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Higher TaxaColubridae (Dipsadinae), Colubroidea, Caenophidia, Alethinophidia, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes) 
Common NamesE: Cerberus Groundsnake
S: Tierrera cancerbera 

Type locality: at Pacoche, province of Manabí, Ecuador (S1.06664, W80.88123; 280 m elevation).  
TypesHolotype. MZUTI 4330 (Fig. 5a), adult male collected by José L. Vieira-Fernandes and Alejandro Arteaga on November 06, 2015. 
CommentKnown only from two specimens.

Diagnosis. Atractus cerberus is placed in the genus Atractus as diagnosed by Savage (1960), based on phylogenetic evidence (Fig. 1). It is included in the A. iridescens group due to its brown dorsal ground color (Fig. 5) and its phylogenetic position (Fig. 1). The species is diagnosed based on the following combination of characters: (1) 17/17/17 smooth dorsals; (2) two postoculars; (3) loreal moderate; (4) temporals 1+2; (5) seven supralabials, third and fourth contacting orbit; (6) seven infralabials, first four contacting chinshields (7) seven maxillary teeth; (8) three gular scale rows; (9) three preventrals; (10) 152–157 ventrals; (11) 25–26 subcaudals; (12) dorsal ground color brown with faint black longitudinal bands (Fig. 5); (13) venter light yellow faintly speckled with brownish pigment; (14) 212–309 mm SVL; (15) 23–36 mm TL.

Comparisons. Atractus cerberus is included in the A. iridescens species group and compared to other Pacific lowland congeners that have a brownish ground color (Fig. 2): A. boulengerii, A. dunni, A. echidna, A. esepe sp. n., A. iridescens, A. medusa, A. microrhynchus, and A. occidentalis. From A. boulengerii and A. medusa, it differs in having a striped pattern as opposed to bold black blotches (Fig. 5). From all others, it differs in having yellow ventral surfaces (as opposed to cream or dingy white) and having more than 150 ventrals in males. Finally, the dorsal pattern of A. cerberus is less clearly marked than in the majority of the known specimens of the species included in the A. iridescens group. Instead of having conspicuous spots, blotches or lines, A. cerberus has a series of feebly visible dashes made of pigment slightly darker than the surrounding ground color.

Habitat. The two known specimens of Atractus cerberus were found in an isolated patch of deciduous lowland forest surrounded by dry lowland shrubland. MZUTI 4330 was found active on leaf litter at 19h29, in 80% closed canopy secondary forest far from streams. The night was warm and there was drizzle the night before. MZUTI 5108 was found crossing a forest trail close to an open area at 10h00 during a sunny morning after a rainy night.

Conservation status: Critically Endagered. 
EtymologyThe specific epithet “cerberus” is derived from the name of the Greek monster Kérberos. In Greek mythology, Kérberos is a monstrous multi-headed dog that guards the gates of the underworld, preventing the dead from leaving. Here, we use this word in allusion to the type locality, at the gates of the newly formed “Refinería del Pacífico”, a massive industrial oil-processing plant that can easily be likened to the underworld. 
  • Arteaga A, Mebert K, Valencia JH, Cisneros-Heredia DF, Peñafiel N, Reyes-Puig C, Vieira-Fernandes JL, Guayasamin JM 2017. Molecular phylogeny of Atractus (Serpentes, Dipsadidae), with emphasis on Ecuadorian species and the description of three new taxa. ZooKeys 661: 91-123. - get paper here
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