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Psammophis mossambicus PETERS, 1882

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Higher TaxaLamprophiidae, Psammophiinae, Colubroidea, Alethinophidia, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes) 
Common NamesOlive Grass Snake, Olive Whip Snake 
SynonymPsammophis sibilans var. mossambica PETERS 1882: 122
Psammophis sibilans var. tettensis PETERS 1882: 122
Psammophis thomasi GOUGH 1908: 30
Psammophis mossambicus — BROADLEY 2002
Psammophis mossambicus — CIMATTI 2006
Psammophis mossambica — JACOBSEN et al. 2010
Psammophis mossambicus — WALLACH et al. 2014: 588
Psammophis mossambicus — SPAWLS et al. 2018: 434 
DistributionMozambique Island, Zambia, Democratic Republic of Congo (Katanga), Botswana, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya, Namibia, Angola, E Republic of South Africa (Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Kwazulu-Natal), Swaziland

Type locality: Mozambique Island  
TypesSyntypes: ZMB 2468A (lectotype designated by Broadley) 
DiagnosisDescription (760 specimens examined): Nostril pierced between 2 (rarely 3) nasals; preocular 1, usually widely separated from frontal; postoculars 2; temporals usually1/2+3; supralabials 8 (very rarely 6, 7 or 9), the fourth & fifth (rarely third & fourth or fifth & sixth) entering orbit; infralabials usually 10 (rarely 9 or 11), the first 4 (very rarely 5) in contact with anterior sublinguals; dorsal scales in 17-17-13 rows; ventrals 150-180; cloacal shield divided; subcaudals 82-121. Dorsum olive brown, often yellowish posteriorly, uniform, or with black-edged mid-dorsal scales forming black lines, or with irregularly scattered black scales on the neck. NMZB from Livingstone, Zambia, has 50% of the dorsal scales black and NMZB 13697 from the Haroni/Rusitu confluence on the Zimbabwe /Mozambique border has 90% of the dorsum black and about 60% of the ventrum. I encountered what appeared to be an all black P. mossambicus on the road between Victoria Falls and Kazungula. Head uniform or with indications of a pattern like P. subtaeniatus, usually in chestnut. Each labial and sublingual is adorned with a dark spot with a pale centre. Ventrum yellow or white, uniform or with lateral rows of black spots or short streaks or irregular black speckling [BROADLEY 2002]. 
CommentDistribution: see map in BROADLEY 2002: 91 (Fig. 5).

