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Dendrophidion nuchale (PETERS, 1863)

IUCN Red List - Dendrophidion nuchale - Least Concern, LC

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Higher TaxaColubridae, Colubrinae, Colubroidea, Caenophidia, Alethinophidia, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes) 
Common NamesE: Peters' Forest Racer
S: Culebra terrestre 
SynonymHerpetodryas nuchalis PETERS 1863: 285
Dendrophidion clarkii DUNN 1933: 78 (fide LIEB 1988)
Dendrophidion dendrophis — ROZE 1952: 99
Dendrophidion vinitor — WILSON 1966
Drymobius percarinatus — LANCINI 1979
Dendrophidion dendrophis — PETERS & OREJAS-MIRANDA 1970: 80
Dendrophidion nuchalis — BAUER et al. 1995: 72
Dendrophidion nuchale — KORNACKER 1999
Dendrophidion nuchale — ESQUEDA et al. 2001
Dendrophidion nuchale — WILSON & MCCRANIE 2002
Dendrophidion nuchalis — CARRERA et al. 2009
Dendrophidion clarkii — MCCRANIE 2011
Dendrophidion nuchale — WALLACH et al. 2014: 225 
DistributionN Venezuela (coastal cordillera, Zulia, Carabobo, Guárico, Miranda, Yaracuy); elevation: <100-1270 m (see comment).

Type locality: “Caracas” [Venezuela] 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.
TypesSyntypes: ZMB (lost)
Neotype: USNM 129579 (designated by LIEB 1988; invalid fide CADLE 2012) 
CommentSynonymy partly after PETERS & OREJAS-MIRANDA 1970, VILLA et al. 1988, LIEB 1988, CADLE & SAVAGE 2012. In much of the literature on Venezuelan snakes prior to 1988, Dendrophidion nuchale was referred to by the name “D. percarinatum”.

Distribution: restricted to N Venezuela fide CADLE & SAVAGE 2012 who split up the species into D. nuchale, D. clarkii, and D. rufiterminorum. Previously the species was considered to be widespread in Central and South America, including Belize, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela (coastal cordillera, Zulia, Carabobo, Guárico, Miranda, Yaracuy). Most of that range is now assigned to D. clarkii. Symbols for D. nuchale and D. dendrophis are reversed in figure 1 of Natera- Mumaw 2008.

