Chilabothrus ampelophis LANDESTOY, REYNOLDS & HENDERSON, 2021
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|Higher Taxa||Boidae (Boinae), Henophidia, Alethinophidia, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes)|
|Synonym||Chilabothrus ampelophis LANDESTOY, REYNOLDS & HENDERSON 2021|
|Distribution||Dominican Republic (Pedernales)|
Type locality: hills of Loma La Trinchera, Paso Sena, 4 km N of Pedernales, Pedernales Province, Dominican Republic
|Types||Holotype. MNHNSD 23.3901 (MALT 00726), a male collected on 18 November 2020 by M. A. Landestoy and G. Féliz.|
Paratypes (four). Same locality as the holotype; MNHNSD 23.3900 (MALT 596), collected 2 August 2020 by M. A. Landestoy, R. Ortíz, and A. Marmolejo; KUH 352337 (MALT 733) on 26 November 2020 by M. A. Landestoy, Y. Corona, and W. Terrero; MNHNSD 23.3902 (MALT 740) and MCZ R-197400 (MALT 741) on 13 December 2020 by M. A. Landestoy and N. Corona.
|Diagnosis||Diagnosis. A small (maximum SVL = 697 mm) species of Chilabothrus (Figs. 2, 3) of slender habitus, with a distinctive neck, a dorsally flattened head and narrow snout, and eyes protruding dorsally above head level and directed anterolaterally. There is a distinctive head scutellation with either supraocular, frontal, and parietal (or altogether) scales highly fragmented into numerous small scales (Fig. 5); a moderate to high ventral scale count, a high modal loreal scale count, high modal circumorbital count, and high modal labial counts. The dorsal ground coloration is of dark taupe to tan-brown with a dorsal pattern of dark brown to blackish helix (zigzag) composed of fused narrow diagonal blotches, also with squarish, nearly rectangular or X-shaped blotches running dorsally, with all markings irregularly outlined and bordered with pale cream or whitish cream scales that form highly contrasting stripes or spots. There is a dark brown lateral stripe (at times disrupted) that branches toward dorsolateral and lateroventral areas, forming a diffuse reticulated effect laterally.|
The new species somewhat resembles C. fordii, to which it is most closely related (Figs. 5–7) and to which a closer comparison is warranted. Chilabothrus ampelophis sp. nov. differs from C. fordii (Tables 1, 2) in having a higher number of ventral scales (263–273 vs. 231–263 in C. fordii), higher count of subcaudals (86–93 vs. 69–89 in C. fordii), and higher count of dorsal scale rows at midbody (38–40 vs. 31–39 in C. fordii). Other characters (clearly separable) are: multiple supraoculars (4/4–8/8 vs. a single platelike supraocular in C. fordii; Fig. 6), as well as multiscale intersupraoculars or short frontal (vs. a single and long, platelike frontal in C. fordii) that when single, the frontal covers less than the length of an eye (vs. frontal plate longer than or as long as the eyes in C. fordii), with frontal scale variation reflecting on a highly variable head-scale formula (to 4-4-4 in C. ampelophis, but modally 3-1-3 in C. fordii; Fig. 5). Small, multiple scales are in the first row of prefrontals (vs. large prefrontals basically arranged in three pairs in C. fordii), and very small scales are in the parietal region (vs. larger, at times platelike frontoparietals in C. fordii). There are high modal counts in: supralabials 15 (vs. 13 in C. fordii), infralabials 16 (vs. 14 in C. fordii), loreals 5 (vs. 2 in C. fordii), circumorbitals 16 (vs. 10 in C. fordii), infraloreals 2–4, mode 2 (vs. 0–2, mode 1 in C. fordii), and preoculars 2 (vs. 1 in C. fordii).
