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Toxicocalamus loriae (BOULENGER, 1898)

IUCN Red List - Toxicocalamus loriae - Least Concern, LC

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Higher TaxaElapidae (Hydrophiinae), Colubroidea, Caenophidia, Alethinophidia, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes)
Common NamesE: Loria forest snake 
SynonymApistocalamus loriae BOULENGER 1898: 705
Apistocalamus pratti BOULENGER 1904: 451
Apisthocalamus loriae — BOULENGER 1908
Apisthocalamus pratti — BOULENGER 1908
Apisthocalamus lamingtoni KINGHORN 1928 (fide WALLACH et al. 2014)
Apistocalamus pratti — PARKER 1936: 92
Toxicocalamus (Apistocalamus) loriae — MCDOWELL 1969: 455
Toxicocalamus loriae — WELCH 1994: 113
Toxicocalamus loriae — KRAUS 2009
Toxicocalamus loriae — WALLACH et al. 2014: 732
Toxicocalamus loriae — O’SHEA et al. 2015 
DistributionPapua New Guinea (southern versant of the Owen Stanley Range of Papua New Guinea, from Tapini, Central Province, in the north to Mt. Dayman, Milne Bay Province, in the south, at elevations from 620–1530 m; elevation ~4000 feet).

Type locality: Haveri, Central Province  
TypesHolotype: MSNG 29141, adult male, collected by Lamberto Loria (1855–1913), ca. 1893 (fide Kraus et al. 2022).
Holotype: AMS R9351, Oro Province: Mt. Lamington [lamingtoni]
Lectotype: BMNH 1946.1.18.24, paralectotypes: BMNH 1946.1.18.25– 1946.1.18.26, both Indonesia: West Papua: north of Fakfak [Apisthocalamus loennbergii]
Holotype: BMNH 1946.1.17.53, Papua New Guinea: Dinawa [Apistocalamus pratti]
Holotype: BMNH 1946.1.14.54, Morobe Province: Sattleberg [Pseudapistocalamus nymani] 
DiagnosisDescription (genus Apistocalamus): Near Ogmodon, Ptrs. , and Toxicocalamus , Blgr. Maxillary extending forwards as far as the palatine, with 5 long grooved teeth gradually decreasing in length; mandibular teeth gradually decreasing in length. Head small, not distinct from neck; eye very small, with vertically subelliptic pupil; nostril pierced between the first upper labial, two nasals, and the internasal; a large praeocular, in contact with the posterior nasal. Body cylindrical; scales smooth, without pits, in 15 rows; ventrals rounded. Tail moderate; subcaudals in two rows (Boulenger 1898: 704).

Description (species, based on 1 specimen): Snout short, broadly rounded. Rostral a little broader than deep, the portion visible from above measuring one third its distance from the frontal; internasals small, about one third the length of the praefrontals; frontal a little longer than broad , as long as its distance from the end of the snout, much shorter than the parietals; praeocular single, twice as long as deep, forming a suture with the posterior nasal; two postoculars, upper much larger than lower; temporals 1 + 2; six upper labials, third and fourth entering the eye, sixth largest; three lower labials in contact with the anterior chin-shields; posterior chin-shields smaller , separated by a large scale. Scales in 15 rows. Ventrals 196; anal divided; subcaudals 48 + ?. (Boulenger 1898: 705).

Diagnosis. “A modestly sized member of the T. loriae Group (maximum SVL in males 490 mm, in females 440 mm) with the following unique combination of characters: two scales covering vent; three infralabials contacting anterior genial; posterior genials separated by two intergenials, one in front of the other; intergenials widest anteriorly. Elongate preocular, at least twice as long as wide, contacting nasal but not internasal; one (in 58% of specimens) or two (42%) postoculars; two (55%) or three (45%) posterior temporals; ventral scale count not sexually dimorphic, 162–197 ventrals in 15 males, 172–190 in four females; subcaudal scale count sexually dimorphic without overlap, 40–50 in males, 28–33 in females; SCR 17.1–21.5% in males, 12.5–16.1% in females; pale markings on prefrontals absent (67%), small or vaguely developed (28%), or present (5%), not obviously correlated with body size; tail spine white, paler than the rest of the tail; venter uniformly yellow, yellow with a mid-ventral row of brown spots on each ventral, with a few brown spots scattered down the venter, or with each spot expanded into a brown bar across the anterior of each ventral.” (Kraus et al. 2022: 1003)

