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Letheobia akagerae DEHLING, HINKEL, ENSIKAT, BABILON & FISCHER, 2018

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Higher TaxaTyphlopidae (Afrotyphlopinae), Typhlopoidea, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes) 
Subspecies 
Common NamesE: Akagera Gracile Blind Snake 
SynonymLetheobia akagerae DEHLING, HINKEL, ENSIKAT, BABILON & FISCHER 2018 
DistributionRwanda

Type locality: Rwanda, Akagera National Park, Ruzizi Tented Lodge (1°54'24.90"S, 30°42'58.42"E; approx. 1290 m)  
Reproduction 
TypesHolotype: ZFMK 100862, adult; collected on 8 July 2012 by construction workers, preserved by Kenny Babilon. 
DiagnosisDiagnosis. The new species is assignable to the genus Letheobia for showing the following characters that in combination are diagnostic (Pyron & Wallach, 2014): Dorsal and lateral head profiles rounded; rostral broad; T-0; lateral snout profile rounded; body form gracile; eye invisible; coloration pink (pigmentless); body with 22 longitudinal scale rows without reduction; tail short with 13 subcaudals and apical spine; inferior nasal suture in contact with first supralabial; preocular in contact with second and third supralabials; subocular present. It extends the known total length/midbody width ratio in the genus (42–129; Pyron & Wallach, 2014) to 131 and the known maximum number of middorsal scale rows for any species in the genus (311–737; Broadley & Wallach, 2007; Pyron & Wallach, 2014) to 834.

Comparison. Letheobia akagerae can be distinguished from all congeners by its unique middorsal scale count (834), which exceeds the known range for this character in the genus (311–737; Broadley & Wallach 2007; Pyron & Wallach 2014) considerably, and the extreme slenderness of its body with a total length/midbody width ratio of 130.7 (Fig. 5), which is outside the previously known range for the genus (42–129; Pyron & Wallach 2014). The non-reducing number of longitudinal scale rows (22) further separates the new species from L. acutirostrata (Andersson, 1916), L. graueri, L. jubana Broadley & Wallach, 2007, L. kibarae (de Witte, 1953), L. newtoni (Bocage, 1890), L. pembana Broadley & Wallach, 2007, L. praeocularis (Stejneger, 1894), L. somalica (Boulenger, 1895), L. stejnegeri (Loveridge, 1931), and L. sudanensis (Schmidt, 1923), all of which have at least 24 scale rows, and from L. debilis (Joger, 1990), L. episcopus (Franzen & Wallach, 2002), L. erythraea (Scortecci, 1928), L. lumbriciformis (Peters, 1874), L. mbeerensis Malonza, Bauer & Ngwava, 2016, L. rufescens (Chabanaud, 1916), and L. wittei (Roux-Estève, 1974), all of which have 21 or less scale rows (Pyron & Wallach 2014; Malonza et al. 2016). The total length of 457.5 mm exceeds the known maximum length for L. acutirostrata (447), L. caeca (Duméril, 1856) (443), L. crossii (Boulenger, 1893) (310), L. episcopus (318), L. erythraea (245), L. feae (Boulenger, 1906) (330), L. graueri (450), L. largeni Broadley & Wallach, 2007 (274), L. leucosticta (Boulenger, 1898) (230), L. lumbriciformis (445), L. mbeerensis (280), L. newtoni (400), L. pallida Cope, 1868 (192), L. pauwelsi Wallach, 2005 (310), L. pembana (158), L. praeocularis (438), L. simoni (Boettger, 1879) (239), L. swahilica Broadley & Wallach, 2007 (191), L. toritensis Broadley & Wallach, 2007 (268), L. uluguruensis (Barbour & Loveridge, 1928) (245), and L. wittei (310) (Pyron & Wallach 2014; Malonza et al. 2016). The rounded snout with a distinct angular horizontal edge of L. akagerae distinguishes the species from L. largeni, L. pallida, L. pembana, L. swahilica, L. toritensis, and L. uluguruensis, all of which have a prominent rounded snout without a horizontal edge, and from L. acutirostris and L. erythraea, which have a pointed snout (Broadley & Wallach 2007). The new species is superficially most similar to L. graueri and especially L. gracilis. Besides the aforementioned characters (elongation ratio and middorsal scale count) it differs from both species by having a posteriorly rounded rostral (vs. truncated in L. graueri and L. gracilis); the sides of the ventral part of rostral running almost parallel (vs. rostral continuously tapering from nostril in near-straight lines on both sides); the ocular being half the size of the supraocular (vs. about as large as supraocular); the ocular almost contacting the subocular (vs. ocular widely separated from subocular by temporal); posterior edges of rostral, nasal, preocular and subocular forming continuous line (vs. posterior edges of these scales not forming continuous line). Besides the aforementioned differences in maximum total length and number of longitudinal scale rows, the new species further differs from L. graueri in the second supralabial being about twice the size of the first supralabial (vs. second supralabial as large as first) and the fourth supralabial being larger than the third by a factor of 1.5 (vs. being smaller by the same factor). Letheobia akagerae further differs from L. gracilis in having a crescentic frontal (vs. frontal trapezoid), bordering the nasals (vs. separated from nasals by supraoculars) and being two-thirds width of rostral (vs. half width of rostral); inferior nasal suture arising from first supralabial (vs. arising from second supralabial) and four-fifths of ventral edge of preocular being bordered by second supralabial, one-fifth by supralabial (vs. about half of edge being bordered by second and third supralabial, respectively). 
CommentHabitat: Soil. The holotype of Letheobia akagerae was found when soil was dug during construction work. The type locality is in gallery forest near the shores of Lake Ihema at around 1290 m a.s.l. Three additional specimens were observed and photographed in tree savanna on a nearby hilltop in the headquarters area of the national park (1°52'29.56"S, 30°42'55.49"E; 1°52'37.32"S, 30°42'50.42"E; 01°52'39.05"S, 30°42'52.80"E; approx. 1600m a.s.l.) slithering on the ground after heavy rainfalls during the day. 
EtymologyThe specific epithet refers to the type locality, the Akagera National Park in eastern Rwanda. 
References
  • DEHLING, J. MAXIMILIAN; HARALD H. HINKEL, HANS-JÜRGEN ENSIKAT, KENNY BABILON, EBERHARD FISCHER 2018. A new blind snake of the genus Letheobia (Serpentes: Typhlopidae) from Rwanda with redescriptions of L. gracilis (Sternfeld, 1910) and L. graueri (Sternfeld, 1912) and the introduction of a non-invasive preparation procedure for scanning electron mic Zootaxa 4378 (4): 480-490 - get paper here
  • Wallach, V. & Gemel, R. 2018. Typhlops weidholzi n. inedit., a new species of Letheobia from the republic of Cameroon, and a synopsis of the genus (Squamata: Serpentes: Scolecophidia: Typhlopidae). Herpetozoa 31 (1/2): 27 - 46 - get paper here
 
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