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Higher TaxaColubridae (Dipsadinae), Colubroidea, Caenophidia, Alethinophidia, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes) 
Common NamesE: Devil’s Head Spotted Night Snake 
SynonymSiphlophis ayauma SHEEHY III, YÁNEZ-MUÑOZ, VALENCIA & SMITH 2014 

Type locality: El Topo, Cantón Baños, Provincia de Tungurahua, Ecuador, 1594 m elevation (1.355715°S, 78.21052°W),  
TypesHolotype: MECN (was DHMECN) 4599, adult female, collected 26 March 2008, 2030–2200 h, by L. Cecilia Tobar-Suárez, M.H. Yánez-Mu- ñoz, and E.N. Smith. Field number ENS 12841. Paratypes: UTA R-55963, an adult female from near Paute, Cantón Paute, Provincia del Azuay, Ecuador, ca. 2200 m (ca. 02.784364°S, 78.763508°W), collected ca. July 2005. Specimen found at grilled-chicken restaurant on 12 January 2008, being displayed inside a jar with alcohol by the restaurant owner, Doña Marcia Vera Pacheco; paratype 16S sequence: GenBank accession number JX406878. The specimen is partially bleached white from years of exposure to sunlight. FHGO 8150, an adult male from Colibrí, Cordillera del Condor, Cantón Yantzaza, Provincia de Zamora-Chinchipe, 1429 m (17 M, 773624 m S, 9585150 m W, PSAD56; 3.758306°S, 78.545899°W) collected 26 February 2011, 2300–2400 h, by J.H. Valencia. QCAZ 9086, an adult male from Colibrí, Cordillera del Condor, Miazi Alto, Cantón Yantzaza, Provincia de Zamora-Chinchipe, Ecuador, 1250 m (4.250260°S, 78.617460°W), collected 12 April 2009, 2033 h, by Silvia Aldás and Juan Manuel Guayasamín. QCAZ 6250, a young female from Colibrí, Cordillera del Condor, Cantón Yantzaza, Provincia de Zamora-Chinchipe, Ecuador, 1430 m (17 M, 773624 m S, 9985150 m W, PSAD56; 3.758306°S, 78.545899°W), collected 27 February 2011, 2100–2200 h, by Raquel Betancourt and Alexis Barahona. 
DiagnosisDiagnosis: Siphlophis ayauma can be distinguished from all congeners by having 17 dorsal scale rows at midbody (vs. 19 in all other species). Additionally, S. cervinus has a dorsal pattern of 55–103 irregular black rings (vs. 19–29 black rings that cross the venter) and variegated light and dark head scales, the larger of which are distinctively dark with light edges and centers (vs. upper head scales entirely black or infused with orange-red posterior cephalic coloration; Bailey, 1970). Siphlophis compressus has an enlarged midvertebral scale row (vs. slightly enlarged, see original description), a red or reddish-brown dorsal coloration with 25–35 very narrow black rings or blotches not entering the venter (vs. cream venter with black rings of 2–7 ventral scales in length), and 13–15 maxillary teeth anterior to the diastema (vs. 17; Savage, 2002). Siphlophis leucocephalus has a dorsal body pattern of 14–19 large dark bands, spots or saddles, that extend over a white to light brown background and roughly halfway across the venter, head and collar white to straw-colored and peppered and reticulated with black or brown spots, and 17 rows of dorsal scales anterior to the vent (vs. 15; Bailey, 1970). Siphlophis longicaudatus has a dorsal pattern of 40–62 brown spots, variably offset at midline, distributed over a light brown to cream background, and a head pattern consisting of scattered brown spots (Bailey, 1970). Siphlophis pulcher has a dorsal pattern consisting of 60–72 middorsal red diamond-shaped markings narrowly separated by black dumbbell-shaped spots, a red head dorsum with black markings, and 229 or more ventrals (vs. 190–200 ventrals; Bailey, 1970). Siphlophis worontzowi has a black dorsum, a pair of bright orange spots on the nape, 16–19 cream-colored lateral bars or stripes, a uniformly dark venter (except when adjacent to light spots), and sometimes red scales middorsally and above cream bars (Bailey, 1970; Costa et al., 2010).