Comparisons. “Toxicocalamus loriae is distinguished from all other members of the T. loriae Group in having the posterior genials separated by two intergenials that are aligned in the midline, one in front of the other, with each scale widest anteriorly. All other species are characterized by having the posterior genials separated by only a single intergenial that is widest posteriorly (typically) or centrally (occasionally). As noted above, in the other species there will rarely be two (or three in AMS R23069) intergenials, but the anterior one is either tiny or the two scales occur side- by-side at the posterior portion of the posterior genials; the rarity of these anomalous features suggests they are developmental oddities. Toxicocalamus loriae may be further distinguished from T. nigrescens by its smaller body size (maximum SVL in males 490 mm vs. 635 mm in T. nigrescens), and yellow ventral colouration (grey in T. nigrescens). It can be distinguished from T. mattisoni by preoculars that are in contact with the nasals (separated by prefrontal contact with second supralabial in T. mattisoni) and its venter that is uniformly yellow or yellow with a mid-ventral row of brown spots or short bars (venter grey or yellow with each ventral scale barred anteriorly with darker grey in T. mattisoni).” (Kraus et al. 2022: 1003)

Coloration: Dark greyish olive above; upper lip and lower parts yellowish, with three series of small dark spots along the ventrals; subcaudals dark , with light edges (Boulenger 1898: 705).

Size: Total length 580 mm; tail (injured) 90.

CommentSynonymy: Pseudapistocalamus nymani LÖNNBERG 1900, Apisthocalamus lamingtoni KINGHORN 1928, and Apisthocalamus loennbergii BOULENGER 1908 have been removed from the synonymy of T. loriae and revalidated by Kraus et al. 2022. However, this study did not include any molecular phylogenetic analysis, hence the revalidations may be preliminary.

Habitat: fossorial (digging)

Behavior: diurnal


Type species: Apistocalamus loriae BOULENGER 1898 is the type species of the genus Apistocalamus BOULENGER 1898: 705.

Conservation status: least concern; this is the most common Toxicocalamus species with 66% of all museum specimens belonging to this species. However, O’Shea et al. 2015 believes that this variable species represents a species complex.

Taxonomy: Strickland et al. (2016) document at least five undescribed species that all key morphologically to Toxicocalamus loriae. 
EtymologyNamed after Dr. Lamberto Loria (1855-1913), an Italian ethnologist who collected in New Guinea (1889-1890) and who founded the first Italian Museum of Ethnography, Florence (1906). 
  • Beolens, Bo; Michael Watkins, and Michael Grayson 2011. The Eponym Dictionary of Reptiles. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, USA - get paper here
  • Boulenger, G. A. 1898. An account of the reptiles and batrachians collected by Dr. L. Loria in British New Guinea. Annali del Museo Civico di Storia Naturale di Genova, 18: 694—710 [1897?] - 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
  • Boulenger, GEORGE A. 1904. Descriptions of three new snakes. Ann. Mag. Nat. Hist. (7) 13 (78): 450-452 - get paper here
  • Clegg, Jonathan R. and Merlijn Jocque 2015. The Collection of Snakes Made by Benoît Mys and Jan Swerts in Northern Papua New Guinea in 1982–85. Journal of Herpetology 50 (3): 476-485 [2016] - get paper here
  • Kinghorn, J. R. 1928. Notes on Some Reptiles and Batrachians from the Northern Division of Papua, With Descriptions of New Species of Apisthocalamus and Lygosoma. Rec. Austral. Mus. 16: 289-293. - get paper here
  • Koerber, S. 2009. From sponges to primates: emendation of 30 species nomina dedicated to the Swedish zoologist Einar Lönnberg. Zootaxa 2201: 63–68 - get paper here
  • Kraus, Fred 2009. NEW SPECIES OF TOXICOCALAMUS (SQUAMATA: ELAPIDAE) FROM PAPUA NEW GUINEA. Herpetologica 65 (4): 460 - 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, 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
  • Parker, H.W. 1936. A collection of reptiles and amphibians from the mountains of British New Guinea. Ann. Mag. nat. Hist. (10) 17: 66-93 - 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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