti (Saint Vincent dwarf gecko)

Summary

  • Last modified
  • 22 November 2019
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Documented Species
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Sphaerodactylus vincenti
  • Preferred Common Name
  • Saint Vincent dwarf gecko
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Metazoa
  •     Phylum: Chordata
  •       Subphylum: Vertebrata
  •         Class: Reptilia
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • S. vincenti is a very small lizard native to Lesser Antillean islands including Dominica, Martinique, and Saint Vincent (King, 1962; ...

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Identity

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Sphaerodactylus vincenti Boulenger 1891

Preferred Common Name

  • Saint Vincent dwarf gecko

Other Scientific Names

  • Sphaerodactylus elegantulus Barbour 1917
  • Sphaerodactylus festus Barbour 1915

International Common Names

  • English: Central Lesser Antillean pygmy gecko; Central Lesser Antillean sphaero; small-scaled least gecko; Vincent's least gecko; Windward Islands dwarf gecko; Windward sphaero

Summary of Invasiveness

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S. vincenti is a very small lizard native to Lesser Antillean islands including Dominica, Martinique, and Saint Vincent (King, 1962; Schwartz, 1964; Schwartz and Henderson, 1985, 1991; Steinberg et al., 2008; Henderson and Powell, 2009; Henderson and Breuil, 2012). Daltry (2009) hypothesized that S. vincenti was introduced to Saint Lucia, but it may be no longer extant there (Henderson et al., 2016). S. vincenti preys on animals including fly larvae, lepidopterans and spiders (Steinberg et al., 2007). It is not currently regarded as invasive.

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Metazoa
  •         Phylum: Chordata
  •             Subphylum: Vertebrata
  •                 Class: Reptilia
  •                     Order: Sauria
  •                         Family: Gekkonidae
  •                             Genus: Sphaerodactylus
  •                                 Species: Sphaerodactylus vincenti

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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Sphaerodactylidae is one of the most diverse families of geckos, with over 100 currently recognized species distributed throughout the Caribbean, Central America and South America (King, 1962; Köhler, 2003; Gamble et al., 2008). Many species descriptions are based on colour patterns of one or a few specimens in the belief that this character varied little and that it was confined to a single island (e.g., Barbour, 1921); this resulted in widespread misapplication of taxonomic species names to species with similar colour patterns as well as multiplicity of named forms (e.g., King, 1962).

Parker (1933) first recorded S. vincenti (as ‘very similar to [S.] elegantulus’) after examining a single specimen collected on Saint Lucia in 1931. Barbour (1937) assigned this reported specimen to S. elegantulus and stated that it was ‘perhaps introduced’ on Saint Lucia, likely because only one individual was found. This gecko was later assigned to S. vincenti festus Barbour 1915 after King (1962) relegated festus to subspecific status. Schwartz (1964) revised Sphaerodactylus in the southern Windward Islands to include nine subspecies of S. vincenti; describing S. vincenti diamesus on Saint Lucia and placing previously known S. vincenti from the island in this subspecific taxon.

Recent phylogenetic analysis by Surget-Groba and Thorpe (2013) concludes that there are at least two species in the S. vincenti complex, having northern (north Martinique and Dominica) and southern (south Martinique, St Vincent, Grenadines and possibly St Lucia) clades with about 22% mean divergence. Surget-Groba and Thorpe (2013) recognize the northern form as S. festus. These authors consider the Grenadine litter gecko, S. kirbyi, as not warranting species status, and regard it as a junior synonym of S. vincenti. Henderson et al. (2016), however, report that this arrangement is considered unlikely to be correct by other workers on biogeographical grounds and maintain S. vincenti and S. kirbyi as separate species.

The specific epithet, vincenti, refers to the island of St. Vincent, the type-locality of the species (Steinberg et al., 2008).