Abundance in Honduras: rare

Diagnosis. Dendrophidion nuchale is characterized by (1) dorsocaudal reduction from 8 to 6 occurring posterior to subcaudal 25 (range, 27–54); (2) anal plate single or divided (approximately equal frequencies); (3) subcaudal counts > 135 in males and females; (4) ground color of head and body brown; dark crossbands with embedded pale ocelli present on the posterior half or more of the body and tail (Fig. 1); tail not strongly differentiated in color from posterior body; (5) blackish or dark brown nuchal collar present in adults (evident or not in juveniles); (6) ventral scutes in adults usually with irregular dark anterior borders to each scale (often interrupted midventrally) and sometimes with other irregular dark flecks or spots (Fig. 1); (8) total number of enlarged spines on the hemipenis relatively few (< 60); spines in the distal row uniform in size and numbering < 15 (12–14).
Apart from Dendrophidion nuchale, no other species of Dendrophidion except the allopatric species D. clarkii has a prominent blackish nuchal collar in adults (less distinct or absent in juveniles). Dendrophidion nuchale differs from species of the D. percarinatum group in having a more distal dorsocaudal reduction (typically proximal to subcaudal 25 in the percarinatum group compared to > 25 in D. nuchale). Single anal plates occur in the D. percarinatum group only in some individuals of D. paucicarinatum. Dendrophidion boshelli has 15 midbody dorsal scale rows (17 in D. nuchale).
Dendrophidion nuchale differs from species of the D. dendrophis group as follows. The three species of the D. vinitor complex (D. vinitor, D. apharocybe, D. crybelum; Cadle 2012a) lack a nuchal collar, have prominent pale bands on the anterior body of adults and fewer subcaudals (< 130) than D. nuchale (> 135). Dendrophidion dendrophis lacks a nuchal collar and has a longer tail (> 70% of SVL in adults) and more subcaudals ( 150) than D. nuchale (< 70% and < 150, respectively). Dendrophidion atlantica lacks a nuchal collar.
Dendrophidion nuchale has previously been confused with the two other members of the nuchale complex, D. clarkii and the new species described herein, D. rufiterminorum, but it is allopatric to both species. Dendrophidion rufiterminorum lacks a nuchal collar and has a reddish head and tail; see its species account for further distinctions and comparisons. Dendrophidion nuchale and D. clarkii both have dark nuchal collars but otherwise differ greatly in coloration. In D. clarkii the head and anterior one third to two thirds of the body are bright green in life (brown in D. nuchale, although with greenish edging to some anterior dorsal scales in some individuals). Dendrophidion nuchale also typically has fewer ventrals and subcaudals than D. clarkii (Table 1).
Juveniles of D. nuchale, D. clarkii, and D. rufiterminorum can be more easily confused than adults because the color characteristics of adults (e.g., dark nuchal collar in the first two species, red head and tail in the last) are less distinct or absent in juveniles. Sympatry among these species occurs between D. clarkii and D. rufiterminorum on the Caribbean versant and uplands of extreme northwestern (Pacific versant) Costa Rica. The head and sometimes the tail of juvenile D. rufiterminorum are usually reddish brown and somewhat paler than the adjacent portions of the body, as shown by photographs of D. rufiterminorum in Savage 2002: pl. 414 and Solórzano 2004: fig. 56 (see Fig. 17 in the species account for D. rufiterminorum). The head and tail of juvenile D. nuchale are not differentiated in color and juveniles of D. clarkii have a bright green head and anterior body. The dorsocaudal reduction of D. rufiterminorum is distal to subcaudal 45 (< 55 in D. nuchale and D. clarkii; Table 1) [from CADLE & SAVAGE 2012]. 
EtymologyNuchale is derived from the Medieval Latin noun nucha, meaning the back of the neck or nape (originally from an Arabic word meaning spinal cord, with transfer of meaning) + the adjectival ending –alis (pertaining to). It presumably is an allusion to the black nape collar of Dendrophidion nuchale. The form “nuchalis” (the masculine and feminine form of the adjective) is often seen in combination with Dendrophidion, but the neuter form nuchale is required in this case to agree with the Greek neuter diminutive ending –ion of the genus name. 
