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Elaphe xiphodonta QI, SHI, MA, GAO, BU, GRISMER, LI & WANG, 2021

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Higher TaxaColubridae, Colubrinae, Colubroidea, Caenophidia, Alethinophidia, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes)
Common NamesChinese: “秦皇锦蛇” (Qín Huáng Jǐn Shé)
E: Qin Emperor Rat Snake, Blade-teethed Rat Snake 
SynonymElaphe xiphodonta QI, SHI, MA, GAO, BU, GRISMER, LI & WANG 2021 
DistributionChina (Shaanxi)

Type locality: Ningshaan County, Shaanxi Province, China  
TypesHolotype: SYS r002534, adult female
Paratypes: IVPP OV 2721, juvenile female, collected by Jing-Song Shi 
DiagnosisDiagnosis: Elaphe xiphodonta sp. nov. can be differentiated from its congeners by the combination of the following morphological characters: (1) medium body size, SVL 785 mm in single adult female; (2) dorsal scales in 21-21-17 rows, the medial 11 rows keeled; (3) supralabials seven or eight, third/fourth (right) or fourth/fifth (left) in contact with eye, infralabials 9 or 10; (4) ventral scales 202–204; (5) subcaudals 67–68; (6) loreal single, not in contact with eye, not in contact with internasals; (7) two preoculars (including one subpreocular), two postoculars; (8) two anterior temporals, three posterior temporals; (9) precloacal plate divided; (10) reduced teeth number in maxilla and dentary bones (MT 9+2, DT 12; (11) sharp edges on the posterior or posterolateral surface of the rear MT and DT; (12) top of head yellow, three distinct markings on head and neck; (13) a distinct black labial spot present on supralabials; (14) ground color of dorsum yellow, 46–49 entire (or incomplete) reddish brown blotches with black edges on body and 12–19 similarly colored spots on tail; (15) ventral surface of body yellow with mottled irregular black blotches, a few irregular small red spots dispersed on middle of ventral scales. (Qi et al. 2021). 
CommentMimicry: Elaphe xiphodonta appears to be a mimic of Protobothrops jerdonii (Qi et al. 2021). 
EtymologyThe specific epithet “xiphodonta” of the new species comes from the Ancient Greek “ξίφοσ (ksίfos, refer to ‘knife’ or ‘blade’)” and “δοντι (dónti, refer to ‘tooth’)”, meaning “blade-shaped teeth”, indicating that the new species has unique blade-shaped MT and DT (Figs 5, 6), which differs from the inconspicuous dental specializations (all teeth are cone-shaped) in its congeners. We suggest the Chinese formal name as “秦皇锦蛇” (Qín Huáng Jǐn Shé), which is derived from Qin Shi Huang (personal name: Ying Zheng or Zhao Zheng; 259 BC–210 BC), the founder of the Qin dynasty and the first emperor of unified China, whose territory including the distribution range of Elaphe xiphodonta sp. nov. 
  • Darko, Y.A.; Voss, O. & Uetz, P. 2022. A dictionary of abbreviations used in reptile descriptions. Zootaxa 5219 (5): 421–432 - get paper here
  • Qi, S., Shi, J. S., Ma, Y. B., Gao, Y. F., Bu, S. H., Grismer, L. L., Li, P.P. & Wang, Y. Y. 2021. A sheep in wolf's clothing: Elaphe xiphodonta sp. nov.(Squamata, Colubridae) and its possible mimicry to Protobothrops jerdonii. ZooKeys 1048: 23-47 - get paper here
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