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Acanthophis antarcticus (SHAW, 1802)

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Higher TaxaElapidae (Hydrophiinae), Alethinophidia, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes) 
SubspeciesAcanthophis antarcticus antarcticus (SHAW 1794)
Acanthophis antarcticus schistos WELLS & WELLINGTON 1985 
Common NamesE: Common death adder
G: Todesotter 
SynonymBoa antarctica SHAW & NODDER 1802: pl. 535
Acanthophis cerastinus DAUDIN 1803: 289
Acanthophis brownii LEACH 1814: 12
Boa ambigua LEACH 1814: 12 (nomen nudum)
Ophryas acanthophis MERREM 1820: 147
Vipera acanthophis SCHLEGEL 1837: 605
Vipera sorda SALVADO 1851: 48
Acanthophis cerastinus — DUMÉRIL & BIBRON 1854: 1389
Acanthophis cerastinus — GÜNTHER 1863: 398
Boa aculeata BOULENGER 1896: 356 (nomen nudum)
Acanthophis antarcticus — WERNER 1899
Acanthophis antarcticus — DE ROOIJ 1917: 272
Acanthophis antarcticus — COGGER 1983: 217
Acanthophis antarcticus — COGGER 2000: 632
Acanthophis antarcticus cliffrosswellingtoni HOSER 2002 (see comment)
Acanthophis antarcticus — WALLACH et al. 2014: 3

Acanthophis antarcticus schistos WELLS & WELLINGTON 1985
Acanthophis schistos — WELLS 2002 
DistributionAustralia (New South Wales, Northern Territory, Queensland, South Australia, Victoria, Western Australia),
Papua New Guinea

woolfi: Australia (NW Queensland); Type locality: Mt Isa Area’, Queensland.

Type locality: Australasia [Boa antarctica]
Type locality: unknown [Acanthophis cerastinus]
Type locality: from Sydney (as Port Jackson), N. S. W. [Acanthophis brownii]
Type locality: Australia [Ophryas acanthophis]
Type locality: Australia [Vipera sorda] Map legend:
TDWG region - Region according to the TDWG standard, not a precise distribution map.

NOTE: TDWG regions are generated automatically from the text in the distribution field and not in every cases it works well. We are working on it.
TypesHolotype: presumed lost (Boa antarctica)
Holotype: presumed lost [Acanthophis cerastinus]
Holotype: presumed lost [Acanthophis brownii]
Holotype: presumed lost [Ophryas acanthophis]
Holotype: unknown [Vipera sorda]
Holotype: Queensland Museum ‘R61449’ [woolfi] 
CommentThe systematics of this genus requires urgent revision. Several undescribed species are likely to be present, particularly in New Guinea.

Type species: Acanthophis cerastinus DAUDIN 1803 is the type species of the genus Acanthophis DAUDIN 1803.

Diagnosis (genus). Species assigned to the genus Acanthophis are moderately large, stout terrestrial elapid species most similar to vipers (Viperidae) from other continents. Species within the genus have distinctive wide and stout heads anterior to a defined narrowing forebody that rapidly broadens to the widest point towards midbody. Tail slender, distal portion laterally compressed terminating in a tail spine [Maddock et al. 2015].

Subspecies: Acanthophis antarcticus laevis (MACLEAY 1878) and Acanthophis antarcticus rugosus LOVERIDGE 1948 have been elevated to species status.

Synonymy mostly after COGGER 1983. Acanthophis antarcticus cliffrosswelingtoni HOSER 2002 maybe synonymous to A. antarcticus (W. WÜSTER, pers. comm., 15 Dec 2010). Kaiser et al. 2013 considered the subpecies Acanthophis antarcticus cliffrosswelingtoni HOSER 2002 and the genus Aggressiserpens WELLS 2002 invalid and rejected them.

Note that the date of SHAW & NODDER’s publication (1794) cited by Boulenger (1896) and subsequent authors is in error fide SHERBORN (1895) [cited in COGGER 1983]. The correct publication year is 1802.

EtymologyFrom the Greek words acanthi meaning ‘spine’ and ophis meaning ‘snake’, in reference to the terminal tail spine present on species within the genus. 
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  • Cogger, H. G. 2014. Reptiles and Amphibians of Australia, 7th ed. CSIRO Publishing, xxx + 1033 pp.
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  • Hoser, Raymond 1998. Colour change in death adders (Acanthophis antarcticus) and other reptiles. Monitor 10 (1): 4; 31 - get paper here
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  • Mackay, W. J. 1889. The osteology and myology of the death adder (Acanthophis antarctica). Proc. Linn. Soc. N. S. W. (2) 4: 896-986 - get paper here
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