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Polemon ater PORTILLO, BRANCH, TILBURY, NAGY, HUGHES, KUSAMBA, MUNINGA, ARISTOTE, BEHANGANA & GREENBAUM, 2019

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Higher TaxaAtractaspididae (Aparallactinae), Colubroidea, Alethinophidia, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes) 
Subspecies 
Common Names 
SynonymPolemon ater PORTILLO, BRANCH, TILBURY, NAGY, HUGHES, KUSAMBA, MUNINGA, ARISTOTE, BEHANGANA & GREENBAUM 2019
Miodon gabonensis christyi — LOVERIDGE 1944: 170–180 (part)
Miodon christyi — LAURENT 1947: 10 (part)
Miodon christyi — DE WITTE & LAURENT 1947: 8, 60, 73–75, figs. 67–69 (part)
Miodon christyi — DE WITTE 1953: 264–265, fig. 91
Miodon christyi — LAURENT 1955; part): 293
Miodon christyi — LAURENT 1956: 252
Miodon collaris christyi — LOVERIDGE 1957: 283 (part)
Miodon christyi — BROADLEY & PITMAN 1960: 437, 447
Miodon christyi — BOURGEOIS 1968: 179, 284 (part)
Polemon christyi — BROADLEY 1971: 26, 76
Miodon christyi — PITMAN (1974: part): 135–168, 205, plate M, fig. 3, plate XII.
Polemon christyi — WELCH (1982; part): 142.
Polemon christyi — HUGHES (1983; part): 316, appendix A
Polemon christyi — CHIFUNDERA (1990; part): table 1.
Polemon christyi — BROADLEY & HOWELL (1991; part): 29, 35, 62
Polemon christyi — BROADLEY (1998; part): xxx.
Polemon christyi — BEHANGANA & GOODMAN (2002; part): 64
Polemon christyi — SPAWLS et al. (2002; part): 426.
Polemon christyi — BROADLEY et al. (2003): 95–96, fig. 17
Polemon christyi — BROADLEY & COTTERILL (2004; part): 47, 52.
Polemon christyi — SPAWLS et al. (2004; part): 426.
Polemon christyi — CHIRIO & INEICH (2006; part): 58.
Polemon christyi — LÖTTERS et al. (2007; part): 98–99, plate 12
Polemon christyi — CARO et al. (2011; part): 561.
Polemon christyi — WALLACH et al. (2014; part): 561, table 1
Polemon christyi — TILBURY & BRANCH (2014): 36–38, fig. 1
Polemon christyi — SPAWLS et al. (2018; part): 461 
DistributionDemocratic Republic of the Congo (Zaire: Lualaba)

elevation: 1189–1472 m. In Upemba National Park, de Witte (1953) found a male specimen as high as 1810 m.

Type locality: Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lualaba Province, Fungurume, 10.5338°S, 26.3375°E, 1189 m  
Reproduction 
TypesHolotype: PEM R20734, subadult male, C. Tilbury, 12 February 2014 (Tilbury and Branch, 2014). Paratype: PEM R17452, adult female, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lualaba Province, Kalakundi, 10.65508S, 25.93258E, 1472 m, W. R. Branch, 25 January 2008. 
DiagnosisDiagnosis. Polemon ater is a medium to large aparallactine. The dorsum and venter are uniformly grayish black or black, with ventrals and subcaudals each edged posteriorly in silver white, lacking any lighter tones or shades anywhere on the dorsum and lacking a distinct collar; the preocular scale is irregular in shape (somewhat triangular with a rounded top); dorsally the head narrows towards the snout. Cytochrome b and ND4 pairwise sequence divergence rates between P. ater and its closest relative (P. collaris) ranged between 2.5% to 5.3%.