Description

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S. vincenti is one of the largest known geckos in the genus. It can attain a total length up to ca. 40 mm in both sexes (Schwartz, 1964). It has small, keeled, granular dorsal scales; 29–64 dorsal scales from axilla to groin; smaller scales mid-dorsally; smooth and cycloid to keeled and acute ventral scales; 26–38 ventrals from axilla to groin; keeled, flat, imbricate and acute dorsal caudal scales; cycloid, imbricate ventral caudal scales with enlarged mid-ventral row; flat, keeled and juxtaposed snout scales; 1 postnasal; 0–3 internasals; 2–4 supralabials to mid-eye; weak to strongly keeled gular scales; smooth or keeled chest scales; 44–75 midbody scales; 3–11 x 18–36 escutcheon. Head with light to medium brown or yellow ground colour; variable dorsal pattern; sometimes sexually dichromatic, typically with either a pair of black-edged white ocelli or a nuchal bar or widely opened white or light brown V-shape (especially in juveniles); yellow to brown dorsal ground colour; light-coloured suprapostorbital lines joining near ocelli, but sometimes extending onto trunk; fusion of spots form white V-shape on pelvis; brown flecking on dorsum; sometimes dark brown marbled limbs; pale purplish, greyish pink, or light to medium brown to grey venter; uniform light brown, deep yellow to orange chin and throat, or with grey or brown bars or vermiculations; dark-edged with white dorsolateral spots or crossbars on tail; light brown to dull orange underside of tail; and brown, blue, blue-grey, or blueish-green iris (King, 1962; Schwartz, 1964; Schwartz and Henderson, 1991; Lazell, 1994; Steinberg et al., 2008). Maturity is at about 25 mm and can be reached at 19 months (Schwartz and Henderson, 1991).

Distribution

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S. vincenti is regarded by most authors as native to the Lesser Antillean islands of Dominica, Martinique, Saint Lucia and Saint Vincent (Parker, 1933; King, 1962; Schwartz, 1964; Schwartz and Henderson, 1985, 1991; Steinberg et al., 2008; Henderson and Powell, 2009; Henderson and Breuil, 2012).

Daltry (2009) provided two reasons to support the possibility first stated by Barbour (1937) that S. vincenti was introduced to Saint Lucia: (1) all known individuals (n = 6) were found on Vigie Beach in the north of the island (Schwartz, 1964); no individuals have been found elsewhere on the island despite a 20-day survey conducted between 2 February and 27 July 2009; and (2) an international airport is close to the ports of Castries and Vigie Beach, suggesting that Vigie is an obvious introduction site for invasions by alien species, which is further supported by the fact that the Vigie coast site had the highest number of invasive species of any site on the island. However, S. vincenti certainly could be native as it was found in the 1930s through the 1960s.

Having been recorded on St Lucia only among Coccoloba and Terminalia leaves on Vigie Beach, the apparent disappearance of this colony might be attributable to increased development and the practice of removing undergrowth and sweeping up fallen leaves. It has not been found in recent searches, and is thought to be no longer extant (Henderson et al., 2016).

The distribution of the species complex of S. vincenti depends on whether or not S. festus and S. kirbyi are treated as separate species. Surget-Groba and Thorpe (2013) apply the name S. festus to populations in northern Martinique and Dominica. These authors also consider S. kirbyi from Mustique in the Grenadines to be a junior synonym of S. vincenti, but this is not regarded as correct by other workers (Henderson et al., 2016).

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Last updated: 10 Jan 2020
Continent/Country/Region Distribution Last Reported Origin First Reported Invasive Reference Notes

North America

DominicaPresentNativeRegarded by Surget-Groba and Thorpe (2013) as S. festus
MartiniquePresent, WidespreadNative
Saint LuciaAbsent, Formerly present
Saint Vincent and the GrenadinesPresentNative

History of Introduction and Spread

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The ancestors of Lesser Antillean species in the genus Sphaerodactylus are believed to have immigrated naturally to the islands from continental South America, most likely by rafting (King, 1962).

Introductions

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Introduced toIntroduced fromYearReasonIntroduced byEstablished in wild throughReferencesNotes
Natural reproductionContinuous restocking
Saint Lucia 1930s No No Parker (1933); Schwartz (1964) Should be considered native unless data suggest otherwise

Risk of Introduction

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S. vincenti is a very small lizard species that utilizes extremely small microhabitats, that include refugia under loose bark of trees, under rocks and leaf litter and inside logs, so it could potentially be transferred to nonindigenous areas without being detected.

Habitat

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S. vincenti occurs in both xerophilic and mesophilic conditions; it inhabits rainforests, woodlands, bamboo groves in river bottoms, beaches, mangrove edges and human-modified habitats such as sugarcane fields and coconut and banana plantations (Schwartz and Henderson, 1991; Henderson and Powell, 2009). This species is typically found in leaf litter (Schwartz and Henderson, 1991; Köhler, 2003), under logs, rocks, cement and stumps, and in bromeliads 1-3 m above ground (Leclair, 1978; Krintler, 1986; Schwartz and Henderson, 1991; Malhotra and Thorpe, 1999; Steinberg et al., 2007; Breuil, 2009; Henderson and Powell, 2009).

