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Uropeltis bhupathyi JINS, SAMPAIO & GOWER, 2018

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Higher TaxaUropeltidae, Henophidia, Alethinophidia, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes)
Common NamesE: Bhupathy’s uropeltis or Bhupathy’s shieldtail 
SynonymUropeltis bhupathyi JINS, SAMPAIO & GOWER 2018
Uropeltis ellioti — KANNAN & BHUPATHY 1997: 34
Uropeltis ellioti — MUKHERJEE & BHUPATHY 2004: 109
Uropeltis ellioti — MUKHERJEE 2007: 23ff 
DistributionIndia (Tamil Nadu)

Type locality: Environs of the campus of the Sálim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History, Anaikatty (sometimes spelled Anaikatti), Coimbatore District, Tamil Nadu, India (11.09° N, 76.79° E, elevation 645 m).  
TypesHolotype: NCBS AU173 (Fig. 2), female based on number of ventrals and relative length of tail (see below). Collected 25.xi.2015 by V.J. Jins. See Fig. 3 for map.
Paratopotypes (n = 5). BNHS 3513 (female, collected 26.xi.2015), NCBS AU174 (female, 12.ix.2015), NCBS AU175 (male, 7.xi.2015) collected by V.J. Jins; ZSI/WGRC/IR.V.2899 (female) and BNHS 3514 (male) collected between June 2002 and December 2005 by Debanik Mukherjee. 
DiagnosisDiagnosis. A Uropeltis with more than 200 ventral scales, 17 dorsal scale rows at midbody and a moderately developed tail shield (tail Type I of Smith 1943: 73) that differs from U. ocellata (and all currently accepted synonyms of that species) in having a substantially longer rostral shield that is 34–41% (mean 37.5) of head length (distance between snout tip and posterior edge of the fourth supralabial) versus 22–31% (mean 28.4). Uropeltis bhupathyi sp. nov. differs from the only other congener with > 200 ventrals and 17 dorsal scale rows at midbody, U. macrorhyncha, in having a frontal that is wider than long versus longer than wide. The frontal in sampled U. macrorhyncha is less than 24% of head length versus > 30% in U. bhupathyi sp. nov. Even if some U. nitida are found to have more than 200 ventrals (see final paragraph of Materials and Methods), the types of that species differ substantially from U. bhupathyi sp. nov. in having much shorter rostrals (27–31% of head length; mean = 29.8%) and pale blotches along the venter. See Fig. 1 for graphical summary of these diagnostic head and head shield features.
The holotype of Uropeltis liura (Günther, 1875) has 183 ventrals (pers. obs.). Rajendran (1985) reported ventral counts ranging from 182–208 in U. liura, though Pyron et al. (2016: 492) questioned whether Rajendran’s population was conspecific with topotypic U. liura. Whatever the correct identification is, we are confident that the new species described here is not conspecific with Rajendran’s U. liura (from the far south of the Western Ghats) because the latter differs from U. bhupathyi sp. nov. in lacking lateral stripes anteriorly and in having up to 12 subcaudals, large pale (yellow) patches ventrally forming cross bars, and a relatively shorter rostral.
CommentHabitat: The first author encountered approximately 15 specimens of U. bhupathyi sp. nov. at the type locality in 2015, mostly between September and December, during the Northeast Monsoon. It is hypothesised that, like other known uropeltids (e.g., Rajendran 1985), U. bhupathyi sp. nov. spends a considerable amount of time in soil, but all specimens observed by the first author were seen on the surface in the morning or evening on overcast days, often after or during rainfall. No digging surveys have been undertaken.

Behavior: When picked up, individuals of U. bhupathyi sp. nov. are, as is typical for uropeltids, inoffensive, readily entwining around the hand and fingers without attempting to bite. 
EtymologyNamed in honour of the late Dr. Subramanian Bhupathy (1963–2014) of the Sálim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History, in recognition of his contributions to the appreciation and knowledge of the Indian herpetofauna. Dr. Bhupathy was based on the campus where the type series of the new species was collected, and he published on the existence of this population (Kannan & Bhupathy 1997; Mukherjee & Bhupathy 2004). The first author’s PhD studies were supervised initially by Dr. Bhupathy. For nomenclatural purposes, the species epithet is considered a noun in apposition. 
  • Ganesh, S.R.; S. Bhupathy, P. Karthik, G. Babu Rao & S. Babu 2020. Catalogue of herpetological specimens from peninsular India at the Sálim Ali Centre for Ornithology & Natural History (SACON), India. JoTT 12 (9): 16123–16135 - get paper here
  • JINS, V.J.; FILIPA L. SAMPAIO, DAVID J. GOWER 2018. A new species of Uropeltis Cuvier, 1829 (Serpentes: Uropeltidae) from the Anaikatty Hills of the Western Ghats of India. Zootaxa 4415 (3): 401–422 - get paper here
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