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Lampropeltis nigra (YARROW, 1882)

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Higher TaxaColubridae, Colubrinae, Lampropeltini, Colubroidea, Caenophidia, Alethinophidia, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes)
Common NamesE: Black Kingsnake
G: Schwarze Königsnatter 
SynonymOphibolus getulus niger YARROW 1882: 438
Lampropeltis getulus nigra — BURT 1935
Lampropeltis getula nigra — CONANT 1938
Lampropeltis getulus niger — SEUFER & JAUCH 1980
Lampropeltis getula niger — CROTHER 2000: 64
Lampropeltis getula nigra — TENNANT & BARTLETT 2000: 419
Lampropeltis nigra — PYRON & BURBRINK 2009
Lampropeltis nigra — WALLACH et al. 2014: 358
Lampropeltis getula nigra — KRYSKO et al. 2017
Lampropeltis getula nigra — GUYER et al. 2018 
DistributionUSA (S Ohio and adjacent West Virginia, south to C Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky, Missouri, Illinois, Tennessee)

Type Locality: Wheatland, Knox Co. Indiana.  
TypesHolotype: USNM 12149, collected by Robert Ridgway. 
DiagnosisDiagnosis: The Black Kingsnake (L. nigra) is a large- to medium-bodied constrictor with an average adult size of 90–122cm, with larger individuals attaining maximum lengths of 147–183cm (Conant & Collins 1998). Scales are smooth, anal plate single, and individuals typically exhibit 19–25 scale rows at midbody. Ventral scale counts range from 197–222 in both sexes (fewer in the north), while subcaudals range from 45– 59 in males and 37–51 in females (Blaney 1977). The Black Kingsnake can be distinguished from other species in the genus based on a combination of geography and color pattern. The Black Kingsnake ranges from southern Illinois to the Gulf coast along the Mississippi River, and east to the Appalachian mountain and the Alabama River drainage in south Alabama (Fig. 2). Black Kingsnakes all exhibit a black ground color, typically with a black-and-white checkered venter, and rarely faint traces of dorsal crossbands (Blanchard 1921; Blaney 1977; Conant & Collins 1998). Each dorsal scale is punctuated by a yellow or white speckle near the center of the scale; this is strongest in the southern portion of their range and fades considerably in the north, where many adults may be almost completely black (Conant & Collins 1998; Fig. 3). The Black Kingsnake can be distinguished from the morphologically similar Central lineage on the basis of geography, as the Black Kingsnake is only found east of the Mississippi River (Fig. 2) [from PYRON & BURBRINK 2009]. 
CommentDistribution: see map in Krysko et al. 2017: Figure 1. 
EtymologySpecific epithet refers to the predominantly black dorsal coloration of many specimens. 
  • Birkhead, R D; 2019. Geographic Distribution: Lampropeltis nigra (Eastern Black Kingsnake) USA: Alabama: Coosa Co. Herpetological Review 50 (2): 331 - get paper here
  • BRAIS, ANTHONY O. 2022. Geographic distribution: LAMPROPELTIS NIGRA (Black Kingsnake). USA: TENNESSEE: Morgan Co. Herpetological Review 53 (1): 79–80.
  • Burt, Charles E. 1935. Further records of the ecology and distribution of amphibians and reptiles in the middle west. American Midland Naturalist 16 (3): 311-336 - get paper here
  • Conant, Roger 1938. The Reptiles of Ohio. American Midland Naturalist 20 (1): 1-200 - get paper here
  • Cromwell, Brittany and Nicole Foster. 2014. Geographic Distribution: Lampropeltis nigra (eastern black kingsnake). Herpetological Review 45 (3): 465-466 - get paper here
  • Crother, B. I. 2000. Scientific and standard English names of amphibians and reptiles of North America north of Mexico, with comments regarding confidence in our understanding. Herpetological Circular 29: 1-82
  • Crother, B. I. (ed.) 2012. Standard Common and Current Scientific Names for North American Amphibians, Turtles, Reptiles, and Crocodilians, Seventh Edition. Herpetological Circular 39: 1-92
  • Daniel, Richard E. and Brian S. Edmond. 2014. Geographic Distribution: Lampropeltis nigra (eastern black kingsnake). Herpetological Review 45 (3): 465 - get paper here
  • EDMOND, B.S. AND R.E. DANIEL 2014. A NEW KINGSNAKE FOR MISSOURI AND SOME COMMENTS ON THE BIOGEOGRAPHY OF SOUTHEAST MISSOURI. Missouri Herpetological Association Newsletter (27): 18-21 - get paper here
  • Gibson, Jason; Paul Sattler and Matthew Becker 2019. Results of the Thirteenth Annual HerpBlitz: The Cedars Natural Area Preserve, Lee County, Virginia. Catesbeiana 39 (2): 57-69 - get paper here
  • Green, N.B., & Pauley, T.K. 1987. Amphibians and reptiles in West Virginia. Univ. of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, 241 pp.
  • Guyer, Craig; Mark A. Bailey, and Robert H. Mount 2018. Lizards and snakes of Alabama. University of Alabama Press, 397 pp. - get paper here
  • Krysko, Kenneth L.; Leroy P. Nuñez, Catherine E. Newman, Brian W. Bowen 2017. Phylogenetics of Kingsnakes, Lampropeltis getula Complex (Serpentes: Colubridae), in Eastern North America. J Hered.: esw086. doi: 10.1093/jhered/esw086 - get paper here
  • Mitchell, J. C. & Reay, K.K. 1999. Atlas of amphibians and reptiles in Virginia. Specialty Publication 1, VA Dept of Game and Fisheries, 122 pp. - get paper here
  • Newman, Donald J., III and James R. Lee. 2013. Lampropeltis nigra (black kingsnake) diet. Herpetological Review 44 (3): 523 - get paper here
  • Palis, J. G. 2016. Snakes of “Snake Road”. Bull. Chicago Herp. Soc. 51: 1 - get paper here
  • Pyron, R. Alexander; Frank T. Burbrink 2009. Systematics of the Common Kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula; Serpentes: Colubridae) and the burden of heritage in taxonomy. Zootaxa 2241: 22-32 - get paper here
  • SELMAN, WILL; JOSEPH MCGEE, MARKS MCWHORTER & RYAN DUMAS. 2021. Thirty-three New County Records and Range Extensions for Herpetofauna of Mississippi, USA. Herpetological Review 52 (1): 102–106.
  • Seufer, H. & Jauch, H. 1980. Die Kettennatter Lampropeltis getulus Teil 2. Herpetofauna 2 (7): 31-32 - get paper here
  • Tennant, A. & Bartlett, R.D. 2000. Snakes of North America - Eastern and Central Regions. Gulf Publishing, Houston, TX, 588 pp.
  • WADE, BRYCE S.; STEPHEN K. NELSON, TODD W. PIERSON, BEN HOLT, KEVIN G. HUTCHESON, CHRISTINA MOYNIHAN & EVIN T. CARTER. 2021. New Amphibian and Reptile Distribution Records from Middle and East Tennessee, USA. Herpetological Review 52 (3): 581–583. - 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.
  • Yarrow, H.C. 1882. Description of new species of reptiles and amphibians in the US National Museum. Proc. US Natl. Mus. 5: 438-443 - get paper here
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