Habitat List

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CategorySub-CategoryHabitatPresenceStatus
Terrestrial ManagedManaged forests, plantations and orchards Present, no further details Natural
Terrestrial ManagedDisturbed areas Present, no further details Natural
Terrestrial Natural / Semi-naturalNatural forests Present, no further details Natural
LittoralMangroves Present, no further details Natural

Biology and Ecology

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Genetics

Surget-Groba and Thorpe (2013) conducted phylogenetic analysis of 53 S. vincenti individuals sampled in Dominica, Martinique, St Vincent, Bequia and Mustique (no samples from Saint Lucia were used), and suggested there are at least two recognizable species in the Lesser Antilles due to a deep genetic split between the northern (north Martinique and Dominica) and southern (south Martinique, St Vincent, Grenadines and possibly St Lucia) lineages, with about 22% mean divergence. They assigned the northern populations to the separate species S. festus. The lizards in the Grenadines (Bequia and Mustique) are assigned to S. kirbyi by Hite et al. (2008).

Reproductive Biology

S. vincenti is reported to be mature at 25 mm snout-vent length (SVL) in 19 months. Newly-mature female S. vincenti begin laying eggs in September and reproduce thereafter. Eggs hatch after about 60 days (Leclair and Provencher, 1988; Schwartz and Henderson, 1991; Henderson and Powell, 2009).

Physiology and Phenology

Rate of water loss in S. vincenti has been reported at 7.68 mg/g/hr, with death occurring at weight loss of about 23.9% of the lizard's body mass (Leclair, 1978; Schwartz and Henderson, 1991; Henderson and Powell, 2009). Steinberg et al. (2007) found significant differences in mass-specific water-loss rates and body mass between conspecific populations at differing elevations, with larger geckos less resistant to water loss living in more mesic environments at higher elevations. Mass-specific water loss rates reported by Steinberg et al. (2007) were 13.55 mg/g/h at 350 m altitude and 7.63 mg/g/h at 75 m altitude (mean of males and females).

Both sexes have a high (62.3%) incidence of regenerated tails (Leclair and Provencher, 1988; Schwartz and Henderson, 1991; Henderson and Powell, 2009).

Activity Patterns

S. vincenti is crepuscular and nocturnal (Schwartz and Henderson, 1991; Henderson and Powell, 2009), but also active at times during the day (Steinberg et al., 2007). Males move longer distances than females. Marcum et al. (2008) categorized 23 types of behaviour.

Population Size and Structure

Population density in S. vincenti has been reported variously as 625–56,255 lizards/ha on Saint Vincent (Steinberg et al., 2007); 0.82 lizards/m2 with sex ratio of 6.1 (male:female) on Martinique, and as few as 1–2 lizards/m2, also on Martinique (Leclair and Provencher, 1988).

Nutrition

Studies on St. Vincent by Steinberg et al. (2007) suggest that S. vincenti is a dietary generalist that feeds on a variety of small arthropods primarily by day.

Environmental Requirements

All known S. vincenti on Saint Lucia have been found under leaves of Coccoloba and Terminalia on Vigie Beach (Schwartz, 1964); microhabitats similar to those of other species of Sphaerodactylus. On St Vincent, sites where most S. vincenti were found had extensive, relatively deep litter coverage, and were largely shaded, moist and cool (Steinberg et al., 2007).

Latitude/Altitude Ranges

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Latitude North (°N)Latitude South (°S)Altitude Lower (m)Altitude Upper (m)
15.6 13.1

Notes on Natural Enemies

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Possible predators of S. vincenti include mammals, birds, lizards and snakes.

Pathway Causes

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CauseNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
HitchhikerPossible invasion pathway by humans Yes Daltry (2009)
Nursery tradePossible invasion pathway by humans Yes Daltry (2009)

Pathway Vectors

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VectorNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Containers and packaging - woodPossible invasion pathway by humans Yes Daltry (2009)
Floating vegetation and debrisLikely pathway, thus native Yes King (1962)
Mulch, straw, baskets and sodPossible invasion pathway by humans Yes Daltry (2009)

Impact Summary

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CategoryImpact
Cultural/amenity Negative
Economic/livelihood Negative
Environment (generally) Negative
Human health Negative

Impact: Environmental

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Impact on Biodiversity

The main ecological impacts of S. vincenti are currently on native animals that may be consumed as prey, including fly larvae, lepidopterans and spiders (Steinberg et al., 2007). If introduced it may compete with native congeners.

