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Demansia reticulata (GRAY, 1842)

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Higher TaxaElapidae (Hydrophiinae), Colubroidea, Caenophidia, Alethinophidia, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes)
SubspeciesDemansia reticulata cupreiceps STORR 1978
Demansia reticulata reticulata (GRAY 1842) 
Common NamesE: Yellow-faced Whipsnake, Yellow-Faced Whip Snake 
SynonymLycodon reticulatus GRAY 1842: 54
Diemenia psammophis — BOULENGER 1896
Demansia psammophis var. reticulata — FRY 1914: 191
Demansia reticulata reticulata—STORR 1978: 297
Demansia psammophis reticulata — WELCH 1994: 53
Demansia psammophis reticulata — APLIN et al. 2001
Demansia psammophis reticulata — WILSON & SWAN 2013: 500
Demansia reticulata — WALLACH et al. 2014: 214
Demansia reticulata — COGGER 2014

Demansia reticulata cupreiceps STORR 1978
Demansia reticulata cupreiceps STORR 1978
Demansia psammophis cupreiceps — WELCH 1994: 53
Demansia psammophis cupreiceps — APLIN et al. 2001
Demansia psammophis cupreiceps — WILSON & SWAN 2013: 500
Demansia psammophis cupreiceps — COGGER 2014
Demansia reticulata cupreiceps — EIPPER & EIPPER 2019 
DistributionAustralia (Western Australia from Dirk Hartog Island south to Harvey; coast and adjacent areas of Western Australia south of Shark Bay)

Type locality: Australia

cupreiceps: Western Australia (arid interior to mid-western coast of Western Australia and western Kimberleys). Type locality: Callagiddy, 25° 02'S, 114°01’ E, W. A.  
TypesLectotype: BMNH 1946.1.19.79, male, from Australia, Paralectotype. NHMUK 1946.1.19.78, male, same details as lectotype, designated by Storr (1978), see comment for details in Nankivell et al. 2023: 314.
Holotype: WAM R34555 [cupreiceps] 
DiagnosisDiagnosis (genus). Species within the genus Demansia are small to moderately large diurnal oviparous snakes (total lengths to 560 mm in the smallest species D. simplex and to 1,650 mm in the largest species D. papuensis) with: slender bodies (moderate in D. simplex), head moderately long and slightly to moderately wider than neck, prominent canthus rostralis, frontal long and narrow, internasals present and slightly smaller than prefrontals, nasals very wide anteriorly (laterally aligned bell-shape) narrowing to, and then extending from nostril and in point or short contact with preocular (occasionally separated by prefrontals), two postoculars, temporals 2 + 2 with lower primary temporal descending deeply between last two supralabials (occasionally contacting oral margin), supralabials 6, infralabials 7, midbody scales non-glossy in 15 rows, anal and subcaudal scales divided, long tails (up to 40% of snout-vent length in D. flagellatio), variable body colour of shades of brown, olive, greyish, greenish, reddish, blue or black with dark pigment on body scales of basal or apex blotch or spot, narrow margins on anterior facets or indistinct to distinct margins on all facets, head colour same as body or clearly demarcated of greyish, bluish grey, orange brown or shades of brown, dark band (typically faded in adults) on nape in some species, consistent colour pattern of pale-edged dark comma-shaped marking encompassing eyes then broadening ventrocaudally of either short abruptly ending or long, but inconsistent in D. papuensis and D. vestigiata, all species except D. papuensis and D. vestigiata with pale-edged dark transrostral line between the nostrils and occasionally extending to the eyes, ventral surface white, greenish white, bluish white, brown or greyish with glossy shine (typically dark spots on anterior ventrals in D. olivacea (Gray) and D. rimicola), large eyes with diameter markedly greater than the distance from the mouth to the eye, with yellowish, golden brown or reddish irides and large round black pupils (Bush 2017). Non-lobate and bulbous hemipenis with uniform parallel rows of spines and enlarged basal hooks (Keogh 1999). Further distinguished by two derived character states that are unique among clapids: a very thin but deep dorsal extension of the parasphenoid process that forms a thin, bony interorbital septum (Greer 1997), and an elevated number of chromosomes 2N = 42 (Mengden 1985). (Nankivell et al. 2023)

Diagnosis: A moderately large green Demansia, distinguishable from D. r. cupreiceps by olive rather than coppery head (Storr 1978: 297).

