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

Type locality: at Caimito, Esmeraldas Province, Ecuador (N0.69620, W80.090472; 102 m elevation).  
TypesHolotype. MZUTI 3758 (Fig. 6), adult male collected by Alejandro Arteaga on September 12, 2014; Paratopotype. MZUTI 3759, adult female collected by Jaime Culebras. 
CommentDiagnosis. Atractus esepe is placed in the genus Atractus as diagnosed by Savage (1960), based on phylogenetic evidence (Fig. 1 in Arteaga et al. 2017). It is included in the A. iridescens group due to its brown dorsal ground color and its phylogenetic position (Figs 1, 6). The species is diagnosed based on the following combination of characters: (1) 17/17/17 smooth dorsals; (2) two postoculars; (3) loreal long; (4) temporals 1+2; (5) seven supralabials, third and fourth contacting orbit; (6) seven infralabials, first four contacting chinshields (7) seven maxillary teeth; (8) 2–3 gular scale rows; (9) 2–3 preventrals; (10) 149 ventrals in the male holotype, 156 in the female paratype; (11) 41 subcaudals in the male holotype, 30 in the female paratype; (12) dorsal ground color brown with a pattern of complete (MZUTI 3759) or broken (MZUTI 3758) (Fig. 6a) dark lines running parallel along each side of the body and separated from each other by a cream line, but rendering the appearance of a row of dorso-lateral blotches in the broken pattern (MZUTI 3758); (13) venter cream faintly speckled with brownish pigment (Fig. 6b); (14) 232–241 mm SVL; (15) 34–53 mm TL.

Comparisons. Atractus esepe is included in the A. iridescens species group and com- pared to other Pacific lowland congeners who have a brownish ground color (Figs 2, 5): A. boulengerii, A. cerberus, A. dunni, A. echidna, A. iridescens, A. medusa, A. microrhynchus, and A. occidentalis. From these, A. microrhynchus and A. occidentalis have striped pattern and cream ventral surfaces similar to that of A. esepe, but they occur parapatrically (Fig. 3) and can be distinguished from A. esepe by a genetic divergence of 5.3–5.7% in a 506 bp long fragment of the mitochondrial Cytb gene and by having a greater number of subcaudal scales in males (Table 2). Furthermore, adult specimens of A. microrhynchus have light brown dorsal surfaces instead of dark brown, and their pattern can be better described as a series of blotches rather than broken longitudinal lines. Specimens of both A. esepe and A. occidentalis have a pattern of longitudinal lines, but A. esepe has a greater number of ventral plus caudal scales than A. occidentalis (more than 180 in A. esepe) (Table 2 in Arteaga et al. 2017).

Habitat: The two known specimens of Atractus esepe were found actively foraging among soil and roots in secondary evergreen lowland forest at least 400 m from the nearest natural body of water. They were found by night at 20h00 after a warm, sunny day.

Conservation status: Data Deficient. 
EtymologyThe specific epithet esepe is derived from the Spanish pronunciation of “sp.”, which is the abbreviation for the Latin word species. Here, we use this word in allusion to how the majority of Ecuadorian researchers refer to Atractus specimens found in the field. 
  • 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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