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Leptotyphlops merkeri (WERNER, 1909)

IUCN Red List - Leptotyphlops merkeri - Least Concern, LC

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Higher TaxaLeptotyphlopidae, Leptotyphlopinae, Leptotyphlopini, Typhlopoidea, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes)
Common NamesE: Merker’s Thread Snake 
SynonymGlauconia merkeri WERNER 1909: 61
Glauconia conjuncta — BOULENGER 1893: 67 (part.)
Stenostoma conjuncta — TORNIER 1896: 67
Glauconia scutifrons — LÖNNBERG 1907: 14
Glauconia signata — STERNFELD 1908: 243
Glauconia merkeri — BOULENGER 1915: 617
Glauconia signata — WERNER 1917: 203 (part.)
Glauconia merkeri — LOVERIDGE 1923: 874
Glauconia distanti — LOVERIDGE 1929: 18
Glauconia emini — LOVERIDGE 1916: 82 (part.)
Leptotyphlops distanti — BARBOUR & LOVERIDGE 1928: 109
Leptotyphlops conjuncta — LOVERIDGE 1933: 224 (part)
Leptotyphlops conjuncta — LOVERIDGE 1936: 232
Leptotyphlops conjuncta conjuncta — BARBOUR & LOVERIDGE 1946: 116 (part.)
Leptotyphlops scutifrons merkeri — BROADLEY & WATSON 1976: 484
Leptotyphlops conjunctus conjunctus — SPAWLS 1978: 2 (part).
Leptotyphlops emini emini — SPAWLS 1978: 3 (part.)
Leptotyphlops conjuncta conjuncta — HALLERMANN & RÖDEL 1995: 7
Leptotyphlops signatus — HAHN 1980: 26 (part.)
Leptotyphlops scutifrons merkeri — BROADLEY & HOWELL 1991: 22
Leptotyphlops scutifrons — MCDIARMID et al., 1999: 41 (part)
Leptotyphlops scutifrons — SPAWLS et al. 2002: 299 (part.)
Leptotyphlops scutifrons merkeri — BROADLEY & WALLACH 2007: 43
Leptotyphlops merkeri — ADALSTEINSSON et al. 2009
Leptotyphlops scutifrons merkeri — MALONZA et al. 2011
Leptotyphlops merkeri — SPAWLS et al. 2018: 369 
DistributionSC-Kenya, E Tanzania.

Type locality: Moschi [= Moshi], base of Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania (03°12’S, 37°22’E, 810 m). Elevation: 0-1500 m.  
Reproductionoviparous (not imputed, fide Zimin et al. 2022) 
TypesLectotype: SMNS 4170, collected by H. Merker, 1904–1905. Paralectotypes: SMNS 2517.a-c 
DiagnosisDiagnosis (merkeri): A subspecies of Leptotyphlops scutifrons, distinguished from the typical form by having 12 scale rows on the tail and a narrower wedge-shaped rostral (unguiform in the typical form), it is also smaller in average size. (Broadley & Wallach 2007)

Description. Body cylindrical, with head and neck broadened and flattened, the short tail tapers abruptly to a small terminal spine.
Snout rounded, frontal fused with rostral, rostral broad (0.49–0.64 head width, mean = 0.54), wedge-shaped, broader than a nasal anteriorly and extending beyond the level of the eyes, a distinct preoral groove present ventrally. Behind rostral, upper lip bordered by infranasal (nostril nearer to rostral than supralabial along nasal suture), a small anterior supralabial with width along lip 1.0–1.5 times that of infranasal, large ocular with the small eye at the upper anterior edge, and tall posterior supralabial. Supraoculars pentagonal, anteriorly wedged between upper nasal and ocular, posteriorly wedged between rostral and hexagonal post- frontal, which is smaller than a supraocular and the hexagonal interparietal and interoccipital. Parietals oblique, slightly larger than the fused occipitals, in contact with the posterior supralabials. Temporal single. No mental, four infralabials.
Body covered with 14 rows of smooth, imbricate, subequal scales. Reduction to 12 scale rows on the tail takes place just posterior to the subtriangular cloacal shield. Middorsals 201–304; subcaudals 18–30.
Total length/diameter ratio 40–86; total length/tail ratio 7.9–21.0.
Uniform dark brown to black dorsum and venter, often with some irregular white patches on lower lip, chin and (rarely) throat. (Broadley & Wallach 2007)

Size: Largest specimen (NMK/O. 2854 — Naivasha, Kenya) 220 + 11 = 231 mm. (Broadley & Wallach 2007)
CommentSynonymy: Listed as synonym of Leptotyphlops scutifrons by WALLACH et al. 2014: 377.

