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Suta spectabilis KREFFT, 1869

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Higher TaxaElapidae (Hydrophiinae), Colubroidea, Caenophidia, Alethinophidia, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes)
Common NamesE: Spectacled Hooded Snake, Bush’s Hooded Snake 
SynonymSuta spectabilis spectabilis (KREFFT 1869)
Hoplocephalus spectabilis KREFFT 1869: 61
Unechis gouldii — SHINE 1979 (fide COGGER 1983)
Unechis spectabilis MENGDEN 1983
Unechis spectabilis — COGGER 1983: 239
Rhinoplocephalus spectabilis STORR 1984
Suta spectabilis HUTCHINSON 1990
Suta spectabilis — COGGER 2000: 692
Parasuta spectabilis — GREER 2006 (online)
Parasuta spectabilis — WILSON & SWAN 2010: 492
Parasuta spectabilis — WALLACH et al. 2014: 534
Suta spectabilis — MARYAN et al. 2020: 16 
DistributionAustralia (New South Wales, Queensland)

bushi: Esperance region, Western Australia.
nullarbor: Western Australia (Nullarbor Plain and adjacent coast), South Australia

Type locality: Port Lincoln, S. A. ((34°44′S 135°55′E)  
TypesLectotype: AMS R.131135, female, designated by Maryan et al. 2020: 16. Paralectotypes: AMS (AM) R131133-34, R131137, R131139 (formerly 6593-95, 6597, 6599), Port Lincoln, SA, collected G. Masters; BMNH, "Flinders Ranges" [in error], presented Krefft. See Shea & Sadlier (1999).
Holotype: WAM R66626, from 4 km S of (new) Eucla, 31° 43 S, 128° 52' E, W. A. [nullarbor].
Holotype: WAM R96223, collected by B.G. Bush on 6 October 1986 [bushi] 
DiagnosisDiagnosis: A medium-sized, moderately robust species of Suta (total length to 405 mm this study, males mean 312 mm, females 285 mm) with: 15 midbody scale rows; 134‒162 ventrals; 22‒34 subcaudals; 140‒ 166 vertebrals; typically divided fourth infralabials; variable body colouration of reddish brown or beige; body scales often with dark pigment of black base or blotch extending back as fine to thick edge on the anterior facets, posterior facets without dark edge; typically reduced black hood on the head extending back on to first 4‒6, mostly 5 vertebrals on the nape, often partially indented, less often completely divided, by a transverse patch or collar at the level of the posterior apices of the parietals; variably sized pale markings in front of the eyes, often across the snout; typically with extensive pale indents behind the eyes, often extending above the upper primary temporals (Maryan et al. 2020: 16).

Colouration: In life, variable body colouration of light to rich reddish brown (Figs. 7A, B, C) or beige (Fig. 7D). All dorsal scales with narrow blackish brown to black pigment on the anterior facets of each scale forming a reticulated pattern along the body. Dorsal surface of the head and nape with jet black pigmentation, distributed as a hood covering the internasals and adjacent dorsal portions of the rostral and nasals, then a larger area starting with the frontal and supraoculars and continuing posteriorly across the parietals to the anterior dorsal scale rows, extending back on to first 4‒6 vertebrals. The internasals, preocular, postoculars, anterior temporals and the anterolateral corner of each parietal generally a lighter shade of the dorsal body colouring. The black hood is often partially indented, less often completely divided, by a transverse patch or collar of light brown at the level of the posterior apices of the parietals (Figs. 7B, C, D). Eyes are black without discernible pupils. Ventral surface under the head, including most of the supralabials and along the body is cream to pale yellow with glossy shine (Maryan et al. 2020: 16).