Risk and Impact Factors

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Invasiveness
  • Abundant in its native range
  • Is a habitat generalist
  • Tolerant of shade
  • Capable of securing and ingesting a wide range of food
  • Fast growing
  • Gregarious
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Difficult to identify/detect as a commodity contaminant
  • Difficult to identify/detect in the field

Detection and Inspection

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This species is typically found in leaf litter and on St. Lucia has only been recorded in the north of the island among Coccoloba and Terminalia leaves on Vigie Beach. Surveying for Sphaerodactylus requires lots of time and effort peeling bark from trees, rolling logs and sifting through fallen leaves.

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

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On Saint Lucia, S. vincenti is distinguished from the native S. microlepis by having one scale behind each nostril, an enlarged central row of subcaudals, faint or absent dark neck band, but lacking both dark stripes on the throat and white eyespots behind the head (Daltry, 2009). It is best distinguished from its closest relative S. kirbyi by having much smaller scales, and having keeled gulars and rich head coloration lacking in S. kirbyi (Steinberg et al., 2008).

Gaps in Knowledge/Research Needs

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Very little is known about the natural history of S. vincenti. A phylogeographic study should be conducted to determine its phylogenetic position and make a scientific hypothesis regarding its status as native or nonnative in Saint Lucia. Because this species has not been recorded on Saint Lucia since being collected in 1963 by Schwartz (1964), (Daltry (2009) listed it as extinct, but should have listed it as extirpated since it is still found on other islands). Field surveys aimed specifically at this species should be conducted, since sphaerodactylines are very small cryptozoa that can be and have been overlooked, even after extensive sampling efforts (e.g., Krysko and King, 2002; Krysko and Sheehy, 2005).

References

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Barbour T, 1915. Recent notes regarding West Indian reptiles and amphibians. Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, 28:71-78.

Barbour T, 1921. Sphaerodactylus. Memoirs of the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard College, 47:217-278.

Barbour T, 1937. Third list of Antillean reptiles and amphibians. Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard College, 82:77-166.

Breuil M, 2009. The terrestrial herpetofauna of Martinique: Past, present, future. Applied Herpetology, 6:123-149.

Compton E, 2010. Status of Sigatoka control in the sub-region. Black Sigatoka Sub-Regional Workshop, Gros Islet, Saint Lucia, 26 March 2010.

Daltry JC, 2009. The status and management of Saint Lucia's forest reptiles and amphibians. Technical report no. 2 to the National Forest Demarcation and Bio-Physical Resource Inventory Project. Helsinki, Finland: FCG International Ltd, 129 pp.

Gamble T, Bauer AM, Greenbaum E, Jackman TR, 2008. Evidence for Gondwanan vicariance in an ancient clade of gecko lizards. Journal of Biogeography, 35:88-104.

Henderson RW, Breuil M, 2012. In: Powell R, Henderson RW, Eds. Lesser Antilles. Island lists of West Indian amphibians and reptiles. Bulletin of the Florida Museum of Natural History, 51:85-166.

Henderson RW, Powell R, 2009. Natural history of West Indian reptiles and amphibians. Gainesville, Florida, USA: University of Florida Press, 495 pp.

Henderson RW, Powell R, Dewynter M, 2016. Sphaerodactylus vincenti. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T82164818A71746898. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T82164818A71746898.en

Hite JL, Steinberg DS, Powell R, 2008. Sphaerodactylus kirbyi. Catalogue of American Amphibians and Reptiles. 852.1

King FW, 1962. Systematics of Lesser Antilliean lizards of the genus Sphaerodactylus. Bulletin of the Florida State Museum, Biological Sciences, 7:1-52.

Krintler K, 1986. Dominica: Herpetological gem of the Caribbean. (Dominica: Herpetologische Kleinod in der Karibik.) Herpetofauna, 8:26-30.

Krysko KL, King FW, 2002. The Ocellated Gecko (Sphaerodactylus argus argus) in the Florida Keys: An apparent case of an extirpated non-native species. Caribbean Journal of Science, 38:139-140.