Comparisons.—(Figs. 4, 5, 6; Table 2) Based on examined material and published details (Boulenger, 1903; de Witte, 1941, 1953, 1962, 1966; de Witte and Laurent, 1943, 1947; Laurent, 1956a, 1956b, 1960; Pitman, 1974; Broadley and Howell, 1991; Meirte, 1992; Broadley et al., 2003; Chippaux, 2006; Trape and Mane ́, 2006; Chirio and LeBreton, 2007; Pauwels and Vande weghe, 2008), P. ater differs from P. acanthias by dorsal coloration (grayish black or black vs. whitish or pale reddish with five black stripes in P. acanthias), having a divided cloacal plate (entire in P. acanthias), and ventral coloration (grayish black or black with silver-white edging on ventral and subcaudal scales vs. white in P. acanthias); from P. barthii by the number of postocular scales (two vs. one in P. barthii), the shape of the preocular scale (irregular vs. trapezoidal in P. barthii), dorsal coloration (grayish black or black vs. olive in P. barthii), having a divided cloacal plate (entire in P. barthii), and ventral coloration (grayish black or black with silver-white edging on ventral and subcaudal scales vs. yellowish white in P. barthii); from P. bocourti by the shape of the preocular scale (irregular vs. triangular in P. bocourti), and lacking a distinct collar (distinct creamy yellow collar in P. bocourti), having a divided cloacal plate (entire in P. bocourti), and having a narrower snout; from P. fulvicollis by the number of ventral scales (202–242 vs. 247–267 in P. fulvicollis), body shape (stout vs. slender and long in P. fulvicollis), ventral coloration (grayish black or black with silver-white edging on ventral and subcaudal scales vs. white in P. fulvicollis), and lacking a distinct collar (yellowish or orange collar present in P. fulvicollis); from P. gracilis by the number of infralabials (seven vs. six in P. gracilis), the number of ventral scales (202–242 vs. 246–284 in P. gracilis), ventral coloration (grayish black or black with silver-white edging on ventral and subcaudal scales vs. white or cream in P. gracilis), and absence of a collar (yellowish collar present in P. gracilis); from P. graueri by the number of ventral scales (202–242 vs. 222–262 in P. graueri), ventral coloration (grayish black or black with silver-white edging on ventral and subcaudal scales vs. cream or white in P. graueri), and shape of the preocular (irregular vs. triangular in P. graueri); from P. griseiceps by the number of ventral scales (202–242 vs. 177–200 in P. griseiceps) and ventral coloration (grayish black or black with silver-white edging on ventral and subcaudal scales vs. cream or white in P. griseiceps); from P. neuwiedi by dorsal coloration and pattern (grayish black or black vs. pale brown with three black stripes in P. neuwiedi) and ventral coloration (grayish black or black with silverwhite edging on ventral and subcaudal scales vs. white in P. neuwiedi); from P. notatus by dorsal coloration (grayish black or black vs. pale brown with two series of round black spots in P. notatus), number of ventral scales (202–242 vs. 181– 200 in P. notatus), ventral coloration (grayish black or black with silver-white edging on ventral and subcaudal scales vs. white in P. notatus), and number of postocular scales (two vs. one or two in P. notatus); from P. robustus by the shape of the preocular scale (irregular vs. rectangular and long vertically in P. robustus), lack of a distinct collar (yellowish orange collar present in P. robustus), shape of the snout laterally (narrow vs. wide in P. robustus), and number of ventral scales (202–242 vs. 163–189 in P. robustus); from P. christyi, to which it is morphologically most similar, by the shape of the postocular scales (upper postocular scale is noticeably larger than the lower postocular scale vs. equalsized postocular scales in P. christyi) and shape of the nasal scales (square-like vs. irregular shaped in P. christyi); from P. collaris by lacking a distinct collar (tan or yellow collar present in P. collaris), the shape of the postocular scales (top postocular scale is noticeably larger than the bottom postocular scale vs. equal-sized postocular scales in P. collaris), shape of the nasal scales (square-like vs. irregular shaped in P. collaris), ventral coloration (grayish black or black with silver-white edging on ventral and subcaudal scales vs. white or cream in P. collaris), and a narrower head; and also from P. gabonensis by the shape of its preocular scale (irregular vs. elongated and triangular in P. gabonensis), shape of the postocular scales (top postocular scale is noticeably larger than the bottom postocular scale vs. equal-sized postocular scales in P. gabonensis), shape of the nasal scales (square-like vs. irregular shaped in P. gabonensis), a less robust snout, lack of a distinct collar (yellowish light gray collar present in P. gabonensis), and ventral coloration (grayish black or black with silver-white edging Fig. 4. Photographs of the holotype of Polemon ater, PEM R20734 (254 mm SVL), subadult male from Fungurume, Lualaba Province, Democratic Republic of the Congo, in life (photos: CRT). (A) Closeup of head; (B) anterior body and tongue; (C) entire body.
shaped in P. collaris), ventral coloration (grayish black or black with silver-white edging on ventral and subcaudal scales vs. white or cream in P. collaris), and a narrower head; and also from P. gabonensis by the shape of its preocular scale (irregular vs. elongated and triangular in P. gabonensis), shape of the postocular scales (top postocular scale is noticeably larger than the bottom postocular scale vs. equal-sized postocular scales in P. gabonensis), shape of the nasal scales (square-like vs. irregular shaped in P. gabonensis), a less robust snout, lack of a distinct collar (yellowish light gray collar present in P. gabonensis), and ventral coloration (grayish black or black with silver-white edging
on ventral and subcaudal scales vs. creamy yellow lower labials and venter in P. gabonensis (from Portillo et al. 2019, see this paper for additional references). 
CommentSimilar species: P. ater has been split off from populations that were previously called P. christyi.

Habitat: in or near Brachystegia (i.e., miombo) woodlands of Lualaba Province, DRC (Fig. 7). The paratype was found dead in a pit in Kalakundi Copper Mine, where it had been killed by mine workers. Specimens from Upemba National Park in south- eastern DRC were found in grassland-miombo woodland habitat near tributaries. Specimens from Zambia were found in miombo woodland and in some cases, there was gallery forest in the vicinity, although none of the specimens were found in gallery forests (Broadley et al., 2003).

Diet: snakes, e.g. Afrotyphlops schmidti. Broadley et al. (2003) reported a 806 mm P. ater (as P. christyi) that consumed a 600 mm Crotaphopeltis hotamboeia and a 430 mm P. ater that consumed a 305 mm C. hotamboeia. 
EtymologyDerived from the Latin atrum in reference to the grayish black or black dorsal and ventral coloration that is present in all known specimens of P. ater. 
References
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  • Broadley, D. G. 1971. The reptiles and amphibians of Zambia. The Puku, Occas. Pap. Dept. Wild. Fish. Natl. Parks Zambia 6: 1-143
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  • Broadley, D.G. 1998. The reptilian fauna of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Congo-Kinshasa). In: Schmidt, K.P. and Noble, G.K., Contributions to the Herpetology of the Belgian Congo... [reprint of the 1919 and 1923 papers]. SSAR Facsimile reprints in Herpetology, 780 pp.
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