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Suta monachus (STORR, 1964)

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Higher TaxaElapidae (Hydrophiinae), Colubroidea, Caenophidia, Alethinophidia, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes)
Common NamesE: Monk Snake, Hooded Snake 
SynonymDenisonia monachus STORR 1964: 89
Suta monachus MCDOWELL 1970
Unechis monachus COGGER 1975
Unechis monachus — COGGER 1983: 238
Rhinoplocephalus monachus STORR 1984
Suta monachus — HUTCHINSON 1990
Suta monachus — WELCH 1994: 109
Suta monachus — COGGER 2000: 690
Parasuta monachus — GREER 2006 (online)
Parasuta monachus — WILSON & SWAN 2010: 492
Parasuta monachus — WALLACH et al. 2014: 534
Suta monachus — MARYAN et al. 2020: 21 
DistributionAustralia (S Northern Territory, South Australia, Western Australia)

Type locality: Kalgoorlie, 30'43'S, 121° 27'E, W. A.  
TypesHolotype: WAM R20606 
DiagnosisDiagnosis. A medium-sized, moderately slender species of Suta (total length to 460 mm this study, males mean 341 mm, females 326 mm) with: 15 midbody scale rows; 154‒174 ventrals; 23‒32 subcaudals; 160‒184 vertebrals; head slightly distinct from the neck; typically one rarely two secondary temporals, occasionally with one primary temporal; variable body colouration of rich reddish brown to bright red or pale orange; body scales often without dark pigment or with indistinct black base or blotch concealed by overlapping posterior edge of preceding scale and occasionally extending back as very fine edge on anterior facets or faint peppering; complete black hood on the head extending back on to first 1‒4, mostly 3 vertebrals on the nape; typically without pale markings in front of the eyes; very minimal pale indents behind the eyes, mostly to midpoint level of the lower primary temporals (Maryan et al. 2020: 22).

Colouration: In life, variable body colouration of rich reddish brown (Fig. 10A) to bright red (Figs. 10B, C) or pale orange (Fig. 10D), without obvious dark pigment on the body scales. Any pigment restricted to an indistinct dark grey to black base or blotch extending back as very fine edge on anterior facets and often with faint peppering (Fig. 10A). Bright red individuals can vary in their intensity and be completely uniform (Figs. 10B, C). Complete black hood on the head, extending laterally on to upper portion of the supralabials, particularly from third to sixth, and extending back on to the nape for 1‒4 vertebrals. Occasionally with reduced hood and extensive pale markings in front of and behind the eyes, particularly in eastern parts of range (Fig. 10D). The body colour and paler lower flanks can be clearly demarcated in some individuals (Fig. 10B). Eyes are black without discernible pupils. Ventral surface under the head, including most of the supralabials and along the body is white with glossy shine (Maryan et al. 2020: 23).

Comparisons with other species. Suta monachus differs from the closely related and similar-looking S. gaikhorstorum sp. nov. in: smaller and narrower head slightly distinct from the neck (Tables 7, 8, Fig. 11A) (versus larger and wider head moderately distinct from the neck Fig 11B); more reduced dark hood extending back on to the first 1‒4, mostly 3 vertebrals on the nape (Fig. 11A) (versus more extensive dark hood extending back on to the first 4‒6, mostly 5 vertebrals Fig. 11B), rarely with two secondary temporals (versus often with two secondary temporals, Fig. 11E) and comparatively lower mean values for frontal and supraocular measurements (Tables 7, 8). The presence of more overt sexual dimorphism in S. monachus for adult total length, particularly in females and certain meristic attributes such as for vertebral scale counts, particularly in males, represents an important point of distinction between this species and the essentially less dimorphic S. gaikhorstorum sp. nov. (Table 7). In life, S. monachus appears subjectively to have a more slender body form than S. gaikhorstorum sp. nov. (Figs. 10, 14), although this was not statistically significant (IBR values, Table 8).
Diagnostic differences between S. monachus, S. gouldii and S. spectabilis are listed under the foregoing species accounts. Suta monachus will be compared with S. fasciata, S. nigriceps and S. suta with which it occurs in close parapatry or sympatry (see above). It differs from S. fasciata in: smaller adult total length to 460 mm (versus to 620 mm), one secondary temporal (versus two), 15 midbody scale rows (versus 17, rarely 19), dark hood on the head (versus blotched on the head) and without obvious pattern on the body (versus distinctly cross-banded).
It differs from S. nigriceps in: smaller adult total length to 460 mm (versus to 587 mm), shorter tail length to 52 mm (versus to 66 mm), one secondary temporal (versus two), smaller head in all parameters and shorter snout (Tables 4, 7), somewhat higher ventral and vertebral scale counts of 154‒174 and 160‒184 (versus 148‒166 and 154‒172, respectively) and typically complete dark hood without dark vertebral stripe or zone along the body (versus typically complete dark hood continuous with vertebral stripe or zone along the body).
It differs from S. suta in: smaller adult total length to 460 mm (versus to 879 mm), one secondary temporal (versus two), 15 midbody scale rows (versus 19, rarely 17 or 21), black eyes (versus brownish or orange) and typically complete dark hood without dark streak on side of the head and across the snout (versus typically lighter hood with dark streak on side of the head and across the snout) (Maryan et al. 2020: 27). 