Synonymy: Broadley (1977, 1983) has previously assigned this species to P. phillipsii (Hallowell), but Brandstätter (1995, PhD thesis) and Hughes (1999) consider P. phillipsii, a uniform olive form with an entire cloacal shield, to be restricted to West Africa, where it occupies forest clearings and moist savanna. Branch (1998) used the name P. mossambicus Peters; Broadley selected a lectotype in Berlin and this name is certainly applicable to the big Olive Whip Snake, but the first available name for this species may actually be P. irregularis Fischer, 1856, based on a specimen from Peki in eastern Ghana with a divided cloacal shield, which has extensive black dorsal patches on the anterior third of the body, decreasing posteriorly. Kelly et al. (2008) tentatively conclude that P. mossambicus is a synonym of P. phillipsi. 
  • 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.
  • Branch, W. R. 1998. Field Guide to the Snakes and Other Reptiles of Southern Africa. 3rd ed. Fully Revised and Updated to Include 83 New Species. Ralph Curtis Books (Sanibel Island, Florida), 399 pp.
  • Branch, William R. 1993. A Photographic Guide to Snakes and Other Reptiles of Southern Africa. Cape Town: Struik Publishers, 144 S.
  • Broadley, D.G. 1977. A review of the genus Psammophis in southern Africa (Serpentes: Colubridae). Arnoldia 8 (12): 1-29
  • Broadley, D.G. 1983. FitzSimon’s snakes of Southern Africa (revised edition). Delta Books, Jahannesburg, 376 pp.
  • Broadley, D.G. 2002. A review of the species of Psammophis Boie found south of Latitude 12° S (Serpentes: Psammophiinae). African Journal of Herpetology 51 (2): 83-119 - get paper here
  • Broadley, D.G.; Doria, C.T. & Wigge, J. 2003. Snakes of Zambia. An Atlas and Field Guide. Edition Chimaira, Frankfurt, 280 pp. [review in Sauria 26 (3): 21]
  • Broadley, Donald G. and F. P. D. Cotterill. 2004. The reptiles of southeast Katanga, an overlooked 'hot spot'. [Congo]. African Journal of Herpetology 53 (1): 35-61. - get paper here
  • Cimatti, E. 2006. African Jewels: Tanzania on foot. Reptilia (GB) (46): 65-70 - get paper here
  • Conradie W, Bills R, and Branch WR. 2016. The herpetofauna of the Cubango, Cuito, and lower Cuando river catchments of south-eastern Angola. Amphibian & Reptile Conservation 10(2) [Special Section]: 6–36 - get paper here
  • Gough, L.H. 1908. Catalogue of the South African snakes in the collections of the Transvaal Museum, Pretoria, the Albany Museum, Grahamstown, and the State Museum, Bloemfontein. Ann. Transvaal Mus. 1: 17-45 - get paper here
  • Haagner,G.V.; Branch,W.R. & Haagner,A.J.F. 2000. Notes on a collection of reptiles from Zambia and adjacent areas of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Annals of the Eastern Cape Museum 1: 1 – 25
  • Herrmann, H.-W.; W.R. Branch 2013. Fifty years of herpetological research in the Namib Desert and Namibia with an updated and annotated species checklist. Journal of Arid Environments 93: 94–115 - get paper here
  • Hughes, B. 1999. Critical review of a revision of Psammophis (Linnaeus 1758) (Serpentes, Reptilia) by Frank Brandstätter. African Journal of Herpetology 48 (1-2): 63-70 - get paper here
  • Jacobsen, Niels H.G.; Errol W. Pietersen & Darren W. Pietersen 2010. A preliminary herpetological survey of the Vilanculos Coastal Wildlife Sanctuary on the San Sebastian Peninsula, Vilankulo, Mozambique. Herpetology Notes 3: 181-193 - get paper here
  • Kelly, Christopher M.R.;Nigel P. Barker, Martin H. Villet, Donald G. Broadley and William R. Branch 2008. The snake family Psammophiidae (Reptilia: Serpentes): Phylogenetics and species delimitation in the African sand snakes (Psammophis Boie, 1825) and allied genera. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 47 (3): 1045-1060 - get paper here
  • Marais, J. 2004. A Complete Guide to the Snakes of Southern Africa, 2nd ed. Struik Publishers, 312 pp.
  • Marques, Mariana P.; Luis M. P. Ceríaco , David C. Blackburn , and Aaron M. Bauer 2018. Diversity and Distribution of the Amphibians and Terrestrial Reptiles of Angola -- Atlas of Historical and Bibliographic Records (1840–2017). Proc. Cal. Acad. Sci. (Ser. 4) 65: 1-501 (Supplement II)
  • O’Shea, M. 2018. The Book of Snakes. Ivy Press / Quarto Publishing, London, - get paper here
  • Peters,W. 1882. Naturwissenschaftliche Reise nach Mossambique auf Befehl seiner Majestät es Königs Friedrich Wilhelm IV. in den Jahren 1842 bis 1848 ausgefeführt von Wilhelm C. Peters. Zoologie III. Amphibien. Berlin (Reimer), 191pp.
  • Pietersen DW, Pietersen EW, Conradie W. 2017. Preliminary herpetological survey of Ngonye Falls and surrounding regions in south-western Zambia. Amphibian & Reptile Conservation 11(1) [Special Section]: 24–43 (e148 - get paper here
  • Pietersen, Darren W. Pietersen, Errol W. Haacke, Wulf D. 2013. First herpetological appraisal of the Parque Nacional de Banhine, Gaza Province, southern Mozambique. Annals of the Ditsong National Museum of Natural History 3: 153-163 - get paper here
  • Schleicher, Alfred 2015. Reptilien Namibias. Namibia Scientific  Society, 276 pp.
  • Shine, Richard; William R. Branch, Jonathan K. Webb, Peter S. Harlow, and Terri Shine 2006. Sexual Dimorphism, Reproductive Biology, and Dietary Habits of Psammophiine Snakes (Colubridae) from Southern Africa. Copeia 2006 (4): 650-664 - get paper here
  • Spawls, S.; Howell, K.; Drewes, R.C. & Ashe, J. 2002. A field guide to the reptiles of East Africa. Academic Press, 543 pp. [reviews in HR 34: 396 and Afr. J. Herp. 51; 147] - get paper here
  • Spawls, Steve; Kim Howell, Harald Hinkel, Michele Menegon 2018. Field Guide to East African Reptiles. Bloomsbury, 624 pp. - get paper here
  • Vats, Rajeev; Ignas Safari 2014. Diversity of Snakes at the University of Dodoma Campus, Tanzania. American Journal of Zoological Research, 2 (3): 41-45 - 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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