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Gonionotophis capensis (SMITH, 1847)

IUCN Red List - Gonionotophis capensis - Least Concern, LC

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Higher TaxaLamprophiidae, Lamprophiinae, Colubroidea, Alethinophidia, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes) 
Common NamesE: capensis: Cape File Snake
G: Gewöhnliche Feilennatter 
SynonymHeterolepis capensis SMITH 1847: 55
Heterolepis capensis SMITH 1849 — DUMÉRIL, BIBRON & DUMÉRIL 1854: 426
Heterolepis Gueinzii PETERS 1874: 163
Heterolepis gueinzii — BOULENGER 1887: 178
Simocephalus capensis — BOULENGER 1893: 345
Simocephalus capensis — BOULENGER 1897: 374
Mehelya capensis capensis — RASMUSSEN 1981: 176
Mehelya capensis capensis — AUERBACH 1987: 158
Mehelya capensis capensis — BOYCOTT 1992
Mehelya capensis capensis — BROADLEY & HOWELL 1991: 26
Mehelya capensis capensis — CHIRIO & INEICH 2006
Mehelya ‘capensis’ — LARGEN & SPAWLS 2010: 486
Gonionotophis capensis — KELLY et al. 2011
Mehelya capensis — WALLACH et al. 2014: 424
Gonionotophis capensis — LANZA & BROADLEY 2014
Gonionotophis capensis capensis — BATES et al. 2014: 360 
DistributionZimbabwe, S Mozambique, NE Namibia, N/SW Botswana, NE Republic of South Africa, Swaziland, Cameroon, Somalia, Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia, Angola, Kenya, S Sudan, Uganda, Democratic Republic of the Congo (Zaire), Congo (Brazzaville), Cameroon, Gabon, Central African Republic, Eritrea, Ethiopia

Type locality: “Eastern districts of Cape Colony”, South Africa (= Natal ?)

gueinzii: Type locality: Port Natal [= Durban], South Africa. 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.
TypesNeotype: BMNH 1891.9.15.9, designated by Broadley 2005. Holotype: present location unknown (fide WALLACH, pers. comm.), a 529 mm specimen (A Smith, 1834-1836), unlocated fide FitzSimons, 1937: 262. 
CommentSynonymy: partly after LANZA & BROADLEY 2014. In 2009 we added Mehelya grayi PETZOLD 1975 as a synonym of Gonionotophis capensis. However, the source of this name could never be traced, hence we deleted it from the synonymy in August 2015.

Distribution not corrected for the elevation of savorgnani and unicolor to full species status.

Diagnosis. A large species with dorsal scales in 15 rows at midbody, vertebral scale row bicarinate, dorsal scale rows widely separated by interstitial skin, dorsals with a subserrate median keel with fragmented secondary keels; ventrals 193-224 without sexual dimorphism; anal entire; paired subcaudals 39-60 without sexual dimor- phism. Supralabials 7, third and fourth entering orbit. Dark brown to black above, with vertebral scale row white and other dorsals white-tipped, venter white but outer ends of ventrals black [LANZA & BROADLEY 2014]. 
  • Alexander, G. J. and Maritz, B. 2015. Sampling interval affects the estimation of movement parameters in four species of African snakes. Journal of Zoology 297: 309–318, doi:10.1111/jzo.12280 - get paper here
  • Auerbach, R.D. 1987. The Amphibians and Reptiles of Botswana. Mokwepa Consultants, Botswana, 295 pp.
  • Bates, M.F.; Branch, W.R., Bauer, A.M.; Burger, M., Marais, J.; Alexander, G.J. & de Villliers, M.S. (eds.) 2014. Atlas and Red List of the Reptiles of South Africa, Lesotho, and Swaziland. Suricata 1. South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria, 512 pp.
  • Boulenger, G.A. 1887. Synopsis of the snakes of South Africa. The Zoologist, London, (3) 11: 171-182
  • Boulenger, G.A. 1893. Catalogue of the snakes in the British Museum (Nat. Hist.) I. London (Taylor & Francis), 448 pp. - get paper here
  • Boulenger, G.A. 1910. Descriptions of four new African snakes in the British Museum. [Helicops gendri]. Ann. Mag. nat. Hist. (8) 5: 512- 513 - get paper here
  • Boulenger,G.A. 1891. Remarks on the genus Heterolepis, Smith. Ann. Mag. nat. Hist. (6) 8: 344-346 - get paper here
  • Boulenger,G.A. 1897. On little-known snakes from Natal. Ann. Mag. Nat. Hist. (6) 20: 374-376 - get paper here
  • Boulenger,G.A. 1907. Description of a new African snake of the genus Simocephalus. Ann. Mag. Nat. Hist. (7) 20: 489-490 - get paper here
  • Boycott, R.C. 1992. An Annotated Checklist of the Amphibians and Reptiles of Swaziland. The Conservation Trust of Swaziland - get paper here
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  • Broadley, D. & Blaylock 2013. The Snakes of Zimbabwe and Botswana. Chimaira, Frankfurt, 387 pp. [book review in Sauria 35 (2): 59 and Copeia 2014: 388] - get paper here
  • Broadley, D. G. & HOWELL, K. M. 1991. A check list of the reptiles of Tanzania, with synoptic keys. Syntarsus 1: 1—70
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  • Broadley, D.G. 2005. Conservation of names in the Mehelya capensis complex (Serpentes: Lamprophiinae). Arnoldia Zimbabwe 10: 231-233
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  • Chirio, Laurent and Ivan Ineich 2006. Biogeography of the reptiles of the Central African Republic. African Journal of Herpetology 55(1):23-59. - get paper here
  • Conradie W, Bills R, and Branch WR. 2016. The herpetofauna of the Cubango, Cuito, and lower Cuando river catchments of south-eastern Angola. Amphibian & Reptile Conservation 10(2) [Special Section]: 6–36 - get paper here
  • Conradie, Werner; Gabriela B. Bittencourt-Silva, Hanlie M. Engelbrecht, Simon P. Loader, Michele Menegon, Cristóvão Nanvonamuquitxo, Michael Scott, Krystal A. Tolley, 2016. Exploration into the hidden world of Mozambique’s sky island forests: new discoveries of reptiles and amphibians. Zoosyst. Evol. 92 (2): 163–180, DOI 10.3897/zse.92.9948 - get paper here
  • Haagner, G. V. 1997. Mehelya capensis capensis, Cape File Snake, Size. African Herp News (26): 29
  • Heiko Werning 2013. Im Schlangenland – Ein Besuch bei Yvonne und Thomas Klesius. Terraria-Elaphe 2013 (2): 88-93 - get paper here
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  • Lanza, B. 1990. Amphibians and reptiles of the Somali Democratic Republic: check list and biogeography. Biogeographia, 14: 407-465 [1988]
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  • Largen, M.J.; Spawls, S. 2010. Amphibians and Reptiles of Ethiopia and Eritrea. Edition Chimaira, Frankfurt, 694 pp.
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  • Lönnberg, E. 1910. Two new snakes from Lower Congo. Arkiv för Zoologi 7 (8): 1-8
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