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Cubatyphlops biminiensis (RICHMOND, 1955)

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Higher TaxaTyphlopidae (Typhlopinae), Typhlopoidea, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes) 
Common NamesBahaman Slender Blindsnake 
SynonymTyphlops biminiensis RICHMOND 1955: 2
Typhlops biminiensis paradoxus THOMAS 1968
Typhlops biminiensis — SCHWARTZ & HENDERSON 1991: 643
Typhlops biminiensis — MCDIARMID, CAMPBELL & TOURÉ 1999: 92
Cubatyphlops biminiensis — HEDGES et al. 2014
Typhlops biminiensis — PYRON & WALLACH 2014
Cubatyphlops biminiensis — NAGY et al. 2015 
DistributionBahama Is.: Great Bahama Bank; Cay Sal Bank; Cuba.

Type locality: Near Nixon's Harbor, along trail to "Buck Lands" (= Black Lands?), South Bimini Island, Bahama Islands.  
TypesHolotype: CM 32604. 
CommentSubspecies: all previous subspecies have now been elevated to full species status.

Distribution: not on Cuba; reports from Cuba are misidentified species (NAGY et al. 2015).

For illustrations see Thomas, 1968; Thomas, 1976.

Type species: Typhlops biminiensis RICHMOND 1955: 2 is the type species of the genus Cubatyphlops HEDGES et al. 2014: 45.

Diagnosis (genus). Species of Cubatyphlops have (1) eye, distinct, (2) snout, rounded, (3) head scale arrangement, non-circular, (4) frontorostral, absent, (5) nasal, completely divided (rarely incomplete), (6) nasal suture origin, su- pralabial 2, (7) suboculars or subpreoculars, absent, (8) postoculars, 1 (rarely 2; average 1.0), (9) preocular-labial contact, supralabials 2 & 3 (rarely none), (10) midbody scale rows, 20–24 (average, 22.1), (11) scale row reduction, present or absent, (12) total scale rows, 351–629 (average, 503), (13) caudals, 22, (14) maximum total length, 197– 460 (average, 304) mm, (15) total length/midbody diameter, 36–75 (average, 54.7), (16) total length/tail length, 29–85 (average, 50.4), (17) dorsal color, brown (sometimes unpigmented, pinkish), (18) ventral color, unpigmented (pinkish) or rarely cream, (19) dorsum darker than venter, (20) overall, lacking any distinctive pattern (spots, lines, or stripes) (Tables 1–2); molecular phylogenetic support (Figs. 1, 3).
This genus is distinguished from the other two major genera inhabiting the Caribbean islands, Antillo- typhlops and Typhlops, in that the preocular contacts supralabials 2 and 3, and one postocular is present (versus preocular contact with supralabial 3 only, and the presence of two postoculars) (Thomas 1968; 1976; Dixon & Hen- dricks 1979; Thomas & Hedges 2007). Species in this genus also stand out among closely related genera in being unusually thin, with individuals of all species except one having TL/MBD ratios above 50, being unusually long (up to 460 mm TL), and in having an unusually high number of total scale rows (to 629). Although Cubatyphlops can be distinguished from its closely related genera, it is more difficult to separate it from the primarily mainland New World genus Amerotyphlops. It shares with that genus the preocular contact with supralabials 2 and 3, and, in some species of Amerotyphlops, the presence of a single postocular. However, it can be nearly completely distinguished from the mainland genus in having a high number of total scale rows, minimally 453 in 11 of the 12 species (C. caymanensis, 351–408); in Amerotyphlops, the maximum number of total scale rows is 441, except in one species, A. microstomus (487–556). Concerning the two overlap species, C. caymanensis is separated from Amerotyphlops in the molecular phylogeny, and A. microstomus is separated from Cubatyphlops in having 2 postoculars instead of one postocular. Also, 8 of the 14 species of Amerotyphlops can be distinguished from Cubatyphlops in having either an incompletely divided nasal scale (A. minuisquamus, A. paucisquamus, and A. reticulatus, and A. yonenagae) or a patterned (lines or spots) dorsum and/or head (A. brongersmianus, A. minuisquamus, A. paucisquamus, A. reticula- tus, A. tasymicris, A. tenuis, A. trinitatus, and A. yonenagae) or both. In Cubatyphlops, the nasal is completely divided and they have no distinct pattern [HEDGES et al. 2014: 45].

