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Tantilla melanocephala (LINNAEUS, 1758)

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Higher TaxaColubridae, Colubrinae, Colubroidea, Caenophidia, Alethinophidia, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes) 
Subspecies 
Common NamesE: Black-headed Snake (equatoriana: Equator Centipede Snake)
G: Dunkelköpfige Schwarzkopfschlange
S: Culebra de cabeza negra 
SynonymColuber melanocephalus LINNAEUS 1758: 218
Natrix melanocephalus - MERREM 1820
Elaps melanocephalus WAGLER 1824
Duberria melanocephala - FITZINGER 1826
Lycodon melanocephalum - BOIE 1827
Cloelia melanocephala - WAGLER 1830
Calamaria melanocephala - SCHLEGEL 1837
Homalocranion melanocephalum — DUMÉRIL, BIBRON & DUMÉRIL 1854: 859
Tantilla melanocephala - COPE 1861
Elapomorphus mexicanus GÜNTHER 1862: 57
Homalocranion melanocephalum — JAN 1866
Tantilla armillata COPE 1876
Homalocranium melanocephalum var. fuscum BOCOURT 1883: 589
Elapomorphus mexicanus — STRAUCH 1884: 562
Elapomorphus mexicanus — GARMAN 1884: 89
Tantilla pallida COPE 1887: 56
Homalocranion melanocephalus - VELASCO (in error) 1891
Homalocranium armillatum- GÜNTHER 1895
Homalocranium melanocephalum var. fraseri GÜNTHER 1895
Homalocranium melanocephalum var. melanocephalum GÜNTHER 1895
Homalocranium melanocephalum var. pernambucense GÜNTHER 1895
Homalocranium mexicanum - GÜNTHER 1895
Homalocranium fuscum - BOULENGER 1896
Homalocranium longifrontale BOULENGER 1896: 17
Homalocranium hoffmanni WERNER 1909: 239
Elapomorphus nuchalis BARBOUR 1914: 199
Tantilla longifrontale - RUTHVEN 1922
Tantilla longifrontalis - AMARAL 1929: 220
Tantilla fusca - AMARAL 1929
Tantilla mexicana - SMITH 1942: 37
Tantilla melanocephala melanocephala — SCHMIDT & WALKER 1943
Tantilla melanocephala — BEEBE 1946: 43
Tantilla longifrontale — BEEBE 1946: 42
Tantilla melanocephalus - SHREVE 1947
Tantilla melanocephalum - WHEKIND 1955
Tantilla fraseri - PETERS 1960
Tantilla melanocephala melanocephala - PETERS 1960
Tantilla melanocephala melanocephala — PETERS & OREJAS-MIRANDA 1970
Tantilla mexicana — SMITH & SMITH 1976
Tantilla melanocephala melanocephala — DUELLMAN 1978: 256
Tantilla melanocephala melanocephala — GASC & RODRIGUES 1980
Tantilla equatoriana WILSON & MENA 1980 (fide GREENBAUM et al. 2004)
Tantilla melanocephala — KORNACKER 1999: 138
Tantilla equatoria — ZOOLOGICAL RECORD
Tantilla fraseri — LEHR et al. 2002
Tantilla equatoriana — SAWAYA & SAZIMA 2003
Tantilla marcovani DE LEMA 2004
Tantilla longifrontalis — CASTRO 2008
Tantilla melanocephala — RIVAS et al. 2012
Tantilla marcovani — WALLACH et al. 2014: 702
Tantilla melanocephala — WALLACH et al. 2014: 702
Tantilla marcovani — FREITAS et al. 2016 
DistributionPanama,
Trinidad, Tobago, Caribbean: St. Vincent, Union Island, Grenada;
Colombia (Valle del Cauca), Venezuela (Cojedes, Zulia), Brazil (Rio Grande do Sul, Amapá, Pará, Rondonia, Goias, Bahia, S Ceará), N Argentina (Corrientes [HR 31: 115], Misiones, Gran Chaco, Entre Ríos, Jujuy), Bolivia, Uruguay, Guyana, Surinam, French Guiana, Ecuador, Peru (Pasco etc.), Paraguay (fide Paul Smith, pers. comm., 27 Apr 2014)

elevation: sea level to 3,080 m (in the intermontane basin of Quito in Ecuador) (WILSON & MATA-SILVA 2015).

equatoriana: S Ecuador (intermediate elevations of the Hoya de Jubones [Pacific drainage]); Type locality. San Lorenzo, Provo Esmeraldas, Ecuador.

fraseri: Ecuador, Peru (Ancash, La Libertad); Type locality: Quito, Ecuador

hoffmanni: Guatemala; type locality: Guatemala

longifrontale: Colombia (E Andes), Ecuador (E Andes); Type locality: Cali, Colombia

marcovani: NE Brazil (Paraiba, Bahia); Type locality: Pico do Jabre, highest point of Paraiba State, Brazil at 50 km SW from Teixeira city (7.13° S; 37.15° W), Maturéia locality. The region is located in highlands within Caatinga, with 1090 m elevation.