  • CADLE, JOHN E. & JAY M. SAVAGE 2012. Systematics of the Dendrophidion nuchale complex (Serpentes: Colubridae) with the description of a new species from Central America. Zootaxa 3513: 1–50 - get paper here
  • Carrera, C. et al. 2009. Guía de Campo de los Pequeños Vertebrados del Distrito Metropolitano de Quito (DMQ). Publicación Miscelánea N° 5. Serie de Publicaciones del Museo Ecuatoriano de Ciencias Naturales (MECN) – Fondo Ambiental del MDMQ. 1-89 pp. Imprenta Nuevo Arte. Quito-Ecuador.
  • Castro-Herrera, F. & Vargas-Salinas, F. 2008. Anfibios y reptiles en el departamento del Valle del Cauca, Colombia. Biota Colombiana 9 (2): 251 - 277 - get paper here
  • Cortés Gómez, Angela María; Anyelet Valencia Aguilar, Diana Marcela Torres Domínguez, Lina María García Calderón, Diego Fernando Villaquirán Martínez, Andrea del Pilar Cáceres Franco, Fernando Castro Herrera 2010. Guía de los anfibios y reptiles. Área en conservación de la microcuenca Quebrada Pericos. [Valle de Cauca, Colombia]. Corporación Autónoma Regional del Valle del Cauca, Santiago de Cali: CVC, 37 pp. - get paper here
  • Dunn,E.R. 1933. Amphibians and reptiles from El Valle de Antón, Panamá. Occ. Pap. Boston Soc. Nat. Hist. 8: 65-79. - get paper here
  • Esqueda, Luis Felipe, Enrique La Marca, Marco Natera and Pietro Battiston 2001. Noteworthy reptilian state records and a lizard species new to the herpetofauna of Venezuela. Herpetological Review 32 (3):198-200 - get paper here
  • Köhler, G. 2008. Reptiles of Central America. 2nd Ed. Herpeton-Verlag, 400 pp.
  • Kornacker, P. & Natera-Mumaw, M. 2008. Feldherpetologische Daten zu einigen Amphibien- und Reptilienarten im Wolkenwald des “Parque Nacional Henri Pittier”, Rancho Grande, Venezuela. Sauria 30 (3): 21-37 - get paper here
  • Kornacker,P.M. 1999. Checklist and key to the snakes of Venezuela. PaKo-Verlag, Rheinbach, Germany, 270 pp.
  • Lancini,A.R. & Kornacker,P.M. 1989. Die Schlangen von Venezuela. Armitano Editores C.A., Caracas, 1-381
  • Lee, J. C. 2000. A field guide to the amphibians and reptiles of the Maya world. Cornell University Press, Ithaca,
  • Lieb, C. S. 1988. Systematic status of the Neotropical snakes Dendrophidion dendrophis and D. nuchalis. Herpetologica 44 (2):162-175 - get paper here
  • Lieb, Carl S. 1991. Dendrophidion nuchale. Catalogue of American Amphibians and Reptiles (520): 1-2 - get paper here
  • McCranie J R 2011. The snakes of Honduras. SSAR, Salt Lake City, 725 pp.
  • McCranie, J. & Castañeda, F.E. 2005. The herpetofauna of Parque Nacional Pico Bonito, Honduras. Phyllomedusa 4 (1): 3-16 - get paper here
  • NATERA-MUMAW M. 2008. Nuevos registros geográficos y notas bioecológicas de Dendrophidion dendrophis (Schlegel, 1837) y Dendrophidion nuchale (Peters, 1863) (Serpentes: Colubridae) en Venezuela, con comentarios sobre la taxonomía de Dendrophidion nuchale. Herpetotropicos 4 (1): 11-16 - get paper here
  • Natera-Mumaw, Marco; Luis Felipe Esqueda-González & Manuel Castelaín-Fernández 2015. Atlas Serpientes de Venezuela Santiago de Chile, Dimacofi Negocios Avanzados S.A., 456 pp. - get paper here
  • Pérez-Santos,C. & Moreno, A.G. 1988. Ofidios de Colombia. Museo reegionale di Scienze Naturali, Torino, Monographie VI, 517 pp.
  • Peters, W. 1863. Über einige neue oder weniger bekannte Schlangenarten des zoologischen Museums zu Berlin. Monatsb. Königl. Akad. Wiss. Berlin 1863: 272-289.
  • RIVAS, GILSON A.; CÉSAR R. MOLINA, GABRIEL N. UGUETO, TITO R. BARROS, CÉSAR L. BAR- RIO-AMORÓS & PHILIPPE J. R. KOK 2012. Reptiles of Venezuela: an updated and commented checklist. Zootaxa 3211: 1–64 - get paper here
  • Savage, J.M. 2002. The Amphibians and Reptiles of Costa Rica: A Herpetofauna Between Two Continents, Between Two Seas. University of Chicago Press, 934 pp. [review in Copeia 2003 (1): 205]
  • Smith,H.M. 1941. A new name for the Mexican snakes of the genus Dendrophidion. Proc. Biol. Soc. Washington 54: 73-76. - get paper here
  • Stafford, P. J. 2002. Record of the colubrid snake Dendrophidion nuchale (Peters) from Nicaragua. Southwestern Naturalist 47(4): 615-616. - 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.
  • Wilson, L. D., & MEYER, J. R. 1985. The Snakes of Honduras. 2d ed. Milwaukee Publ. Mus. Publ., Biol. & Geol. No. 6, 150 pp.
  • Wilson, Larry David and James R. McCranie 2002. Update on the list of reptiles know from Honduras. Herpetological Review 33 (2):90-94 - get paper here
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