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Pseudocerastes persicus (DUMÉRIL, BIBRON & DUMÉRIL, 1854)

IUCN Red List - Pseudocerastes persicus - Least Concern, LC

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Higher TaxaViperidae, Viperinae, Colubroidea, Caenophidia, Alethinophidia, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes)
Common NamesE: Persian Horned Viper
G: Persische Trughornviper 
SynonymCerastes persicus DUMÉRIL, BIBRON & DUMÉRIL 1854: 1443
Pseudocerastes persicus BOULENGER 1896
Pseudocerastes bicornis WALL 1913 (fide JOGER 1984)
Pseudocerastes persicus — SMITH 1943: 490
Vipera persica persica MARX & RABB 1965
Pseudocerastes persicus persicus ARNOLD & GALLAGHER 1977
Daboia persica persica OBST 1983
Pseudocerastes persicus persicus — WELCH 1994: 103
Pseudocerastes persicus — MCDIARMID, CAMPBELL & TOURÉ 1999: 388
Pseudocerastes bicornis — KHAN 2004
Pseudocerastes persicus — FATHINIA & RASTEGAR-POUYANI 2010
Pseudocerastes persicus — WALLACH et al. 2014: 600 
DistributionIraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Iran (incl. Kavir desert), Afghanistan, Pakistan, N Oman, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Jordan, Syria

Type locality: Persia  
TypesHolotype: MNHN-RA 4027, according to Golay et al. 1993: 277 
DiagnosisDEFINITION (of genus): Head distinct from neck, covered with small scales; pupil of eye vertical; nostril directed outwards and upwards, in large undivided nasal shield (pierced between two small scales, a larger crescentic anterior and a smaller scale-like posterior [Gasperetti 1988: 350]) (nasal aperture in a large circular or crescentic shield, the upper part of the aperture leading into the supranasal sac [Smith 1943:490, fig. 155A]); supralabials with serrated lower margin and with inner groove to receive lower lip (The structure of the lips, to provide complete closure of the mouth, and the valvular prominence within the nasal aperture, are typical desert modifications against the ingress of blown sand. They are found also in Eristocophis [Smith 1943:490]); body scales in 21–25 longitudinal rows, none obliquely disposed; keels on body scales do not reach posterior edge of scale but end in swollen knob before outer edge, keels not serrated; ventrals rounded, without lateral keels; tail short, subcaudals paired (Leviton et al. 1992:114–115). [from BOSTANCHI et al. 2006].

DESCRIPTION (of species; From Smith 1943:490–492, fig. 155): Head depressed, snout short and broadly rounded; diameter of the eye less than its distance from the mouth; nostril very large, pierced in a large circular or crescentic nasal, bounded above by a supranasal which may be broken up; two scales between the nasal and the rostral; scales on top of the head small, imbricate, smooth on the snout, keeled behind in the young, tuberculate and more strongly keeled in the adult; an erect horn-like scale above the eye surrounded by small scales; 9–12 scales on a line between the horns; 16–20 scales round the eye; 3–4 scales on a line between the eye and the nasal; temporal scales small, keeled; 13–14 supralabials, 4 series of scales between them and the eye, 1st pair of infralabials larger than the others; a pair of large anterior genials, the scales posterior to them being much smaller. Scales in 23 or 25:23 or 25: 19 rows, striated and strongly keeled, the outermost scales strongly overlapping the ventral scales. V144–158; C 34–49, paired. Hemipenis short, extending to the 8th caudal plate, deeply forked; the distal end is calyculate, the remainder spinose, the largest spines being at the proximal end; sulcus lips also spinose. Snout-vent length 688–690 mm, tail 80–85 mm. Grayish-brown above, with squarish, dark brown, black-edged spots, which alternate with one another on either side of the vertebral line, or are confluent to form cross-bars; sides of the body with rounded, less distinct spots; top of the head pale grey, upper lip and side of the head darker, the two colors meeting in a sharply defined line which extends from the eye to the angle of the mouth; whitish beneath, spotted with brown. In the adult the markings are much less distinct and may be almost entirely absent. In large adults, tip of tail often dark. An adult from Kacha, Baluchistan, is heavily marked and mottled with black and cream. Total length: 890 mm; tail 110 mm. 

Type species: Cerastes persicus is the type species of the genus Pseudocerastes.

Distribution: not in India fide I. Das (pers. comm., 22 Dec 2011). Reports from Israel are now considered as P. fieldi. Occurrence in Turkey likely but not proven (NILSON et al. 1988). Reports from Azerbaijan and Turkey are probably erroneous fide Geniez 2018. See map in Burriel-Carranza et al. 2019 for map in UAE. For a map see Sindaco et al. 2013.

Phylogenetics: for a recent phylogeny of this and related Viperinae see Šmíd & Tolley 2019. 
EtymologyNamed after its distribution in Persia (now: Iran). 
  • Bok, Bobby; Matthieu Berroneau, Masoud Yousefi, Joachim Nerz, Frank Deschandol, Maud Berroneau, Laura Tiemann 2017. Sympatry of Pseudocerastes persicus and P. urarachnoides in the western Zagros Mountains, Iran. Herpetology Notes 10: 323-325 - get paper here
  • Bostanchi, Hamid; Anderson, Steven C.; Kami, Hagi Gholi; Papenfuss, Theodore J. 2006. A new species of Pseudocerastes with elaborate tail ornamentation from Western Iran (Squamata: Viperidae). Proc. Cal. Acad. Sci. 57 (14):443-450. - get paper here
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  • Carranza S, Xipell M, Tarroso P, Gardner A, Arnold EN, Robinson MD, et al. 2018. Diversity, distribution and conservation of the terrestrial reptiles of Oman (Sauropsida, Squamata). PLoS One 13 (2): e0190389 - get paper here
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