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IUCN Red List - Liophidium pattoni - Near Threatened, NT

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Higher TaxaPseudoxyrhophiidae, Colubroidea, Caenophidia, Alethinophidia, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes)
Common Names 
Liophidium pattoni — WALLACH et al. 2014: 387 
DistributionNE Madagascar (Mahajanga)

Type locality: a site locally named Angozongahy at the west- ern side of the Makira plateau, within the newly created reserve „Makira Natural Park“, 15°26’13.3’’ S, 49°07’07.0’’ E, 1009 m elevation, district of Mandritsara, region of Sofia, province of Mahajanga, northeastern Madagascar.  
Reproductionoviparous (not imputed, fide Zimin et al. 2022) 
TypesHolotype: ZSM 186/2009 (field number DRV 5948), adult male, collected on 28 June 2009 by M. Vences, D. R. Vieites, F. M. Ratsoavina & R.-D. Randrianiaina. 
DiagnosisDiagnosis: Liophidium pattoni sp. n. can be easily distinguished from all other Liophidium species and any other species of Malagasy snakes by its unique colour pattern. It presents an overall black dorsal side with four regularly discontinuous pink-red stripes, fading into blue-grey at mid-body, and a bright conspicuous yellow venter with a pink-red colouration on the ventral side of the tail. In addition, it differs from other nominal species of Liophidium as follows (based on data summarized in Glaw & Vences 1994, 2007, Franzen et al. 2009): From the Comoroan species, L. mayottensis, by presenting 17 rows of dorsal scales versus 19. From L. vaillanti by presence of a loreal scale (versus absence); presence of eight upper labials, with upper labials 4 + 5 touching the eye, versus 7 (3 + 4); and by having a lower number of ventral scales (160 vs. 220–255). From L. therezieni by presence of a loreal scale (versus absence); presence of eight upper labials, with upper labials 4 + 5 touching the eye, versus 7 (3 + 4); and by a lower number of ventral scales (160 vs. 218–235). From L. maintikibo by presence of a loreal scale (versus absence); presence of eight upper labials, with upper labials 4 + 5 touching the eye, versus 7 (3 + 4); and by a lower number of ventral scales (160 vs. 193). The remaining Liophidium species have 8 supralabials and a loreal scale, and differences from L. pattoni are mainly in SVL, number of ventrals and subcaudals. Liophidium pattoni is possibly larger than L. apperti (417 vs. 238 mm [total length of the two respective holotypes]), and has more ventral scales (160 vs. 145). Liophidium pattoni is also possibly larger than L. trilineatum (417 vs. 330 mm total length of the only known specimens for which data on size is available; see Guibé 1958), and has more ventral scales (160 vs. 145–152). Liophidium pattoni shows a higher number of ventral scales than L. chabaudi (160 vs. 150–154), and more subcaudals (54 vs. 34–46). By external morphology, L. pattoni is most similar to L. torquatum. Both species overlap in body length and number of ventrals, but L. torquatum has a slightly higher number of subcaudals (58–75) than L. pattoni (54). The main differences are in the colouration, as L. torquatum shows a rather uniform light brown dorsal colouration, sometimes with small black spots arranged in longitudinal series (Boulenger 1888), lacking the bright colour stripes on a black dorsal background shown by L. pattoni. Liophidium torquatum exhibits a dark crossband behind the parietals, missing in L. pattoni; upper labials with black edges which are bright yellow in L. pattoni; a brown throat with white, dark-edged markings, whereas it is completely yellow in L. pattoni; whitish or pinkish ventrals with small dark spots which are bright yellow with a black crescent shape in L. pattoni; and a yellowish or light pink tail with black dots, which is bright pink-red in L. pattoni. Liophidium pattoni differs from its sister taxon (according to molecular data; see below), L. rhodogaster, in exhibiting fewer ventral scales (160 vs. 181–192) and fewer subcaudals (54 vs. 61–81). Both species show a pinkish colour on the ventral side of the tail, although this colouration extends to the ventrals in L. rhodogaster while it is bright yellow in L. pattoni. hey also differ significantly in dorsal colour pattern, with L. rhodogaster having a brown dorsum with a lateral dark brown thin line and a wide blackish dor- sal band, and the new species showing four very conspicu- ous bright pink-red discontinuous stripes, which change to blue-grey at mid-body, on a black ground colour. The head colouration also differs among both species, with a dark brown head with few whitish scales behind the eye in L. rhodogaster, and a black and bright yellow pattern in L. pattoni consisting of bright yellow supralabials, a black stripe reaching from the nasal scale through the eye and towards the posterior border of the head, and bright yellow upper postocular and temporal scales. From the snout to the supraocular scales, L. pattoni shows a variable amount of bright yellow colour with small black patches [from VIEITES et al. 2010]. 
EtymologyThe species is named after Jim Patton, renowned mammalogist who recently developed a special interest in the Malagasy fauna. He and his wife Carol were amazing field companions from whom the authors learned a lot and enjoyed their time together during their field expeditions to Madagascar. 
  • Beolens, Bo; Michael Watkins, and Michael Grayson 2011. The Eponym Dictionary of Reptiles. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, USA - get paper here
  • Fleute, M., Glaw, F., & Gehring, P. S. 2023. A rarely found beauty: a new record of Liophidium pattoni, the most colourful snake in Madagascar, from Marojejy National Park. Herpetology Notes, 16: 111-113
  • Miinala, Mirja 2011. New location record for the recently described Liophidium pattoni Vieites Ratsoavina, Randrianiaina, Nagy, Glaw & Vences 2010. Herpetology Notes 4: 181. - get paper here
  • O’Shea, M. 2018. The Book of Snakes. Ivy Press / Quarto Publishing, London, - get paper here
  • Vieites, D. R., F. M. Ratsoavina, R.-D. Randrianiaina, Z. T. Nagy, F. Glaw & M. Vences 2010. A rhapsody of colours from Madagascar: discovery of a remarkable new snake of the genus Liophidium and its phylogenetic relationships. Salamandra 46 (1): 1-10 - 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.
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