Description (reticulata): Snout-vent length (mm): 219-700 (N 60, mean 545.4). Length of tail (% SVL): 24.2-36.1 (N 58, mean 29.4). Ventrals 172-201 (N 50, mean 187.8). Subcaudals 67-88 (N 55, mean 75.1). Ventrals plus subcaudals 244- 279 (N 48, mean 262.7).
Head pale to moderately dark olive green, except for occasional specimens with blackish head and nape. Rest of coloration as in D. r. cupreiceps (Storr 1978: 297)

Revised diagnosis: Nankivell et al. 2023: 315

Detailed description: Nankivell et al. 2023: 315

Variation: Nankivell et al. 2023: 316

Comparisons: Nankivell et al. 2023: 318

Diagnosis (cupreiceps): A moderately large green Demansia with reticulate dorsal pattern, coppery tail, and well-developed transrostral and circumorbital markings; distinguishable from D. r. reticulata by coppery rather than olive head (Storr 1978: 295)

Description (cupreiceps): Snout-vent length (mm): 186-764 (N 49, mean 550.4). Length of tail (% SVL): 23.3-33.5 (N 44, mean 28.9). Ventrals 179-205 (N 45, mean 191.3). Subcaudals 63-91 (N 42, mean 77.2). Ventrals plus subcaudals 250- 288 (N 40, mean 269.1).
Head, hind part of body and tail coppery brown, except for occasional specimens with head and nape blackish. Rest of back and sides bright pale green, posterolateral edges of scales black (margin widest at apex). Trans- rostral line dark brown, margined with yellow. Narrow dark brown circum- orbital ring with short grey tail, broadly margined with yellow. Faint longi- tudinal streak occasionally discernible on each side of chin. Throat yellow; rest of under surface yellowish white, except where black of dorsal reticula- tion extends briefly on to free edge of ventrals (Storr 1978: 296) 
CommentSynonymy: WALLACH et al. 2014 list Demansia psammophis cupreiceps (STORR 1978) as a synonym of D. reticulata.


Type species: Lycodon reticulatus GRAY 1842 is the type species of the genus Demansia GRAY 1842.

Synonymy: WALLACH et al. 2014 list Demansia psammophis cupreiceps (STORR 1978) as a synonym of D. reticulata. Some recent authors argue that cupreiceps should be a subspecies of reticulata but the issue is not conclusively settled (G. Shea, pers. comm., 19 Nov 2019).

Distribution: see map in Nankivell et al. 2023: Figure 5. 
  • Aplin, K.P. and L.A. Smith 2001. Checklist of the frogs and reptiles of Western Australia. Records of the Western Australian Museum Supplement No. 63: 51–74 - get paper here
  • Boulenger, G.A. 1896. Catalogue of the snakes in the British Museum, Vol. 3. London (Taylor & Francis), xiv + 727 pp. - get paper here
  • Bush, B. & Maryan, B. 2006. Snakes and Snake-like Reptiles of Southern Western Australia. Snakes Harmful & Harmless, Stoneville, Perth, Western Australia, 40 pp. - get paper here
  • Cogger, H. G. 2014. Reptiles and Amphibians of Australia, 7th ed. CSIRO Publishing, xxx + 1033 pp. - get paper here
  • Fry, D. B. 1914. On a collection of reptiles and batrachians from Western Australia. Rec. West. Austral. Mus. 1:174-210 - get paper here
  • Gray, J. E. 1842. Description of some hitherto unrecorded species of Australian reptiles and batrachians. Zoological Miscellany 2: 51—57 (London: Treuttel, Würtz & Co) - get paper here
  • Hallermann, J. 2020. An annotated list of reptiles and amphibians from the 1905 Hamburg expedition to southwest Australia deposited in the Zoological Museum Hamburg. Evolutionary Systematics 4: 61 - get paper here
  • Hutchinson M N 1990. The generic classification of the Australian terrestrial elapid snakes. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 29 (3): 397-405 - get paper here
  • NANKIVELL, J. H., MARYAN, B., BUSH, B. G., & HUTCHINSON, M. N. 2023. Whip it into shape: Revision of the Demansia psammophis (Schlegel, 1837) complex (Squamata: Elapidae), with a description of a new species from central Australia. Zootaxa 5311 (3), 301-339 - get paper here
  • Wallach, Van; Kenneth L. Williams , Jeff Boundy 2014. Snakes of the World: A Catalogue of Living and Extinct Species. [type catalogue] Taylor and Francis, CRC Press, 1237 pp.
  • Welch, K. R. G. 1994. Snakes of the World. A Checklist. I. Venomous snakes. KCM Books, Somerset, England.
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