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Toxicocalamus longissimus BOULENGER, 1896

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Higher TaxaElapidae (Hydrophiinae), Colubroidea, Caenophidia, Alethinophidia, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes)
Common NamesE: Woodlark or Fergusson Island forest snake 
SynonymToxicocalamus longissimus BOULENGER 1896: 152
Vanapina lineata DE VIS 1905: 49
Apisthocalamus longissimus — BOULENGER 1908
Toxicocalamus longissimus — WELCH 1994: 113
Toxicocalamus longissimus — KRAUS 2009
Toxicocalamus longissimus — WALLACH et al. 2014: 732
Toxicocalamus longissimus — O’SHEA et al. 2015 
DistributionPapua New Guinea (Woodlark Islands)

Type locality: Woodlark Island, Milne Bay Province  
TypesHolotype: BMNH 1946.1.18.92-92; BMNH 1946.1.18.93 was designated as the “holotype” (= lectotype) by McDowell (1969).
Holotype: QM, apparently now lost, fide O’Shea et al. 2018 [Vanapina lineata] 
DiagnosisComparisons. The genus Toxicocalamus can be distinguished from all other New Guinea elapids, including M. ikaheka but excepting Pseudonaja textilis (Duméril et al., 1854), by the absence of a temporo-labial scale between the fifth and sixth supralabials (O’Shea et al. 2015).

See also Toxicocalamus pumehanae for updated comments on the diagnosis of Toxicocalamus. 
CommentAbundance: Toxicocalamus longissimus is known from twelve specimens, all except one from Woodlark Island (O’Shea et al. 2018: 405).

Habitat: fossorial (digging)

Behavior: diurnal


Distribution: probably not on Ferguson Islands (see

Behavior (genus): animals are not prone to bite in self defense: Kraus (2017) has handled dozens of animals and never seen an attempt to bite. Despite their invertebrate diet and inoffensive behavior, the venom of the sole species studied to date (Toxicocalamus longissimus) contains surprisingly toxic components (Calvete et al., 2012).

Type species: Toxicocalamus longissimus BOULENGER 1896: 152 is the type species of the genus Toxicocalamus BOULENGER 1896.

Key: Roberts & Austin 2020, Kraus 2020 provide keys to the species of Toxicocalamus. For updated keys see Kraus et al. 2022: 1031 and Roberts et al. 2022: 406.

Diet (genus): The genus feeds primarily upon earthworms (O’Shea, 1996; Shine and Keogh, 1996; unpubl. data) although fly pupae and a land snail also have been reported among stomach contents (Bogert and Matalas, 1945; McDowell, 1969). 
EtymologyNamed in reference to its length (long- = long; -issimus = very much), although it is not the longest known member of the genus. 
  • Boulenger, G.A. 1896. Description of a new genus of Elapine snakes from Woolark Island, British New Guinea. Ann. Mag. nat. Hist. (6) 18: 152 - get paper here
  • Boulenger, G.A. 1908. Description of a new elapine snake of the genus Apisthocalamus, Blg., from New Guinea. Ann. Mag. Nat. Hist. (8) 1 (3): 248-249. - get paper here
  • de Vis, Charles Walter de 1905. A new genus of lizard. On Typhlops torresianus. Ann. Queensland Museum (Brisbane) 6: 48 - get paper here
  • de Vis, Charles Walter de 1905. A new genus of lizard. Ann. Queensland Museum (Brisbane) 6: 46-52
  • Ingram G J 1989. Vanapina lineata de Vis 1905 Is a Junior Synonym of the New Guinean Snake Toxicocalamus longissimus Boulenger, 1896. Copeia 1989 (3): 753-755 - get paper here
  • Kraus F. 2020. A new species of Toxicocalamus (Squamata: Elapidae) from Papua New Guinea. Zootaxa 4859 (1): 127–137 - get paper here
  • Kraus, Fred 2009. NEW SPECIES OF TOXICOCALAMUS (SQUAMATA: ELAPIDAE) FROM PAPUA NEW GUINEA. Herpetologica 65 (4): 460 - get paper here
  • Kraus, Fred 2017. Two New Species of Toxicocalamus (Squamata: Elapidae) from Papua New Guinea. Journal of Herpetology 51 (4): 574-581 - get paper here
  • Longman, H. A. 1918. Notes on some Queensland and Papuan reptiles. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 6: 37-44 - get paper here
  • McDowell, Samuel B. 1969. Toxicocalamus, a New Guinea genus of snakes of the family Elapidae. Journal of Zoology, London 159: 443-511 - get paper here
  • O'Shea,M. 1996. A Guide to the Snakes of Papua New Guinea. Independent Publishing, Port Moresby, xii + 239 pp. - get paper here
  • O’Shea M and Kaiser H. 2018. Erroneous Environs or Aberrant Activities? Reconciling Unexpected Collection Localities for Three New Guinea Worm-eating Snakes (Toxicocalamus, Serpentes, Elapidae) Using Historical Accounts. Herpetological Review 49 (2): 189–207 - get paper here
  • O’Shea, M. 2018. The Book of Snakes. Ivy Press / Quarto Publishing, London, - get paper here
  • O’Shea, Mark; Allen Allison, Hinrich Kaiser 2018. The taxonomic history of the enigmatic Papuan snake genus Toxicocalamus (Elapidae: Hydrophiinae), with the description of a new species from the Managalas Plateau of Oro Province, Papua New Guinea, and a revised dichotomous key. Amphibia-Reptilia 39 (4): 403-433 - get paper here
  • O’Shea, Mark; Fred Parker, and Hinrich Kaiser 2015. A New Species of New Guinea Worm-Eating Snake, Genus Toxicocalamus (Serpentes: Elapidae), From the Star Mountains of Western Province, Papua New Guinea, With a Revised Dichotomous Key to the Genus. Bull. Mus. Comp. Zool. Harvard 161 (6): 241-264. - get paper here
  • Roberts JR, Iova B, Austin CC 2022. A new species of New Guinea Worm-Eating Snake (Serpentes, Elapidae, Toxicocalamus Boulenger, 1896) from Western Highlands Province, Papua New Guinea. Zoosystematics and Evolution 98(2): 399-409 - get paper here
  • Roberts, Jackson R.; Christopher C. Austin 2020. A New Species of New Guinea Worm-Eating Snake (Elapidae: Toxicocalamus Boulenger, 1896), with Comments on Postfrontal Bone Variation Based on Micro-computed Tomography. Journal of Herpetology 54 (4): 446-459 - 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.
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