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Higher TaxaUropeltidae, Henophidia, Alethinophidia, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes)
Common NamesSinhala: Eranga Virajge thudulla
Tamil: Eranga Virajvin nilakael pambu
E: Eranga Viraj’s shieldtail snake 
Rhinophis erangaviraji — WALLACH et al. 2014: 650 
DistributionSri Lanka (Rakwana massif)

Type locality: ‚Enselwatte Estate, Sinharaja Division (Army Camp Forest), Rakwana hills, Matara District, Southern Province (N 06º 23', E 080º 36'), 1042 m elevation.”  
Reproductionviviparous (not imputed, fide Zimin et al. 2022) 
TypesHolotype: NMSL 20080601, adult male 214 mm SVL, Coll. Dulan Vidanapathirana, Nayanaka Ranwella and L. J. M. Wickramasinghe. 5 December, 2007. Paratypes: NMSL20080602, adult female 291 mm SVL; NMSL20080603, adult male 204 mm SVL; NMSL20080604, adult female 241 mm SV; NMSL20080605, small male 103 mm SVL. Collection data as for holotype. 
DiagnosisDiagnosis: The new species is distinguished morphologically from the congener it resembles most closely, R. blythii, by the following characters: 146–157 (vs 159–165) paravertebral scales; 142–154 (vs 155–162) ventral scales (Table 2 in WICKRAMASINGHE et al. 2009); dorsal and lateral surface of head black (vs dark brown with dorsal yellow ‘V’, Fig 5 & 6, op. cit.); ventrally black zigzag pattern on yellow background (vs each ventral scale anterior blackish brown and posterior light brown, with brownish tint throughout ventrally, Fig 7); no ring-like pattern at the base of the tail (vs yellow ring at base of tail, Fig 8, 9); caudal shield with one axis of symmetry, narrower anteriorly (vs shield oval, with two axes of symmetry, Fig 10); anal region and under side of tail black (vs anal region whitish brown, underside of tail dark brown, Fig 11).
Rhinophis erangaviraji sp. nov. differs from, R. dorsimaculatus, R. oxyrhynchus, R. porrectus and, R. punctatus by having a smooth rostral (vs strongly ridged above); 142–154 ventrals (vs 238, 211–227, 281, and 236–246 ventrals, respectively); total length 300 mm (vs 350 mm, 573 mm, 350 mm, and 390 mm, respectively); moderate sized tail shield (vs large shield). Differs from R. oxyrhynchus, R. porrectus, and R. punctatus by having a shorter rostral, about one third (vs about one half) length of the dorsal head shield scales. Differs from R. homolepis and R. tricoloratus by smooth rostral (vs slightly ridged above); fewer ventrals (vs 180–204 and 163–175, respectively); moderate sized tail shield (vs large shield). Differs from R. drummondhayi by fewer ventrals (vs 173–191); moderate sized shield (vs small shield). Differs from R. philippinus by having generally fewer ventrals (vs 153–182 ventrals); moderate sized tail shield (vs large shield); and yellow markings (vs no yellow).
The three Indian species of Rhinophis differ from the new species as follows: R. fergusonianus has more ventrals (180), R. sanguineus has more ventrals (182–218) and 15 costal scale rows at midbody, and R. travancoricus has fewer ventrals (132–146) and lacks yellow markings on the body (confined to tail). As far as is known, no species of uropeltid snake occur in both India and Sri Lanka (Cadle et al., 1990; McDiarmid et al., 1999). 
EtymologyNamed for the late Mr. Eranga Viraj Dayarathne, an Instructor of the Reptiles group of the Young Zoologists’ Association of Sri Lanka, Department of National Zoological Gardens. 
  • Cadle, John E.; Dessauer, Herbert C.; Gans, Carl; Gartside, Donald F. 1990. Phylogenetic relationships and molecular evolution in uropeltid snakes (Serpentes: Uropeltidae): allozymes and albumin immunology. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 40: 293-320 - get paper here
  • JANZEN, P. 2021. Morningside – ein herpetologisches Highlight Sri Lankas. Sauria 43 (1): 9-37 - get paper here
  • McDiarmid, R.W.; Campbell, J.A. & Touré,T.A. 1999. Snake species of the world. Vol. 1. [type catalogue] Herpetologists’ League, 511 pp.
  • Pyron R. A., Ganesh S. R., Sayyed A., Sharma V., Wallach V. & Somaweera R. 2016. A catalogue and systematic overview of the shield-tailed snakes (Serpentes: Uropeltidae). [type catalogue] Zoosystema 38 (4): 453-506 - get paper here
  • Pyron, R. Alexander; H.K. Dushantha Kandambi, Catriona R. Hendry, Vishan Pushpamal, Frank T. Burbrink, Ruchira Somaweera 2013. Genus-level phylogeny of snakes reveals the origins of species richness in Sri Lanka. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 66 (3): 969-978 - 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.
  • Wickramasinghe, L.J. Mendis; Vidanapathirana, D.R.; Wickramasinghe, N. & Ranwella, P.N. 2009. A new species of Rhinophis Hemprich, 1820 (Reptilia: Serpentes: Uropeltidae) from Rakwana massif, Sri Lanka. Zootaxa 2044: 1-22 - get paper here
  • Zimin, A., Zimin, S. V., Shine, R., Avila, L., Bauer, A., Böhm, M., Brown, R., Barki, G., de Oliveira Caetano, G. H., Castro Herrera, F., Chapple, D. G., Chirio, L., Colli, G. R., Doan, T. M., Glaw, F., Grismer, L. L., Itescu, Y., Kraus, F., LeBreton 2022. A global analysis of viviparity in squamates highlights its prevalence in cold climates. Global Ecology and Biogeography, 00, 1–16 - get paper here
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