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Calliophis castoe SMITH, OGALE, DEEPAK & GIRI, 2012

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Higher TaxaElapidae, Colubroidea, Alethinophidia, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes) 
Common NamesCastoe’s coralsnake 
SynonymCalliophis castoe SMITH, OGALE, DEEPAK & GIRI 2012
Callophis nigrescens — PHIPSON 1887: 245
Callophis nigrescens — VIDAL 1890: 65–66 (part)
Hemibungarus nigrescens var. khandallensis — WALL 1913: 638 (part)
Hemibungarus nigrescens — WALL 1928: 22, 35 (part)
Hemibungarus nigrescens variety A — WALL 1928: 36
Calliophis castoe — WALLACH et al. 2014: 144 
DistributionIndia (Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka), elevation 0-750 m

Type locality: Amboli, Sindhudurg district, Maharashtra, India, [ca. 715 m elevation] (ca. 15.958790° N 73.994686° E). 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: BNHM = BNHS (Bombay Natural History Society, Bombay, Maharashtra, India) 3461, an adult male, collected 12 September 2009 by Hemant Ogale (Figs. 3–4, 6–7). Paratypes (2). BNHS 2191, an adult male from Karwar, Karwar (Uttara Kannada district), Karnataka, India, (ca. 15 m) (ca. 14.804947° N 74.133317° E), collected between 1880 and 1887 by G. Vidal (1907 date of collection in BNHS catalogue in error, specimen reported by Phipson in 1887 and Vidal in 1890) (Fig. 5). BNHS 3474, a subadult female from Ambe Ghat, South Goa district, Goa, India, 295 m (15.06400° N 74.16578° E), collected 30 June 2010 by Ravindra Bhambure, Harish Kulkarni, and Varad B. Giri (Fig. 2). 
CommentDiagnosis. A medium (536–540 mm TL, mature males), brownish, terrestrial coralsnake in which the tail comprises 12.4–14.0% of the TL in the two known male vouchered specimens and 12.0% in the known female. The maxilla bears 4 maxillary teeth behind the fang, the dentary 10, the palatine 9 and the pterygoid 2. It has sublabial-chin-shield contact variable, usually 7 supralabials (8 on one side of one specimen), 6/6 infralabials, two postoculars, 240–254 ventrals, a divided anal, 45–53 divided subcaudals, dorsal scale rows arranged in 13 rows along entire body, and a color pattern of a wide parietal orange band, an unpatterned vinaceous-brown dorsum, a white lower lip, and Salmon Color to Flame Scarlet ventral and lateral areas (from neck to tail).

The new species can be distinguished from all Asian and American coralsnakes, except for Sinomicrurus japonicus (S. j. boettgeri [Fritze, 1894], S. j. japonicus [Günther, 1868], S. j. takarai [Ota, Ito & Lin, 1999]) and some Calliophis maculiceps (Günther, 1868), in having the highest number of maxillary teeth behind the fang, four on each side. The species of coralsnakes with the next highest counts are C. beddomei Smith, 1943 and C. nigrescens Günther, 1862 with two or three, S. hatori (Takahashi, 1930) and S. sauteri (Steindachner, 1913) with two, C. maculiceps with one, two and rarely four, and some populations of S. macclellandii (Reinhardt, 1844) with none, one, or two teeth. Sinomicrurus japonicus can have from 3 to 5 maxillary teeth behind the fang. The new species can additionally be distinguished from all species of Asian coralsnakes (Calliophis Gray, 1835 [Maticora Gray, 1835] and Sinomicrurus Slowinski, Boundy & Lawson 2001), except some C. beddomei, in lacking contact between the preocular and nasal, allowing the prefrontal and third supralabial to touch. Calliophis bibroni (Jan, 1858) also has the prefrontals touching the supralabials but lacks preoculars and has a banded body pattern. Calliophis castoe also differs from all other Indian coralsnakes, including C. beddomei and with the exception of some individuals of S. macclellandi, in having an unpatterned body, no dark pigmentation on the last supralabial, and a wide post-temporal light band. Calliophis beddomei has a pattern of dorsal spots adjacent to a middorsal stripe, never being dorsally unicolored. Calliophis nigrescens usually has a striped pattern but occasionally (variety C. n, khandallensis [Wall, 1913]) has an obscured pattern that seems unicolored black. Nevertheless, these always have a dark stripe or spot covering part of the last supralabial and a dark nuchal band fused or very close to the head cap, both never the case in C. castoe. The underside of the tail differs between C. castoe and C. nigrescens, being uniformly orange in the former and red with white-bordered scales in the later. Some specimens of C. melanurus (Shaw, 1802) have a nearly unicolored dorsal pattern, but always possess two tail bands, absent in the new species, and the nuchal band and the head cap are broadly fused (widely separated in the new species).