Habitat: partly arboreal (Harrington et al. 2018).

Habitat. Suta monachus occupies a variety of semiarid to arid vegetation associations growing on light to heavy, often stony soils, including Acacia- dominated woodlands, particularly Mulga Acacia aneura F. Muell and shrublands, Triodia-dominated sandplains and dunes, particularly in eastern parts of range, and rocky areas such as granite outcrops and ironstone ridges (Wilson & Knowles 1988; Ehmann 1992; Bush et al. 2007; Cogger 2014; Wilson & Swan 2017).
In these vegetation associations, specimens of S. monachus particularly during cooler weather, can be raked from deep leaf litter, spoil-heaps, piles of dead vegetation, particularly Triodia clumps, found in abandoned ter- mitaria, insect including Mulga Ant Polyrhachis Smith nests and lizard burrows, Triodia clumps and earth cracks and under logs, stumps, rocks and rubbish, especially pieces of old iron and fragmented concrete at derelict mines or other structures. Additionally, when seasonal activity is optimum, S. monachus can be funnel or pit-trapped in buckets and nocturnally observed while driving or head-torching on roads, tracks and open ground. On occasions when nocturnal activity is productive, up to 5‒7 individuals of both S. monachus and S. fasciata can be observed on a sealed road in a single night (B. Budrey & B. Bush, pers. obs.) (Maryan et al. 2020: 27).

Distribution: see map in Maryan et al. 2020: 26 (Fig. 12). Not in NSW 
  • Bush, B. & Maryan, B. 2006. Snakes and Snake-like Reptiles of Southern Western Australia. Snakes Harmful & Harmless, Stoneville, Perth, Western Australia, 40 pp. - get paper here
  • Cogger, H. G. 2014. Reptiles and Amphibians of Australia, 7th ed. CSIRO Publishing, xxx + 1033 pp. - get paper here
  • Cogger, H.G. 2000. Reptiles and Amphibians of Australia, 6th ed. Ralph Curtis Publishing, Sanibel Island, 808 pp.
  • Harrington, Sean M; Jordyn M de Haan, Lindsey Shapiro, Sara Ruane 2018. Habits and characteristics of arboreal snakes worldwide: arboreality constrains body size but does not affect lineage diversification. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 125 (1): 61–71 - get paper here
  • MARYAN, BRAD; IAN G. BRENNAN, MARK N. HUTCHINSON, LUKAS S. GEIDANS 2020. What’s under the hood? Phylogeny and taxonomy of the snake genera Parasuta Worrell and Suta Worrell (Squamata: Elapidae), with a description of a new species from the Pilbara, Western Australia. Zootaxa 4778 (1): 1–47 - get paper here
  • Storr, G. M. 1964. Denisonia monachus, a new elapid snake from Western Australia. Western Australian Naturalist 9: 89-90 - get paper here
  • Storr, G.M. 1981. The Denisonia gouldii species-group (Serpentes, Elapidae) in Western Australia. Rec. West. Aust. Mus. 8: 501-515 - 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.
  • Wilson, S. & Swan, G. 2010. A complete guide to reptiles of Australia, 3rd ed. Chatswood: New Holland, 558 pp.
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