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Natrix helvetica (LACÉPÈDE, 1789)

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Higher TaxaColubridae (Natricinae), Colubroidea, Caenophidia, Alethinophidia, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes) 
SubspeciesNatrix helvetica helvetica (LACÉPÈDE 1789)
Natrix helvetica cetti GENÉ 1839
Natrix helvetica corsa (HECHT 1930)
Natrix helvetica sicula (CUVIER 1829) 
Common NamesE: European Grass Snake
G: Barren-Ringelnatter 
SynonymColuber helveticus LACÉPÈDE 1789 (nomen protectum)
Coluber vulgaris RAZOUMOWSKY 1789
Coluber bipes GMELIN 1789 (nomen oblitum)
Coluber tyrolensis GMELIN 1789 (nomen oblitum)
Coluber scopolianus DAUDIN 1803 (nomen oblitum)
Natrix natrix helvetica — THORPE 1975
Natrix natrix helvetica — HENLE 1980
Natrix natrix helvetica — VANNI & LANZA 1983: 174
Natrix helvetica — TREPTE 1993
Natrix natrix helvetica — PAWLOWSKI & KRÄMER 2009
Natrix natrix helvetica — FRITZ et al. 2012
Natrix helvetica — KINDLER et al. 2017
Natrix helvetica — KINDLER et al. 2017

Natrix helvetica cetti GENÉ 1839
Natrix Cetti GENÉ 1839
Tropidonotus natrix cetti — HECHT 1930: 307
Natrix natrix cetti — VANNI & LANZA 1983: 176
Natrix cetti cetti — VANNI & CIMMARUTA 2010
Natrix natrix cetti — SCHMID 2013
Natrix natrix cetti — LUNGHI et al. 2016
Natrix helvetica cetti — KINDLER et al. 2017
Natrix natrix cetti — LUNGHI et al. 2018

Natrix helvetica corsa (HECHT 1930)
Tropidonotus natrix corsus HECHT 1930: 308
Natrix natrix corsa — DELAGUERRE & CHEYLAN 1992: 82
Natrix cetti corsa — VANNI & CIMMARUTA 2010
Natrix helvetica corsa — KINDLER et al. 2017

Natrix helvetica sicula (CUVIER 1829)
Coluber siculus CUVIER 1829
Tropidonotus natrix var. sicula — BOETTGER 1880: 141
Natrix natrix sicula — MERTENS 1928
Tropidonotus natrix siculus — HECHT 1930: 302
Natrix helvetica lanzai KRAMER 1971
Natrix natrix lanzai — SCHWARZER et al. 1982
Natrix natrix sicula — VANNI & LANZA 1983: 173
Natrix natrix sicula — SCHLÜTER 2009
Natrix helvetica sicula — KINDLER et al. 2017
Natrix helvetica lanzai — KINDLER et al. 2017
Natrix helvetica sicula — SCHULTZE et al. 2020 
DistributionEngland (UK), Netherlands, W Germany, France, Switzerland, Belgium, Croatia, Slovenia, Italy

cetti: Italy (Sardinia); Type locality: villages Fonni and Monte di San Giovanni d’Igelsias.

corsa: France (Corsica); Type locality: Korsika

sicula S Italy, Sicily

vulgaris: Switzerland; Type locality: Jorat, Switzerland  
TypesHolotype: unlocated, apparently not in MNHN-RA fide I. Ineich, pers. comm. 21 May 2019.
Holotype: private collection, given as “Sammlung Kramer”, adult male [lanzai]
Holotype: ZMB, cat. no. unknown [corsa]
Holotype: MNHN-RA 3317, collected by Bibron in Sicilia [sicula 
CommentDistribution: see maps for N. natrix and N. helvetica and their various clades in Kindler et al. 2018.

Synonymy: SCHULTZE et al. 2020 synonymized Natrix helvetica lanzai with N. h. sicula. Schultze et al. also found no evidence for the distinctiveness of the two subspecies from Corsica (N. h. corsa) and Sardinia (N. h. cetti), suggesting their synonymy, but refrained from taxonomic conclusions because of small sample sizes and the endangered status of the Sardinian taxon. Coluber vulgaris Razoumowsky, 1789 becomes a junior secondary homonym of Natrix vulgaris Laurenti, 1768 when transferred to the genus Natrix and thus, according to Articles 57 and 59 of the Code, invalid and does not threaten the usage of Natrix helvetica for the barred grass snake (Fritz et al. 2020).

Subspecies: THORPE (1975) recognized only 4 subspecies: natrix, cetti, corsa, and helvetica (with N. n. natrix to include cypriaca, fusca, gotlandica, persa, schweizeri, scutata, and syriaca and helvetica to include helvetica, astreptophora, lanzai, and sicula). SOCHUREK (1979) suggested to recognize N.n. algirus. Natrix natrix helvetica was sometimes considered as valid species. Kindler et al. 2013, 2017 found many mismatches between morphologically defined taxa and mitochondrial clades (see e.g. Fig. S1 in Kindler et al. 2017), hence the Natrix natrix species complex may be difficult to diagnose morphologically.

Hybridization: In the French Pyrenees region, N. n. astreptophora and N. n. helvetica hybridize occasionally. N. n. astreptophora differs consistently from all other grass snakes by its reddish iris coloration and in having significantly fewer ventral scales and another skull morphology. Natrix natrix helvetica hybridizes very little with N. n. natrix (Kindler et al. 2018) although FRITZ et al. 2012 stated that they “hybridize extensively”. A hybrid zone of N. h. helvetica and N. h. sicula in Italy is wide, with a smooth cline for nuclear markers, supporting their
subspecies status (Schultze et al. 2020).

NCBI taxon ID: 1768100 [helvetica helvetica]
NCBI taxon ID: 1080240 [cetti]
NCBI taxon ID: 1080239 [corsa]
NCBI taxon ID: 1080238 [lanzai] 
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  • Fritz, U., Razzetti, E., & Schmidtler, J. 2020. The valid scientific names of the barred grass snake and its subspecies from mainland Italy and Sicily. Amphibia-Reptilia XX: 1-6 - get paper here
  • FRITZ, UWE & CAROLIN KINDLER 2017. A very European tale – Britain still has only three snake species, but its grass snake is now assigned to another species (Natrix helvetica). Herpetological Bulletin (141): - get paper here
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