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Morelia azurea (MEYER, 1874)

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Higher TaxaPythonidae, Henophidia, Pythonoidea, Alethinophidia, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes) 
SubspeciesMorelia azurea azurea (MEYER 1874)
Morelia azurea pulcher (SAUVAGE 1878)
Morelia azurea utaraensis (NATUSCH et al. 2019) 
Common NamesE: Green tree python, Southern green python
G: Grüner Baumpython 
SynonymChondropython azureus MEYER 1874: 134
Chondropython pulcher SAUVAGE 1878: 37
Chondropython viridis — BOULENGER 1893: 90
Morelia azurea — SCHLEIP & O’SHEA 2010: 44
Morelia azurea — WALLACH et al. 2014: 452
Morelia azurea — BARKER et al. 2015
Morelia azurea — NATUSCH et al. 2019

Morelia azurea pulcher (SAUVAGE 1878)
Python viridis — SCHLEGEL 1872
Chondropython azureus MEYER 1874: 134
Chondropython pulcher SAUVAGE 1878: 37
Chondropython viridis — BOULENGER 1893: 90
Morelia azurea — SCHLEIP & O’SHEA 2010: 44

Morelia azurea utaraensis (NATUSCH et al. 2019)
Python viridis — SCHLEGEL 1872
Chondropython azureus MEYER 1874: 134
Chondropython pulcher SAUVAGE 1878: 37
Chondropython viridis — BOULENGER 1893: 90
Morelia azurea — SCHLEIP & O’SHEA 2010: 44 
DistributionPapua New Guinea (Biak [formerly Mysore], Numfor and Supiori in the Schouten Islands group of Cenderawasih [formerly Geelvink] Bay

Type locality: “Kordo auf Mysore” [= Korido on Biak Island]

pulcher: Indonesia (Vogelkop Peninsula of West Papua); Type locality: Mansinam Island near Manokwari, Indonesia.

utaraensis: E Papua New Guinea (from Lae and the Huon Peninsula, west through northern Papua New Guinea), , Indonesia (Papua), to the island of Mios Num (west of Yapen) in the west. Type locality: ‘Hollandia’ (present day Jayapura) in Papua, Indonesia.  
Reproductionoviparous. 
TypesNeotype: UTA R-61633, designated by Barker et al. 2015; former syntypes: ZMB 8832, MTD (= MTKD) 638, MTD (= MTKD) 639, all lost.
Lectotype: MNHN-RA 5088 (2 specimens: 5088 and 5088A); paralectotypes: MNHN-RA 50875089, four specimens collected by M. Laglaize; designated by Natusch et al. 2019 [pulcher]
Holotype: AMNH 62020; adult female collected by W.B.
Richardson, on 9 July 1938 [utaraensis] 
DiagnosisDiagnosis: Morelia viridis is easily distinguished from all subspecies of M. azurea by the following characters: presence of a single juvenile morph (yellow vs. yellow or red in M. azurea); presence of a tightly knitted row of white vertebral scales along the vertebral ridge, or white ‘rosettes’ along the vertebral ridge in the Aru Islands population; and a dark shade of green coloration along the vertebral ridge, as opposed to uniform green in M. azurea (Table 1, Supplementary Material II). Most populations of M. viridis also possess short, stubby tails and con- siderably lower subcaudal scale counts vs. long, tapering tails and high subcaudal scale counts in M. azurea (Table 1, Supplementary Material II). The exceptions are populations from Milne Bay and the north coast of Oro and Morobe Provinces to near Lae, Papua New Guinea, which typically have long, tapering tails similar to M. azurea. Morelia viridis further differs from M. a. azurea and M. a. utaraensis in that juveniles possess a single iris band running horizontally through the eye (as opposed to a triple iris band; Table 1; Supplementary Material II). It further differs from M. a. utaraensis in that juveniles have a darkened tail tip and a broken pattern following the vertebral ridge vs. a light- colored tail and continuous pattern. Morelia viridis further differs from M. a. azurea by undergoing a relatively rapid color change to become uniform green in adulthood vs. delayed colour change with variable coloration). [from Natusch et al. 2019]

Diagnosis (pulcher): Morphologically, M. a. pulcher differs only subtly from M. azurea utaraensis in having a higher mean number of ventral and subcaudal scales, a single iris band in juvenile specimens, and a dark tail tip (vs. a light-colored tail tip in M. azurea utarensis). [from Natusch et al. 2019]

Diagnosis (utaraensis): Morphologically, M. a. utaraensis differs only subtly from M. azurea pulcher in having a lower mean number of ventral and subcaudal scales, a triple iris band in juvenile specimens, and a light tail tip (vs. a dark-colored tail tip in M. azurea pulcher). Morelia a. utaraensis differs from M. a. azurea in having a lower mean number of ventral, supralabial, infralabial and subcaudal scales, a relatively rapid onto- genetic color change, a shorter head and snout, and a fully connected juvenile pattern (vs broken/unconnected patterning in M. a. azurea), and a light tail tip (vs dark in M. a. azurea) [from Natusch et al. 2019] 
CommentSee also M. viridis.

Distribution: see Natusch et al. 2019: Fig 1 for maps of the subspecies and M. viridis.

M. azureus was resurrected from the synonymy of M. viridis by Hoser (2009). Rawlings and Donnellan (2003) also revealed the existence of two populations that are genetically distinct, one from north of the central cordillera (corresponding to azurea), the other from the south, including the Aru Island and Australian populations. Natusch et al. 2019 studied the relationship of various populations. 
EtymologyThe name utaraensis is derived from the Indonesian language word for “north”. Morelia azurea utaraensis occurs in northern New Guinea, with its name meaning “from the north”. 
References
  • Barker, D. G., Barker, T. M., Davis, M. A. and Schuett, G. W. 2015. A review of the systematics and taxonomy of Pythonidae: an ancient serpent lineage. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 175 (1): 1-19; doi: 10.1111/zoj.12267 - 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
  • Meyer, A.B. 1874. Übersicht über die von mir auf Neu-Guinea und den Inseln Jobi, Mysore und Mafoor im Jahre 1873 gesammelten Amphibien. Monatsber. K. Preuss. Akad. Wiss. Berlin 1874: 128-140 - get paper here
  • Natusch, Daniel J.D.; Damien Esquerré, Jessica A. Lyons, Amir Hamidy, Alan R. Lemmon, Emily Moriarty Lemmon, Awal Riyanto, J. Scott Keogh, Stephen Donnellan 2019. Species delimitation and systematics of the green pythons (Morelia viridis T complex) of melanesia and Australia. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 142: 106640 [2020] - get paper here
  • Sauvage, H. E., 1878. Eassai sur la faune herpetologique de la Nouvelle-Guinee, suivi de la description de quelques especes nouvelles ou peu connues. Bulletin des Sciences, par la Sociétè Philomathique de Paris 2: 25-44. - get paper here
  • Schleip, Wulf D & O’Shea, M. 2010. Annotated checklist of the recent and extinct pythons (Serpentes, Pythonidae), with notes on nomenclature, taxonomy, and distribution. ZooKeys 66 (2010) : 29-79 - 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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