Diagnosis: Typhlops biminiensis sensu stricto is one of the largest West Indian species of Typhlops, TL (total length) to 370 mm. The preocular contacts supralabials 2 and 3, which is a characteristic of the T. biminiensis Group (Richmond, 1955; Thomas, 1968) of West Indian species. This feature also occurs in all mainland Central and South American species (Dixon & Hendricks, 1979) but not most West Indian species, which belong to another West Indian radiation of Typhlops, the major Antillean radiation (MAR) (Thomas, 1976). Aside from the preocular-contact character, T. biminiensis is distinguished from members of the MAR by its broadly angled preocular (93–125°) and its broad rostral scale (RW1/RL1 0.81–1.08). The only currently recognized member of the Major Antillean Radiation occurring within the range of T. biminiensis is T. lumbricalis of Cuba and the Great and Little Bahama Bank islands. From described members of the Typhlops biminiensis group (T. caymanensis, T. epactius, and T. paradoxus), T. biminiensis sensu stricto differs in its larger size and broad, nearly round, rostral scale (Fig. 8A) with RW1/RL1 values of over 0.81. It further differs from T. caymanensis by its greater number of scale rows (24 or 22 initially versus 20 rows for T. caymanensis) and greater number of middorsal scales (454–537 versus 351–408). From the Cuban species (Fig. 8) it differs in having a larger rostral size (RW1+RL3; Fig. 10A), longer snout (NE; Fig. 10B), and smaller preocular apical diameter (PD; Fig. 10C). Because the new Cuban species can thus be distinguished from T. biminiensis, T. caymanensis, T. epactius, and T. paradoxus, our discussion below will focus mostly on diagnostic traits among the Cuban species previously confused with T. biminiensis.

Abundance: T. biminiensis and related species are very rare. THOMAS & HEDGES (2007) estimated a “collection rate of one snake of this complex per >100 hours of search time.”

T. biminiensis previously reported from Cuba are now considered to be different species. Specimens in museum collections may still be labelled as “T. biminiensis” but continue to be recognized as different species, e.g. T. golyathi DOMINGUEZ & MORENO 2009. 
EtymologyThe generic name is a masculine noun formed from the adjective cubanus (a, um; ‘from Cuba’) and Greek noun typhlops (the blind). 
  • DOMÍNGUEZ, MICHEL & LUIS V. MORENO 2009. Taxonomy of the Cuban blind snakes (Scolecophidia, Typhlopidae), with the description of a new large species. Zootaxa 2028: 59-66 - get paper here
  • Hedges, S.B., Marion, A.B., Lipp, K.M., Marin, J. & Vidal, N. 2014. A taxonomic framework for typhlopid snakes from the Caribbean and other regions (Reptilia, Squamata). Caribbean Herpetology 49: 1–61 - get paper here
  • McDiarmid, R.W.; Campbell, J.A. & Touré,T.A. 1999. Snake species of the world. Vol. 1. Herpetologists’ League, 511 pp.
  • NAGY, ZOLTÁN T.; ANGELA B. MARION, FRANK GLAW, AURÉLIEN MIRALLES,<br />JOACHIM NOPPER, MIGUEL VENCES & S. BLAIR HEDGES 2015. Molecular systematics and undescribed diversity of Madagascan scolecophidian snakes (Squamata: Serpentes) Zootaxa 4040 (1): 031–047 - get paper here
  • Pyron, R.A. & Wallach, V. 2014. Systematics of the blindsnakes (Serpentes: Scolecophidia: Typhlopoidea) based on molecular and morphological evidence. Zootaxa 3829 (1): 001–081
  • Richmond, N. D. 1955. The blind snakes (Typhlops) of Bimini, Bahama Islands, British West Indies, with description of a new species. American Museum Novitates 1734:1-7. - get paper here
  • Schwartz,A. & Henderson,R.W. 1991. Amphibians and Reptiles of the West Indies. University of Florida Press, Gainesville, 720 pp.
  • THOMAS R. & S.B. HEDGES 2007. Eleven new species of snakes of the genus Typhlops (Serpentes: Typhlopidae) from Hispaniola and Cuba. Zootaxa 1400: 1-26 - get paper here
  • Thomas, R. 1968. The Typhlops biminiensis Group of Antillean Blind Snakes. Copeia 1968 (4): 713-722 - get paper here
  • Thomas, R. 1976. Systematics of Antillean blind snakes of the genus Typhlops (Serpentes: Typhlopidae). Ph.D. Thesis, Louisiana State Univ.: xvi + 288pp.
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