Comparisons with other species. Diagnostic differences between S. spectabilis and S. gouldii are listed under the foregoing species account. Suta spectabilis will be compared with S. flagellum, S. monachus, S. nigriceps and S. suta with which it occurs in close parapatry or sympatry (see above). Data presented by Rawlinson (1965) from a sample of 68 S. flagellum specimens shows that S. spectabilis differs from S. flagellum in: 15 midbody scale rows (versus 17, occasionally 15, frequency 3%), higher ventral scale counts of 134‒162 (versus 130‒147) and somewhat lower subcaudal scale counts of 22‒34 (versus 20‒40). Apart from these characters there are few points of absolute distinction between these two similar-looking species. There is more frequent variation in the black head patterning in S. spectabilis, with individual variation in the extent of black around the eyes and the variable expression of a pale collar while in S. flagellum this seldom varies.
It differs from S. monachus in: smaller adult total length to 405 mm (versus to 460 mm), somewhat lower ventral and vertebral scale counts of 134‒162 and 140‒166 (versus 154‒174 and 160‒184, respectively), two secondary temporals (versus one), typically divided fourth infralabials (versus typically undivided), higher anterior scale rows to 21 (versus to 17), typically reduced dark hood with pale markings often across the snout and pale indents behind the eyes often extending above upper primary temporals (versus typically complete dark hood without pale markings in front of the eyes and pale indents behind the eyes extending mostly to midpoint level of lower primary temporals), dark hood extending back on to first 4‒6, mostly 5 vertebrals on the nape (versus extending back on to first 1‒4, mostly 3 vertebrals) and typically distinct dark anterior margins on the body scales (versus uniform or with indistinct dark anterior margins).
It differs from S. nigriceps in: smaller adult total length to 405 mm (versus to 587 mm), shorter tail length to 55 mm (versus to 66 mm), higher anterior scale rows to 21 (versus to 18), typically divided fourth infralabials (versus typically undivided), smaller head in all parameters and slightly shorter snout (Table 4) and typically reduced 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 405 mm (versus to 879 mm), typically divided fourth infralabials (versus typically undivided), 15 midbody scale rows (versus 19, rarely 17 or 21), black eyes (versus brownish or orange) and typically reduced 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: 19). 
CommentSubspecies: Suta spectabilis dwyeri has been raised to species status. S. s. bushi may be extinct already (based on B. Bush’s web site).

Synonymy: Maryan et al. 2020 synonymized Parasuta spectabilis bushi (STORR 1988) and Parasuta spectabilis nullarbor (STORR 1981) with Suta gouldii (and removed the two subspecies from Parasuta spectabilis (KREFFT 1869).


Distribution: see map in Maryan et al. 2020: 14 (Fig. 5).

Habitat. Suta spectabilis occupies a variety of temperate to semiarid vegetation associations growing on light to heavy, often stony soils, including coastal shell grit beaches, dry sclerophyll forest of mallee and/or other Eucalyptus woodlands, heathlands, shrublands including chenopod, often with Triodia- Brown dominated understorey, and rocky ranges, slopes and foothills (Wilson & Knowles 1988; Ehmann 1992; Swan & Watharow 2005; Cogger 2014; Wilson & Swan 2017; Robertson & Coventry 2019). The habitat north of Coober Pedy where S. spectabilis is known from consists of an undulating stony plain with sparse Acacia von Martius shrubland over open grassland (J. Farquhar, pers. comm.).
In these vegetation associations, specimens of S. spectabilis particularly during cooler weather can be raked from deep leaf litter beneath low trees and shrubs and piles of dead vegetation, found under logs, rocks and rubbish, especially pieces of old iron in disturbed agricultural areas adjacent to uncleared vegetation, and in earth cracks and abandoned burrows of insects and lizards. Additionally, when seasonal activity is optimum, S. spectabilis can be funnel or pit-trapped in buckets and nocturnally observed while driving or head-torching on roads, tracks and open ground (Maryan et al. 2020) 
  • 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.
  • Hutchinson M N 1990. The generic classification of the Australian terrestrial elapid snakes. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 29 (3): 397-405 - get paper here
  • Krefft, G. 1869. The Snakes of Australia; an Illustrated and Descriptive Catalogue of All the Known Species. Sydney, Govt. Printer xxv + 100 pp. - 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
  • O’Shea, M. 2018. The Book of Snakes. Ivy Press / Quarto Publishing, London, - get paper here
  • Shine, R. 1979. Activity patterns in Australian elapid snakes (Squamata : Serpentes: Elapidae). Herpetologica 35 (1): 1-11 - 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
  • Storr, G.M. 1988. A new Rhinoplocephalus (Serpentes: Elapidae) from Western Australia. Rec. West. Austr. Mus. 14 (1): 137-138 - get paper here
  • Swan, G.; Sadlier, R.; Shea, G. 2017. A field guide to reptiles of New South Wales. Reed New Holland, 328 pp.
  • 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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