Krysko KL, Sheehy CMIII, 2005. Ecological status of the ocellated gecko, Sphaerodactylus argus argus Gosse 1850, in Florida, with additional herpetological notes from the Florida Keys. Caribbean Journal of Science, 41:169-172.

Köhler G, 2003. Reptiles of Central America. Offenbach, Germany: Herpeton, 367 pp.

Lazell J, 1994. A new Sphaerodactylus (Sauria: Gekkonidae) from Bequia, Grenada Bank, Lesser Antilles. Breviora, 496:1-20.

Leclair Jr R, 1978. Water loss and microhabitats in three sympatric species of lizards (Reptilia, Lacertilia) from Martinique, West Indies. Journal of Herpetology, 12:177-182.

Leclair Jr R, Provencher G, 1988. Demographic traits of a small sphaerodactyline lizard from Martinique, West Indies. Program and Abstract, Combined Herpetology Meetings. 127-128.

Malhotra A, Thorpe RS, 1999. Reptiles and amphibians of the Eastern Caribbean. London, UK: Macmillan Education, 134 pp.

Marcum MA, Powell MA, Muensch AJ, Arnold HF, Powell R, 2008. Social behaviour of the dwarf gecko Sphaerodactylus vincenti vincenti on St. Vincent, Lesser Antilles., Salamandra, 44:15-22

Meshaka WE Jr, 2011. A runaway train in the making: the exotic amphibians, reptiles, turtles, and crocodilians of Florida. Herpetological Conservation and Biology, 6(Monograph 1):iii + 94 pp. http://herpconbio.org/Volume_6/Monographs/Meshaka_2011.pdf

Parker HW, 1933. Some amphibians and reptiles from the Lesser Antilles. Annals and Magazine of Natural History, 10:151-158.

Schwartz A, 1964. A review of Sphaerodactylus vincenti on the southern Windward Islands. Caribbean Journal of Science, 4:391-409.

Schwartz A, Henderson RW, 1985. A Guide to the Identification of the Amphibians and Reptiles of the West Indies Exclusive of Hispaniola. Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA: Milwaukee Public Museum, 165 pp.

Schwartz A, Henderson RW, 1991. West Indian Amphibians and Reptiles: Descriptions, Distributions, and Natural History. Gainesville, Florida, USA: University of Florida Press. xvi + 720 pp.

Steinberg DS, Hite JL, Powell R, Henderson RW, 2008. Sphaerodactylus vincenti. Catalogue of American Amphibians and Reptiles. 853.1

Steinberg DS, Powell SD, Powell R, Parmerlee Jr JS, Henderson RW, 2007. Populations densities, water-loss rates, and diets of Sphaerodactylus vincenti on St. Vincent, West Indies. Journal of Herpetology, 41:330-336.

Surget-Groba Y, Thorpe RS, 2013. A likelihood framework analysis of an island radiation: phylogeography of the Lesser Antillean gecko Sphaerodactylus vincenti, in comparison with the anole Anolis roquet. Journal of Biogeography, 40:105-116.

Distribution References

CABI, Undated. CABI Compendium: Status as determined by CABI editor. Wallingford, UK: CABI

Compton E, 2010. Status of Sigatoka control in the sub-region. In: Black Sigatoka Sub-Regional Workshop, Gros Islet, Saint Lucia:

Henderson RW, Breuil M, 2012. Island lists of West Indian amphibians and reptiles. In: Bulletin of the Florida Museum of Natural History, 51 [ed. by Powell R, Henderson RW]. 85-166.

Leclair Jr R, Provencher G, 1988. Demographic traits of a small sphaerodactyline lizard from Martinique, West Indies. In: Program and Abstract, Combined Herpetology Meetings, 127-128.

Parker HW, 1933. Some amphibians and reptiles from the Lesser Antilles. In: Annals and Magazine of Natural History, 10 151-158.

Schwartz A, 1964. A review of Sphaerodactylus vincenti on the southern Windward Islands. In: Caribbean Journal of Science, 4 391-409.

Steinberg DS, Powell SD, Powell R, Parmerlee Jr JS, Henderson RW, 2007. Populations densities, water-loss rates, and diets of Sphaerodactylus vincenti on St. Vincent, West Indies. In: Journal of Herpetology, 41 330-336.

Contributors

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27/02/14 Original text by:

Kenneth Krysko, University of Florida, USA

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