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Lycodonomorphus laevissimus (GÜNTHER, 1862)

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Higher TaxaLamprophiidae, Colubroidea, Alethinophidia, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes) 
SubspeciesLycodonomorphus laevissimus laevissimus GÜNTHER 1862
Lycodonomorphus laevissimus natalensis RAW 1973
Lycodonomorphus laevissimus fitzsimonsi RAW 1973 
Common NamesE: Dusky-bellied Water Snake 
SynonymNatrix laevissima GÜNTHER 1862: 124
Neusterophis laevissima — GÜNTHER 1863: 16
Tropidonotus laevissimus — BOULENGER 1893: 226
Neusterophis laevissima — FITZSiMONS 1946
Lycodonomorphus laevissimus — LOVERIDGE 1958
Lycodonomorphus laevissimus — FITZSIMONS 1966
Grayia lubrica SCLATER (fide FITZSIMONS 1966)
Hydrablabes melanogaster WERNER 1923
Lycodonomorphus laevissimus — WALLACH et al. 2014: 406 
DistributionRepublic of South Africa (Eastern Cape Province, Natal, SE Transvaal)

fitzsimonsii: Swaziland; Type locality: “Lothair, Ermelo District, SE Transvaal”

natalensis: Republic of South Africa (KwaZulu-Natal); Type locality: “Londen Sream, Hillary, Durban, Natal at an altitude of 65 m asl”

Type locality: 'Probably from East Indies', in error.  
TypesType: BMNH 1946.1.12.78 (and possibly additional specimens)
Holotype: DNMNH (= TM) 21261, adult female [fitzsimonsi]
Holotype: NMZB (formerly UM = Umtali Museum) 27057, adult female [natalensis] 
CommentSynonymy after BOULENGER 1893. Branch and Haagner consider that only the nominate form is valid but RAW (pers. comm.) suggests that fitzsimonsi should be recognised as a separate species after considering the evidence. In laevissimus the high ventral count southern laevissimus merges into the northern low count natalensis which seems to confirm subspecies status.

Habitat. Fairly common in streams and reservoirs; almost entirely aquatic. 
  • 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. 1893. Catalogue of the snakes in the British Museum (Nat. Hist.) I. London (Taylor & Francis), 448 pp. - 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
  • Branch, William R. 1993. A Photographic Guide to Snakes and Other Reptiles of Southern Africa. Cape Town: Struik Publishers, 144 S.
  • Fitzsimons, V. 1946. Notes on some African Snakes, including a discription of a new subspecies of Xenocalamus. Ann. Transvaal Mus. 20 (4): 379-394
  • Günther, A. 1862. On new species of snakes in the collection of the British Museum. Ann. Mag. nat. Hist. (3) 9: 124-132 - get paper here
  • Günther,A. 1863. On Atheris burtonii, a new snake from West Africa. Proc. Zool. Soc. London 1863: 16-18 - get paper here
  • Haagner G V. Branch W R. 1994. A taxonomic revision of the dusky-bellied water snake, Lycodonomorphus laevissimus (Serpentes: Colubridae). Journal of African Zoology 108 (3): 237- 250
  • Loveridge,A. 1958. Revision of five african snake genera. Bull. Mus. Comp. Zool. Harvard 119: 1-198 (141) - get paper here
  • RABIEGA, P. S. 2018. Lycodonomorphus laevissimus (Günther, 1862). African Herp News (68): 59-61 - get paper here
  • Raw, L.R.G. 1973. A review of the dusky-bellied water snake, Lycodonomorphus laevissimus (Günther), with descriptions of two new subspecies. Ann. Natal Mus. 21: 713-718.
  • 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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