Type locality: “America” Map legend:
TDWG region - Region according to the TDWG standard, not a precise distribution map.

NOTE: TDWG regions are generated automatically from the text in the distribution field and not in every cases it works well. We are working on it.
 
Reproductionoviparous 
TypesHolotype: none designated (fide WILSON 1999)
holotype: USNM 198530, male [equatoriana]
Holotype: ZMH [hoffmanni]
Lectotype: ZSM 2173/0/1, designation by Hoogmoed & Gruber 1983 [Elaps melanocephalus]
Holotype: ANSP 11215; Brazil, Matto Grosso, Chapada [Tantilla pallida]
Holotype: BMNH 1946.1.8.84 [longifrontale]
Syntypes: BMNH 1946.1.8.77; 1946.1.8.80; 1946.1.9.84 [fraseri]
Holotype: MNRJ 6525 [marcovani] 
CommentSynonymy partly after PETERS & OREJAS-MIRANDA 1970, WILSON 1999, WALLACH et al. 2014: 688, and WILSON & MATA-SILVA (2015). Tantilla melanocephala capistrata has been elevated to species status. Tantilla equatoriana has been synonymized with T. melanocephala by GREENBAUM et al. (2004). T. ruficeps has been resurrected from the synonymy of T. melanocephala by SAVAGE (2002). WILSON & MATA-SILVA 2015 consider Tantilla marcovani DE LEMA 2004 as a synonym of Tantilla melanocephala.

Distribution: Limited to Panama and South America (Wallach et al. 2014: 702. The populations referred to T. melanocephala from Guatemala to western Panama are considered to constitute two distinct species, T armillata and T. ruficeps, that are marginally sympatric in central Costa Rica (Savage 2002). Taylor's (1954) record for T. armillata from southwestern Costa Rica is based on an example (KU 31960) of T. ruficeps. Not in Honduras fide McCranie 2015 (checklist Honduras, snakes of Honduras). Not in Mexico fide WILSON & MATA-SILVA 2015 (Mesoamerican Herpetology 1: 5-95), LINER 1994, and Heimes 2016. T. mexicana has been (erroneously) reported from Mexico (Chiapas) and Guatemala.

Tantilla equatoriana was described from 2 male specimens of undetermined maturity from San Lorenzo, Esmeraldas Province, Ecuador (Wilson and Mena, 1980). This taxon was distinguished from all congeners by several characters: 1) a dark head cap grading into a dark nape band with 2 pale spots that cover the posterior part of the parietals, the posterior part of the posterior temporals, and associated postparietal scales; 2) a pale preocular ''spot'' that contacts the preocular scale and eye; 3) a postocular ''spot'' that contacts the lateral gulars without interruption by a lateral extension of the head cap; 4) the absence of a pale neck band posterior to the dark nape band; 5) a tan background color with 9 dark brown stripes (in the middle of Scale Row 1, extending from the upper half of Row 2 to the lower half of Row 3, the top of Row 4 to the bottom of Row 5, the middle of Row 6 and the middle of the vertebral Scale Row 8); and 6) a greater number of subcaudals (77 to 79) in comparison with other members of the T. melanocephala Group (Wilson and Mena, 1980; Wilson, 1988).
The T. melanocephala Group is the second largest species group in the genus
and includes T. andinista, T. capistrata, [T. equatoriana,] T. insulamontana, T. lempira, T. melanocephala, and T. miyatai (Wilson, 1999).
This species is characterized by extensive geographic variation in color pattern, ventral and subcaudal counts, and habitats occupied (Wilson and Mena, 1980).

Diagnosis (marcovani): The new species differs from Tantilla melanocephala by the head wider (not elongated), wide snout and straight (not slender and long), diameter of head wider than neck (not equal), snout light immaculate (not black or black blotched), black head cap small restricted to frontal and parietal region (not over all the head, from the snout to the nape), head cap grayish brown (not black), oblique black band over the eyes attaining first supralabials being the remaining cream (not oblique bands on eyes and last supralabials), posterior end of head cream attaining nuchal light collar (not posterior part of head black with pair of narrow cream blotches), black cervical collar evident, only vertebral, three vertebral scales long (not narrow, feeble or almost indistinct dark collar). The new species differs from Tantilla boipiranga by low number of ventrals (145) (contra 156-160), light snout blotch larger, from rostral to anterior half of prefrontals (contra only 2/3 of prefrontals and outer half of internasals, and by lateral profile of snout low (contra high), and by the herpetofaunistic distribution by highlands of northeastern Brazil (contra highlands of southeastern Brazil). 
EtymologyNamed after its black (”melano”) head (from Greek cephale = head). T. marcovani has been named after Marcovan Porto, collector of the holotype. 
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