Phylogenetics: Leptotyphlops merkeri was not closely related to L. scutifrons in the phylogenetic analysis of Adalsetinsson et al. 2009. 
Etymologynamed after the collector of the type, H. Merker. 
  • Adalsteinsson, S.A.; Branch, W.R.; Trapé, S.; Vitt, L.J. & Hedges, S.B. 2009. Molecular phylogeny, classification, and biogeography of snakes of the Family Leptotyphlopidae (Reptilia, Squamata). Zootaxa 2244: 1-50 - get paper here
  • Barbour, T. & LOVERIDGE.A. 1928. A comparative study of the herpetological fauna of the Uluguru and Usambara mountains, Tanzania Territory with descriptions of new species. Mem. Mus. comp. Zool. Cambridge (Massachusetts), 50 (2): 85-265 - get paper here
  • 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. 1915. A list of the snakes of East Africa, north of the Zambesi and south of the Soudan and Somaliland, and of Nyasaland. Proc. Zool. Soc. London,1915, 611–640 - get paper here
  • Broadley, D.G. & WATSON,G. 1976. A revision of the Worm Snakes of South-eastern Africa (Serpentes: Leptotyphlopidae). Occ. Pap. nation. Mus. Rhodesia Bulawayo, (BS) 1976: (8): 465-510
  • Broadley, Donald G. & Wallach, V. 2007. A revision of the genus Leptotyphlops in northeastern Africa and southwestern Arabia (Serpentes: Leptotyphlopidae). Zootaxa 1408: 1–78 - get paper here
  • Hahn, D.E. 1980. Liste der rezenten Amphibien und Reptilien. Anomalepididae, Leptotyphlopidae, Typhlopidae. Das Tierreich, De Gruyter (Berlin) 101: 45
  • Lönnberg, E. 1907. Reptilia and Batrachia. In: Sjöstedt, Y. (Hrsg.): Wissenschaftliche Ergebnisse der Schwedischen Zoologischen Expedition nach dem Kilimandjaro, dem Meru und den umgebenden Massaisteppen 1905-1906. - Upsala, No. 4, 1-18 - get paper here
  • Loveridge, Arthur 1929. East African reptiles and amphibians in the United States National Museum. Bull. US Natl. Mus. (151): 1-135 - get paper here
  • Loveridge,A. 1933. Reports on the scientific Results of an Expedition to the Southwestem Highlands of Tanganyika Territory. VII. Herpetology. Bull. Mus. Comp. Zool. Harvard 74: 197-415 - get paper here
  • Loveridge,A. 1936. Scientific results of an expedition to rain forest regions in Eastern Africa. V. Reptiles. Bull. Mus. comp. Zool. Harvard 79 (5): 209-337 - get paper here
  • Malonza, Vincent; Beryl A. Bwong, Vincent Muchai 2011. Kitobo Forest of Kenya, a unique hotspot of herpetofaunal divers. Acta Herpetologica 6 (2): 149-160 - get paper here
  • McDiarmid, R.W.; Campbell, J.A. & Touré,T.A. 1999. Snake species of the world. Vol. 1. [type catalogue] Herpetologists’ League, 511 pp.
  • Schlüter, A. & Hallermann, J. 1997. The Type Specimens in the Herpetological Collection of the Staatliches Museum für Naturkunde in Stuttgart. Stuttgarter Beitr. Naturk. Ser. A (553): 1-15 - get paper here
  • Spawls, S. 1978. A checklist of the snakes of Kenya. East Afr. Natur. Hist. Soc. and Natl. Mus., Nairobi, J. no. 167 18 pp.
  • Spawls, Steve; Kim Howell, Harald Hinkel, Michele Menegon 2018. Field Guide to East African Reptiles. Bloomsbury, 624 pp. - get paper here
  • Sternfeld, R. 1908. Neue und ungenügend bekannte afrikanische Schlangen. S. Ber. Ges. naturforsch. Freunde Berlin, 4: 92-95 - get paper here
  • Werner,F. 1909. Beschreibung neuer Reptilien aus dem Kgl. Naturalienkabinett in Stuttgart. Jahreshefte Ver. vaterl. Naturk. Württ. 65: 55-63 - get paper here
  • Zimin, A., Zimin, S. V., Shine, R., Avila, L., Bauer, A., Böhm, M., Brown, R., Barki, G., de Oliveira Caetano, G. H., Castro Herrera, F., Chapple, D. G., Chirio, L., Colli, G. R., Doan, T. M., Glaw, F., Grismer, L. L., Itescu, Y., Kraus, F., LeBreton 2022. A global analysis of viviparity in squamates highlights its prevalence in cold climates. Global Ecology and Biogeography, 00, 1–16 - get paper here
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