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Aspidura desilvai WICKRAMASINGHE, BANDARA, VIDANAPATHIRANA & WICKRAMASINGHE, 2019

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Higher TaxaColubridae (Natricinae), Colubroidea, Caenophidia, Alethinophidia, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes) 
Subspecies 
Common NamesSinhala: desilvage madilla
E: de Silva’s Rough-Side Snake 
SynonymAspidura desilvai WICKRAMASINGHE, BANDARA, VIDANAPATHIRANA & WICKRAMASINGHE 2019 
DistributionSri Lanka (Central Province), elevation 995 - 1700 m

Type locality: Riverstone, Knuckles, Matale District, Central Province, Sri Lanka (07°31’39” N, 80°44’01” E, elevation 1420 m).  
Reproduction 
TypesHolotype: NMSL NH 2019.01.02, adult male, 168 mm SVL (Figure 2). Collected by L.J.M.W and D.R.V. on 07 July 2018.
Paratypes. NMSL-NH 2019.01.01, adult female, 208 mm SVL, from Panwila in Knuckles Mountain Range, Kandy District, Central Province in Sri Lanka (07o22'00.36’’ N, 080o41'00.10’’ E, elevation 995 m). Collected by L.J.M.W and I.N.B. on 13 March 2011; DWC 2019.05.01, adult female, 157 mm SVL, from Dotulugala, Knuckles Mountain Range, Kandy District, Central Province, Sri Lanka (07o27'00.30” N, 080o45'00.20” E, elevation 1700 m). Collected by L.J.M.W and I.N.B. on 17 March 2011; DWC 2019.05.02, juvenile male, 93 mm SVL, from Gombaniya Mountain, Knuckles Mountain Range, Matale District, Central Province, Sri Lanka (07o27'51.76’’ N, 080o45'51.79’’ E, elevation 1375 m). Collected by L.J.M.W and I.N.B. on 13 March 2011. 
DiagnosisDiagnosis. SVL 94–216 mm; snout to eye distance 2.5 times the eye width (SE/EW); prefrontals touching eye; preocular small, does not touch supraocular; postoculars 2, lower one larger than the upper; temporal 1+2/1+2; supralabials 6/6, 4th touching eye; infralabials 6/6, first pair in contact, progressively increasing in size from 1st to 6th; anterior chin shields 2, large, touching 1–4 infralabials; posterior chin shields 2, anterior half in contact while the posterior half separated by 1st ventral; ventrals 124–139; subcaudals 16–29; dorsal scale rows 15–15–15; laterally spine like tubercles present on two scale rows nearest to the subcaudals of the ischiadic, anal and tail base regions in adult males, feeble in juvenile males, and absent in females; entire dorsum brown colour, much paler towards anterior; three irregular dotted lines on dorsum.

Comparison. The new species was compared with all known congeners of the genus Aspidura and the species most closely resembles A. ravanai, and A. trachyprocta, due to the following combination of characters: one preocular, two postoculars, 1+2 temporals, supralabials 6, 4th supralabial in contact with the eye, infralabials 6, coastals 15, single cloacal scale, and overlapping ventral and subcaudal counts, but can easily be distinguished by the following morphological characters: from A. ravanai: entire dorsum brown colour, much paler towards anterior and each scale having tiny dark spots in Aspidura desilvai sp. nov. (vs. entire dorsum jet black in Aspidura ravanai), ventrolaterally darker region which constitutes of irregular longitudinal dotted lines (vs. ventrolaterally an irregular longitudinal yellow stripe), laterally prominent spine like tubercles present on two scale rows nearest to the subcaudals, and its protrusion reducing towards upper scale rows (vs. entire coastal rows coarsely keeled, with 1–3 peaks on each scale) in males (Figures 4 & 10A–C), entire coastal rows of the ischiadic, anal and tail base regions smooth (vs. feebly keeled) in females, snout to eye distance about 2.5 times its eye width (vs. 3.2 times in A. ravanai) (Figures 3 & 10D–E); from Aspidura trachyprocta: entire dorsum brown colour, much paler towards anterior and each scale having tiny dark spots in A. desilvai sp. nov. (vs. reddish-yellow to brown with a longitudinal black stripe on mid dorsum in Aspidura trachyprocta), ventrolaterally darker region which constitutes of irregular longitudinal dotted lines (vs. black stripe), laterally prominent spine like tubercles present on two scale rows nearest to the subcaudals, and its protrusion reducing towards upper scale rows (vs. bulging spine like tubercles prominent laterally which reduces towards dorsum) of the ischiadic, anal and tail base regions in males (Figures 4 & 11A–C), entire coastal rows of the ischiadic, anal and tail base regions smooth (vs. feebly keeled) in females, snout to eye distance about 2.5 times its eye width (vs. twice in A. trachyprocta) (Figures 3 & 11D–E); from A. brachyorrhos Boie, 1827, by having 15 coastals (vs. 17), preocular not in contact with supraocular (vs. contact), prefrontal contact with eye (vs. separate), single subcaudals (vs. paired); from A. copei Günther, 1864 by having coastals 15 (vs. 17), single subcaudals (vs. paired), single preocular (vs. absent); from A. deraniyagalae Gans & Fetcho, 1982 by having 15 coastals (vs. 17), ventrals 124–139 (vs. 117–122), single subcaudals (vs. paired); from A. drummondhayi Boulenger, 1904, by having single subcaudals (vs. paired), single preocular (vs. absent); from A. guentheri Ferguson, 1876 by having 15 coastals (vs. 17), ventrals 124–139 (vs. 100–127); from A. ceylonensis (Günther, 1858), by prefrontal touching eye (vs. not touching eye), preocular does not touch supraocular (vs. touches), lower postocular larger than the upper (vs. vise versa), mid body coastals not keeled (vs. coarsely keeled). 
CommentSympatry: A. brachyorrhos

Similar species: Aspidura ravanai and A. trachyprocta

Habitat: Commonly observed under leaf litter and loose soil while they were also observed under rocks, boulders, and decaying logs.

Behavior: Individuals come out to the surface during the day time. 
EtymologyThe species is named in honor of Pilippu Hewa Don Hemasiri de Silva (Dr. P. H. D. H. de Silva), a former Director (1965-1981) of the National Museums of Sri Lanka. In recognition of his tireless services to the country, while in service and through his many publications specially as the author of the book titled “Snake Fauna of Sri Lanka, with special reference to skull, dentition and venom in snakes”. The species epithet desilvai is a noun in the genitive case. 
References
  • WICKRAMASINGHE, L. J. MENDIS; IMESH NUWAN BANDARA, DULAN RANGA VIDANAPATHIRANA, NETHU WICKRAMASINGHE 2019. A new species of Aspidura Wagler, 1830 (Squamata: Colubridae: Natricinae) from Knuckles, World Heritage Site, Sri Lanka Zootaxa 4559 (2): 265–280 - get paper here
 
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