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Atheris matildae MENEGON, DAVENPORT & HOWELL, 2011

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Higher TaxaViperidae, Viperinae, Colubroidea, Caenophidia, Alethinophidia, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes)
Common NamesE: Matilda's Horned Viper 
SynonymAtheris matildae MENEGON, DAVENPORT & HOWELL 2011
Atheris matildae — WALLACH et al. 2014: 62
Atheris matildae — SPAWLS et al. 2018: 588 

Type locality: Remote fragmented montane forest in Tanzania's Southern Highlands. Precise locality withheld until conservation insurance population secure. Additional information on the locality can be obtained for scientific purposes from the authors upon request. (  
Reproductionviviparous (not imputed, fide Zimin et al. 2022) 
TypesHolotype: MTSN 9344, adult male, collected in a forest fragment in Southern Tanzania, at about 1995 m by Omari Kibure and Obadia Mwaipungu in February 2009; fixed in 70% EtOH, tissue fixed in 90% EtOH. Paratypes. 2 adult males, MTSN 9399 and MTSN 9418 and an immature MTSN 9417 collected in February 2011 at the same locality as the holotype, by Michele Menegon, Tim Davenport and Sophy Machaga.
Additional material. 10 specimens collected at the type locality between March and April 2011 and being kept alive for conservation purposes. 4 are males, 5 are females and 2 are immatures. Among them there is the adult female individual shown in Fig. 3. 
DiagnosisDiagnosis: Atheris matildae sp. nov. is distinguished from all other members of the genus except A. ceratophora by the presence of two to three very enlarged erect, hornlike, supraciliary scales. It is distinguished from A. ceratophora by the combination of the following morphological and molecular features, based on the data from 69 specimens from all over the known range of A. ceratophora: (1) its larger size, TL of A. matildae type is 643mm (the biggest male A. ceratophora ever recorded does not exceed 510mm TL), (2) higher count of maximum transverse head scales (max. 20 in A. ceratophora, 28 in A. matildae), (3) four subequal suprarostral scales in A. matildae, the two central ones of the same size and the outer ones double in size in A. ceratophora, (4) marked difference in dorsal scale microdermatoglyphic pattern (irregular smooth surface in A. ceratophora, presence of papillae-like ridges in A. matildae), (5) in A. matildae, an extensive black marking across the frontal part of the mouth, including part of nasal, rostral, mental and few infralabial scales is often present, the above described colour feature has not been recorded in the examined A. ceratophora specimens and photographs. Genetic divergence of mitochondrial gene cytochrome b between A. ceratophora collected at type locality and A. matildae expressed as actual substitution difference is 3.18% based on uncorrected p-distance of 0.03180. 
CommentAlong with A. ceratophora, it is the only Atheris species bearing horn-like scales above the eyes.

Habitat: fully arboreal (Harrington et al. 2018). 
EtymologyAtheris matildae is named for TRBD's daughter Matilda Davenport, one of the next generation of herpetologists. 
  • Harrington, Sean M; Jordyn M de Haan, Lindsey Shapiro, Sara Ruane 2018. Habits and characteristics of arboreal snakes worldwide: arboreality constrains body size but does not affect lineage diversification. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 125 (1): 61–71 - get paper here
  • Menegon, M.; Loader, S.P.; Marsden, S.J.; Branch, W.R.; Davenport, T.R.B. & Ursenbacher, S. 2014. The genus Atheris (Serpentes: Viperidae) in East Africa: Phylogeny and the role of rifting and climate in shaping the current pattern of species diversity. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 79: 12-22 - get paper here
  • MENEGON, MICHELE; TIM R.B. DAVENPORT & KIM M. HOWELL 2011. Description of a new and critically endangered species of Atheris (Serpentes: Viperidae) from the Southern Highlands of Tanzania, with an overview of the country’s tree viper fauna. Zootaxa 3120: 43–54 - get paper here
  • Spawls, Steve; Kim Howell, Harald Hinkel, Michele Menegon 2018. Field Guide to East African Reptiles. Bloomsbury, 624 pp. - get paper here
  • Wallach, Van; Kenneth L. Williams , Jeff Boundy 2014. Snakes of the World: A Catalogue of Living and Extinct Species. [type catalogue] Taylor and Francis, CRC Press, 1237 pp.
  • Zimin, A., Zimin, S. V., Shine, R., Avila, L., Bauer, A., Böhm, M., Brown, R., Barki, G., de Oliveira Caetano, G. H., Castro Herrera, F., Chapple, D. G., Chirio, L., Colli, G. R., Doan, T. M., Glaw, F., Grismer, L. L., Itescu, Y., Kraus, F., LeBreton 2022. A global analysis of viviparity in squamates highlights its prevalence in cold climates. Global Ecology and Biogeography, 00, 1–16 - get paper here
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