The new species also differs in having a more distinctive neck (% NW/HW 50–53, x̅
= 51 vs. 57–62, x̅ = 59 in C. fordii), a flatter head and snout (vs. convex frontal region and a tapered snout in C. fordii; Fig. 6), with orbits and supraoculars protruding over the level of the frontal region in profile view (vs. supraoculars below or not protruding over the frontal region in C. fordii; Fig. 6), a more attenuate snout (% IN/IO 42–46, x̅ = 45 vs. 49–63, x̅ = 53 in C. fordii), a slightly longer snout (% RO/HL 35–36, x̅ = 35 vs. 31–36, x̅ = 34 in C. fordii), and a wider interocular distance (% of IO/HL 31–35, x̅ = 33 vs. 25– 33, x̅ = 30 in C. fordii). Chilabothrus fordii has a maximum known SVL of 860 mm (Tolson and Henderson 1993), whereas the largest C. ampelophis sp. nov. we observed was 697 mm SVL. Lengths of the TAIL/SVL are moderately higher (22–25, x̅ = 24 vs. 20– 23, x̅ = 22 in C. fordii). The dorsal coloration (in life) of C. ampelophis sp. nov. differs in having a darker ground color (dark taupe to tan-brown vs. pale gray to ‘‘grayish tan’’ in C. fordii) and in the shape of the primary elements of the dorsal pattern of dark brown to blackish narrow blotches (one to three scales wide at mid-dorsum) diagonally arranged and fused to form a zigzag (Fig. 7); some of the blotches consist of irregularly outlined bold Xs, squares, or rectangles, lined with pale cream scales (vs. pale milk-chocolate brown to medium brown ovate or subcircular blotches three to four scales wide and usually transverse, isolated, and lined with pale gray scales, but see Discussion); venter is pale cream to light gray sprinkled with darker gray and brown (vs. white or dirty white with gray suffusions in C. fordii); in preservative, the new species is nearly monochromatic with only ventral pale cream suffusions (vs. brown dorsal pattern and a light beige venter in C. fordii); these two species have an allopatric distribution (Fig. 1; see Discussion).
Chilabothrus ampelophis sp. nov. differs from another close relative, the also slender and small (maximum SVL to 900 mm) C. gracilis, by the orbits and supraoculars protruding above the frontal region (vs. orbits and supraoculars not protruding above the frontal region in C. gracilis); also by the longer head (% HL/SVL 3.0–4.0, x̅ = 3.4 vs. 2.4–2.7, x̅ = 2.5 in C. gracilis), longer snout (% NO/HL 27–28, x̅ = 27 vs. 23–25, x̅ = 24 in C. gracilis), much more attenuated snout (% IN/HL 14–15, x̅ = 15, IN/HW 26– 29, x̅ = 28, and IN/IO 42–46, x̅ = 45 vs. 18– 21,x̅ =19,31–36,x̅ =33,and49–55,x̅ =53, respectively), narrower neck (% NW/HW 50–53, x̅ =51 vs. 38–51, x̅ =44 in C. gracilis), and smaller eye (% OL/HL 15–18, x̅ = 17 vs. 18–21, x̅ = 20). There are also multiscale intersupraoculars or short frontal (vs. a single and long platelike frontal in C. gracilis), a lower count of ventrals (263–273 vs. 271–304 in C. gracilis), and lower count of subcaudals (86–93 vs. 90–111 in C. gracilis). It is further differentiated by the shape of the primary elements of dorsal pattern (dark brown to black zigzag, X-shaped, squarish, and rectangular blotches vs. ovate to subcircular dark brown body blotches); their distributions are allopatric (see Discussion).
From sympatric C. striatus, C. ampelophis sp. nov. differs in having a diminutive body size (maximum known SVL 697 mm vs. maximum SVL . 1,900 mm; Reynolds et al., 2016b), orbits and supraoculars protruding above the frontal region (vs. orbits and supraoculars not protruding above the frontal region in C. striatus), fewer ventrals (263– 273 vs. 266–299 in C. striatus), fewer dorsal scale rows at midbody (38–40, modally 38 vs. 35–65, modally 48 or more in C. striatus), infralabials modally 16 (vs. 18 or 19 in C. striatus), loreals modally 5 (vs. 1 or 2 in C. striatus). The shape of the primary elements of the dorsal pattern also differs (dark brown to black zigzag, and X-shaped, squarish, or rectangular blotches vs. 60–122 stripes or elongated blotches, often virtually patternless in C. striatus).
|Etymology||The epithet is from ancient greek ampelos, meaning vine, in allusion to the slender body and head shape, which is rather unusual for the genus, and for the relative abundance of vines in the dry rocky habitat at the type locality. The suffix -ophis refers to a snake, hence the epithet is translated as ‘‘vinesnake.’’|
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