The new species can be further distinguished from other coralsnakes. From species in the C. melanurus group, according to Smith et al. (2008) (C. haematoetron Smith, Manamendra-Arachchi & Somaweera, 2008, C. melanurus, and C. maculiceps), the new species differs in lacking a bluish ventral tail color and melanized tail base muscles and associated tissues. It can also be distinguished from C. melanurus, in having more supralabials (6 vs. 7 or 8) and subcaudal scales (24–37 vs. 45–53). From C. maculiceps it can also be distinguished by its high number of ventrals (240–254 vs. 169–222) and subcaudals (45–53 vs. 20–31). From C. bibroni it can be distinguished by having a preocular (vs. no preocular), two postoculars (vs. 1), no tail bands (vs. 3–9), a divided anal (vs. single), and higher ventral (240–254 vs. 220–234) and subcaudal counts (45–53 vs. 26–37). Besides differing in dentition, color pattern and head scalation the new species differs from C. nigrescens in having relatively higher subcaudal counts (45–53 vs. 29–48) and fewer pterygoid teeth (2 vs. 5–8). Calliophis beddomei also has more pterygoid teeth (2 vs. 4). Calliophis castoe differs from C. gracilis Gray, 1835 in possessing fewer ventral scales (240–254 vs. 303–320), more subcaudal scales (45–53 vs. 21–23), a unicolored dorsal pattern (vs. large and paired paravertebral spots and 5–7 well-defined stripes), and a venter with no bands (vs. numerous regularly spaced wide bands).

From the long-glanded coralsnakes Calliophis bivirgata (Boie, 1827) and C. intestinalis (Laurenti 1768), previously in the genus Maticora (see Slowinski et al. 2001), the new species differs in having a venom gland that is confined to the temporal region (vs. extending behind the head), a Harderian gland with a moderately developed posterior extension (vs. enlarged posterior extension, larger than the eyeball), and a unicolored dorsum (vs. striped).

From species in the genus Sinomicrurus, i.e., S. hatori, S. japonicus, S. kelloggi (Pope, 1928), S. macclellandi, and S. sauteri (sensu Slowinski et al. 2001), the new taxon differs in possessing no protuberant sclerified tail tip, and a Harderian gland with a moderately developed posterior extension (vs. no extension). It can further be distinguished from S. hatori, S. japonicus, and S. sauteri in having no pattern of stripes, and from S. kelloggi and S. macclellandi in having no white band anterior to the nuchal band. 
EtymologyIt is a pleasure for us to name this beautiful coralsnake after Todd A. Castoe, a talented and prolific scientist, and a partner in the study of coralsnake and pitviper systematics. The first author has worked on venomous snakes with him and shared “coralsnake trips” to Colombia, México and India. During a trip to India, we first examined and realized the uniqueness of the species herein described. Because the Latin word castus means pure, the specific epithet is also reminiscent of the unmarked dorsum characteristic of the species. 
  • Blackburn, D.G. 1993. STANDARDIZED CRITERIA FOR THE RECOGNITION OF REPRODUCTIVE MODES IN SQUAMATE REPTILES. Herpetologica 49 (1): 118-132 - get paper here
  • Kwet, Axel 2013. Liste der im Jahr 2012 neu beschriebenen Reptilien. Terraria Elaphe 2013 (3): 52-67 - get paper here
  • SMITH, ERIC N.; HEMANT OGALE, V. DEEPAK & VARAD B. GIRI 2012. A new species of coralsnake of the genus Calliophis (Squamata: Elapidae) from the west coast of peninsular India. Zootaxa 3437: 51–68 - get paper here
  • Wallach, Van; Kenneth L. Williams , Jeff Boundy 2014. Snakes of the World: A Catalogue of Living and Extinct Species. Taylor and Francis, CRC Press, 1237 pp.
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