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Furina tristis (GÜNTHER, 1858)

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Higher TaxaElapidae (Hydrophiinae), Colubroidea, Caenophidia, Alethinophidia, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes)
Common NamesE: Brown-headed or grey-naped snake 
SynonymGlyphodon tristis GÜNTHER 1858: 211
Brachysoma triste — GÜNTHER 1863
Mainophis robusta MACLEAY 1877: 36
Denisonia fenestrata DE VIS 1905: 50
Glyphodon tristis — BARBOUR 1914
Furina tristis — STORR 1981
Glyphodon tristis — COGGER 1983: 226
Furina tristis — GOLAY et al. 1993: 138
Furina tristis — FRANK & RAMUS 1995: 245
Furina tristis — COGGER 2000: 653
Glyphodon tristis — SCANLON 2003
Glyphodon tristis — GREER 2006 (online)
Furina tristis — FERGUSON et al. 2012
Furina tristis — WALLACH et al. 2014: 298
Glyphodon tristis — WILSON & SWAN 2021 
DistributionAustralia (Queensland, Cape York peninsula), Islands of Torres Strait,
Papua New Guinea (SE Irian Jaya)

Type locality: NE coast of Australia  
TypesHolotype: BMNH 1946.1.18.99 (formerly,
Syntypes: AM R31896-7, from Mawatta, Binaturi River (as Katow), Papua New Guinea [Mainophis robusta].
Syntypes: QM J200, from Qld.; other syntype presumed lost [Denisonia fenestrata] 
DiagnosisDiagnosis (Glyphodon): In Furina, the 'nasal is undivided' vs. 'nasal divided' (in Glyphodon). Besides this key character, Glyphodon spp. lack additional derived states shared by Furina with Simoselaps and Neelaps spp.: postorbital bones with kinetic attachment to parietal (involved in mechanism for maxillary erection and retraction; McDowell, 1969a; Scanlon, 1985); frontal may contact preocular scales (rare to common variant, [Storr, 1968, 1981], never observed in Glyphodon or any other elapid genera, pers. obs.); black head and nape blotches contrasting with the dorsal ground colour and separated by a distinct pale spot or bar; and a reticulate dorsal pattern where each scale may have a black edge, yellow basal spot and red intermediate zone (three distinct pigments; [Storr, 1968]). Cacophis spp. lack most of these derived features and retain the alternate states common to most other Australasian taxa (preocular contacts second labial and frequently nasal; ventrals strongly pigmented; scales less glossy; eyes pale; postorbital lacks anteroposterior kinesis; no contact of preocular and frontal scales; occipital and dorsal ground colour similar; pale spots on dorsal scales single-coloured), and can thus be excluded from the (Glyphodon (Furina (Neelaps, Simoselaps))) clade (Scanlon 2003). Note however that Cacophis is rather distantly related to Furina (Zaher et al. 2019). 
CommentSynonymy mainly after COGGER 1983. Synonymy of Glyphodon and Furina has been adopted by Hutchinson (1990) and others, in part to deal with the apparent problem of classifying Glyphodon barnardi Kinghorn, 1939.

Phylogenetics: Cogger's (1975) key to genera purports to distinguish the genera Glyphodon and Furina on the criterion of 'nasal undivided' (Furina) vs. 'nasal divided' (Glyphodon), but in fact G. barnardi has the nasal undivided and would be assigned to Furina by this criterion. Polarity of this character is ambiguous since both states occur in related genera, but other cranial and external morphological evidence suggests that G. tristis and G. dunmalli are sister taxa (e.g. in both species the parasphenoid is excluded from the optic fenestra, an uncommon derived character not observed in G. barnardi or other Furina spp.), while G. barnardi, Furina diadema and F. ornata are more closely related to the fossorial radiation ofNeelaps and Simoselaps (Scanlon, 1985, 1988). Scanlon 2003 therefore retains Glyphodon as a distinct genus for G. tristis and G. dunmalli, and refers G. barnardi to Furina (Scanlon 2003). See also F. diadema, the type species of the genus Furina.


Type species: Glyphodon tristis GÜNTHER 1858: 211 is the type species of the genus Glyphodon GÜNTHER 1858: 210, now a synonym of Furina Duméril 1853. 
EtymologyPresumably named after the Latin tristis (sad), in reference to the dark coloration. (G. Shea, pers. comm., 9 Feb 2024) 
  • Barbour, T., 1914. On some Australasian reptiles. Proc. Biol. Soc. Washington 27: 201—206. - get paper here
  • Charlton, Tom & David Nixon 2020. Predation on the Common Blind Snake (Indotyphlops braminus; Daudin, 1803) by the Brown-headed Snake (Furina tristis; Günther, 1858) in Central Province, Papua New Guinea. Captive & Field Herpetology 4 (2): 25 - get paper here
  • Cogger, H. G. 2014. Reptiles and Amphibians of Australia, 7th ed. CSIRO Publishing, xxx + 1033 pp. - get paper here
  • Cogger, H.G. 2000. Reptiles and Amphibians of Australia, 6th ed. Ralph Curtis Publishing, Sanibel Island, 808 pp.
  • de Vis, Charles Walter de 1905. A new genus of lizard. On Typhlops torresianus. Ann. Queensland Museum (Brisbane) 6: 48 - get paper here
  • de Vis, Charles Walter de 1905. A new genus of lizard. Ann. Queensland Museum (Brisbane) 6: 46-52
  • Ferguson, D., Mathieson, M. & Eyre, T. 2012. Southerly range extension of the poorly known, Queensland endemic yellow-napped snake Furina barnardi (squamata: elapidae) into the Mulga Lands. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 56 (1): 9-12 - get paper here
  • Golay,P, H.M. SMITH, D.G. BROADLEY, J. R. DIXON, C., MCCARTHY, J. C. RAGE, B. SCHÀTTI & M.TORIBA 1993. Endoglyphs and other major venomous snakes of the world. A checklist. [type catalogue] Aire-Genève, Azemiops S. A. Herpetological Data Center: i-xv + 1-478.
  • Günther, A. 1858. Catalogue of Colubrine snakes of the British Museum. London, I - XVI, 1 - 281 - get paper here
  • Lettoof, Damian and Daniel Natusch. 2015. Furina tristis (brown-headed snake) diet. Herpetological Review 46 (4): 644 - get paper here
  • Macleay, W. 1877. The ophidians of the Chevert Expedition. Proc. Linn. Soc. New South Wales 2: 33-41 (given as 1878 on title page but published in 1877) - get paper here
  • Mirtschin, P., Rasmussen, A.R. & Weinstein, S.A. 2017. Australia’s Dangerous snakes. CSIRO Publishing, 424 pp. - get paper here
  • O'Shea,M. 1996. A Guide to the Snakes of Papua New Guinea. Independent Publishing, Port Moresby, xii + 239 pp. - get paper here
  • O’Shea, M. 2018. The Book of Snakes. Ivy Press / Quarto Publishing, London, - get paper here
  • Scanlon, John D. 2003. The Australian Elapid genus Cacophis: Morphology and phylogeny of rainforest crowned snakes. The Herpetological Journal 13 (1):1-20 - get paper here
  • Shine R 1981. Ecology of Australian elapid snakes of the genera Furina and Glyphodon. Journal of Herpetology 15 (2): 219-224 - get paper here
  • Storr, G. M. 1981. The genus Furina (Serpentes: Elapidae) in Western Australia. Rec. West. Austr. Mus. 9: 119-123 - 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.
  • Wilson, S. & Swan, G. 2010. A complete guide to reptiles of Australia, 3rd ed. Chatswood: New Holland, 558 pp.
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