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Pseudechis pailsei (HOSER, 1998)

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Higher TaxaElapidae (Hydrophiinae), Colubroidea, Caenophidia, Alethinophidia, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes)
Common NamesE: False King Brown Snake 
SynonymPailsus pailsei HOSER 1998
Pailsus pailsi — WÜSTER et al. 2001
Pseudechis pailsei — WÜSTER et al. 2004
Pseudechis pailsei — WALLACH et al. 2014: 597
Pseudechis pailsei — COGGER 2014: 919
Pseudechis pailsi — MADDOCK et al. 2016 
DistributionAustralia (N Queensland)

Type locality: “East Leichardt Dam, near Mount Isa, Queensland, Lat. 20° 47’ [S], Long. 139° 47’ [E], Australia.”  
Reproductionoviparous (ovoviviparous) 
TypesHolotype: NMV D69704, a 1071 mm female (19 Nov. 1984). 
DiagnosisOriginal diagnosis: For many years this species has apparently been misidentified and confused with the King Brown Snake (Pseudechis australis) and snakes of the genus Pseudonaja. It is sympatric with both.
The species seems to be most like Pseudechis australis, from which it can be differentiated by the following characters: More slender build, smaller adult size, smaller less broad and/or distinct head. Pailsus pailsei can apparently reliably be separated from Pseudechis australis from the same area (north-western Queensland only) by the lack of paired subcaudals (under 10) when compared with local Pseudechis australis (over 15). References in the literature to some Pseudechis australis having no paired subcaudals (e.g. Cogger 1992, Wilson and Knowles 1988) may in fact be erroneously referring to Pailsus pailsei and this possibility should be investigated. Worrell (1972) and Hoser (1989) do not give Pseudechis australis as ever having all single subcaudals. Further investigation of all specimens in Australia lodged in Museums currently classified as Pseudechis australis is required to help clarify taxonomy of P. australis, Pailsus pailsei and similar species. To conduct such a survey was beyond the means of this author with regards to time constraints and other commitments.
Pailsus pailsei can be separated from Pseudonaja by the lack of paired subcaudals versus all or mainly divided, the lack of orange or brown ventral markings and it’s whitish coloured rostral.
Suggestions made that Pailsus pailsei may be a "hybrid" between Pseudechis australis and a Pseudonaja must be dismissed on the following grounds: There is no evidence of any such hybridisation occurring.
Furthermore all hybrid Australian snakes seen by this author, including Acanthophis hawkei X A. lancasteri, Morelia spilota X Morelia amethistina and Morelia spilota X Liasis fuscus have always had scalation intermediate between the parents. This is not the case for Pailsus pailsei. From the data presented in this paper it is evident that it is in fact Pseudechis australis that appears to have what could be termed scalation intermediate between Pseudonaja and Pailsus, at least with reference to the number of paired or single subcaudals.” (Hoser 1998)

Description of holotype: “Measurements: 90.2 cm snout-vent length, 16.9 cm tail length, 107.1 cm total body length. Snout tip to end of parietal scale (straight line): 2 cm, head width (straight line): 1.5 cm, (all taken from frozen snake).
Scalation: Smooth all over - not keeled. No suboculars, 6 supralabials (each side), one single white rostral, nasal divided, 2 postoculars, 2 temporals on each side, the first being elongated, 2 large prefrontals, the single supraoculars are the same size as the single frontal, 1 partially divided preocular on both sides.
Ventrally on the head there are 2 distinct anterior chin shields and four posterior chin shields, with the two in the middle being very small. There are six lower labials on each side.
There are 17 mid-body rows, 218 ventrals, paired anal plate and 65 single subcaudals, except for numbers 60 and 61 running in a posterior direction, which are divided.
A second (live) adult female of this species that was inspected by this author (depicted on the cover of this magazine) had 69 subcaudals, all of which were single. Other scalation was essentially similar to that of the type specimen.
Colouration: This specimen was observed by this author in June 1998 and the colour of the frozen specimen was effectively the same as in life. For colour description it is probably best to refer to photos published with this paper of the holotype and a different live specimen of the same species that was caught nearby and has similar colouration. The holotype is more or less an even brown in colour and not reddish in any way. There is a slight olive tinge. The rostral is whitish and the ventral surface is an even yellowish cream colour. There do not seem to be any magenta markings on the lower part of the rear of the head or adjacent neck, although another specimen of the same species had these (refer to photo in this journal). Some of the rear upper labials have whitish markings in line with the ventral colouration.” (Hoser 1998) 
CommentThe status of this species was contentious for some time (e.g. WÜSTER et al. (2004) but its validity was confirmed by MADDOCK et al. 2016.


Distribution: see map of localities in MADDOCK et al. 2016. 
EtymologyNamed after Victorian reptile breeder Roy Pails. In 1998 he was aged about 42 years old and had devoted his entire life to the keeping and breeding of Australian reptiles. Based on the nomenclature rules, the name pailsei needs to be emended to pailsi (fide WÜSTER et al. 2001). However, the ICZN could be used to counter this argument: Art. 32.5.1 states : "If there is in the original publication itself, without recourse to any external source of information, clear evidence of an inadvertent error, such as a lapsus calami or a copyist's or printer's error, it must be corrected. Incorrect transliteration or latinization, or use of an inappropriate connecting vowel, are not to be considered inadvertent errors." 
  • Beolens, Bo; Michael Watkins, and Michael Grayson 2011. The Eponym Dictionary of Reptiles. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, USA - get paper here
  • Cogger, H. G. 2014. Reptiles and Amphibians of Australia, 7th ed. CSIRO Publishing, xxx + 1033 pp. - get paper here
  • Eipper, Scott 2012. A Guide To Australian Snakes In Captivity - Elapids and Colubrids. Reptile Publications, 280 pp., ISBN 9780987244789
  • Hoser, Raymond 1998. A new snake from Queensland, Australia (Serpentes: Elapidae). Monitor 10 (1): 5-9; 31 - get paper here
  • Maddock, Simon T.;Aaron Childerstone, Bryan Grieg Fry, David J. Williams , Axel Barlow, Wolfgang Wüster 2016. Multi-locus phylogeny and species delimitation of Australo-Papuan blacksnakes (Pseudechis Wagler, 1830: Elapidae: Serpentes). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 107: 48-55 [2017, but published online 2016] - get paper here
  • Ukuwela, K.D.B., de Silva, A., Sivaruban, A. et al. 2022. Diversity, distribution, and natural history of the marine snakes of Sri Lanka. Marine Biodiversity 52, 24 (2022) - 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.
  • Wüster, W., B. Bush, J. S. Keogh, M. O'Shea, and R. Shine 2001. Taxonomic contributions in the "amateur" literature: comments on recent descriptions of new genera and species by Raymond Hoser. Litteratura Serpentium 21 (3): 86-91 - get paper here
  • Wüster, Wolfgang; Alex J. Dumbrell; Chris Hay; Catharine E. Pook; David J. Williams and Bryan Grieg Fry 2004. Snakes across the Strait: trans-Torresian phylogeographic relationships in three genera of Australasian snakes (Serpentes: Elapidae: Acanthophis, Oxyuranus, and Pseudechis). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 33 (3): 1-14 - get paper here
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