Siphlophis ayauma is similar to species of Oxyrhopus in the Andes of Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. It is particularly similar in lepidosis (i.e., number of dorsal scale rows and ventrals) and male and juvenile color pattern to O. leucomelas. However, the new species can be distinguished from O. leucomelas by having larger size (maximum total length 930 mm vs. 722 mm; Lynch, 2009), more subcaudals (86–103 vs. 72–83 in females, 107–111 vs. 81–102 in males; Lynch, 2009), longer tails (23.4–26% vs. 20.6– 23% in females, 27.6–32.2% vs. 25–29% in males; Lynch, 2009), smooth dorsal scales with no apical pits (with apical pits on scales of fresh material examined by Downs, 1961), midvertebral scales 1.06–1.12 times as wide as paravertebral scales (vs. 1.5 times as wide), a laterally compressed body (vs. relatively round), and by possessing an elongated loreal scale in broad contact with most of the upper edges of supralabials 2 and 3 (vs. short and touching only supralabial 2 or sometimes 2 and barely the corner of 3; see Lynch, 2009: Fig. 1). Furthermore, O. leucomelas possesses a well developed lateral anterodorsal process on the prefrontal bone (Zaher, 1994), whereas the process is reduced in S. ayauma. Three more species of Oxyrhopus occur in the general area where S. ayauma is found: O. melanogenys, O. occipitalis, and O. petola. Siphlophis ayauma can be distinguished from these three species by having 17 dorsal scale rows at midbody (vs. 19). From O. melanogenys (in not recognizing O. vanidicus, we follow Rivas et al., 2012), the new species can be further differentiated by having bands crossing the venter (vs. at most just some crossing the venter on the last third of the body) and by having alternating body bands forming diads (vs. at least some forming triads; Lynch, 2009; MacCulloch et al., 2009). From O. occipitalis (in recognizing as O. occipitalis the northern populations of “O. formosus” that have no black bands as adults, we follow Lynch, 2009, MacCulloch et al., 2009, and Rivas et al., 2012), the new species can be also differentiated by having a black snout (vs. yellow, orange, or red), and by having more subcaudals in males (107–111 vs. 71–92) and females (86–103 vs. 66–79; Lynch, 2009; MacCulloch et al., 2009). From O. petola in Amazonia (O. p. digitalis; Bailey, 1970), the new species can be additionally distinguished by having bands crossing the venter (vs. immaculate) and 190–200 ventrals (vs. 200–218; Lynch, 2009; MacCulloch et al., 2009). Oxyrhopus marcapatae from the department of Cuzco, Peru, is very similar in dorsal color pattern, having a black snout, a red nuchal band, red vertebral and paravertebral scales above white lateral bands, and black bands alternating with the white bands. Siphlophis ayauma dif- fers from O. marcapatae by having more dorsal scale rows at midbody (17 vs. 15), ventrals (190–200 vs. 164–180), and subcaudals (86–111 vs. 32–62; Bailey, 1970; Barbour, 1913; Boulenger, 1902; Schmidt and Walker, 1943). 
CommentHabitat: fully arboreal (Harrington et al. 2018). 
EtymologyThe specific epithet is derived from the Equadorian Kichwa spirit Aya Uma. The Aya Uma or Head Spirit (aya = spirit, uma = head), presently better known as the Devil’s Head spirit, is represented in Kichwa folklore as having a col- orful red-banded head. This is a good spirit devil that derives strength from nature, particularly from cold mountain pacchas (cascades). The name is in allusion to the red-banded head of the new species and its oc- currence in the mountains and near cold (Achachay) streams. 
  • Sheehy, Coleman M.; Mario H. Yánez-Muñoz, Jorge H. Valencia, and Eric N. Smith 2014. A New Species of Siphlophis (Serpentes: Dipsadidae: Xenodontinae) from the Eastern Andean Slopes of Ecuador. South American J. Herp. 9 (1): 30-45. - get paper here
  • Torres-Carvajal O, Pazmiño-Otamendi G, Salazar-Valenzuela D. 2019. Reptiles of Ecuador: a resource-rich portal, with a dynamic checklist and photographic guides. Amphibian & Reptile Conservation 13 (1): [General Section]: 209–229 (e178) - get paper here
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