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Uropeltis jerdoni GANESH, PUNITH, ADHIKARI & ACHYUTHAN, 2021

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Higher TaxaUropeltidae, Henophidia, Alethinophidia, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes)
Common NamesE: Jerdon’s Shieldtail Snake 
SynonymUropeltis jerdoni GANESH, PUNITH, ADHIKARI & ACHYUTHAN 2021 
DistributionIndia (Karnataka)

Type locality: Devarayana Durga (13.371 ̊N, 77.210 ̊E; 1,060 m) in Tumkur District, Karnataka, India.  
TypesHolotype: BNHS 3562, adult female, a rather intact roadkill near village, coll. KGP and NSA in January 2020.
Paratypes (n= 7): BNHS 3563, adult female, animal in early ecdysis, same data as holotype; BNHS 216 a–b, BNHS 217 a–b, BNHS 218 a–b, coll. Frank Wall from Nandi Durga (13.3700N, 77.6810E; 1,470 m) in Chikballapur District, Karnataka, India; coll. date unknown. 
DiagnosisDiagnosis: A species of Uropeltis known from the Bengaluru uplands, characterized by the following combination of characters: caudal shield truncate, with a distinct thickened circumscribed concave disc; part of rostral visible from above subequal to its distance from frontal; rostral scale partially separating nasal scales; snout fairly pointed, subovoid; eye diameter 3/4th that of ocular shield; supralabials 4; infralabials 3–4; dorsal scale rows 17:17:17; ventral scales 140–148; subcaudal scales 7–9 pairs; dorsum dark blackish-grey overall with minute yellow speckling; an yellow stripe on either sides on neck and tail; ventrolateral region distinctly mottled with yellow; venter uniform dark blackish-grey, rarely with a few yellow dots (Ganesh et al. 2021).

Comparisons and differential diagnosis: The new species is here compared with the 25 recognized species of Uropeltis from India (see Pyron et al. 2016; Jins et al. 2018; Ganesh & Achyuthan 2020). By having an obliquely truncate tail terminating in a thickened, circumscribed, concave caudal disc covered with multicarinate scales, Uropeltis jerdoni sp. nov. differs from the following 14 species: U. bhupathyi, U. ellioti, U. nitida, U. ocellata, U. dindigalensis, U. beddomei, U. macroryncha, U. woodmasoni (Group-I tail shield of Smith 1943), U. grandis, U. maculata, U. petersi, U. liura, U. pulneyensis (Group-III tail shield of Smith 1943). Further, Uropeltis jerdoni sp. nov. also differs from the remaining congeners (after Gower et al. 2008; Ganesh et al. 2014; Ganesh & Achyuthan 2020) with a thickened, circumscribed, caudal shield categorized under Smith’s (1943) Group II A & B as follows (only opposing suite of character states listed): U. arcticeps (southern Western Ghats): dorsal scales lacking a clearly defined yellow scale border; ventral scale counts much lower (127–128); U. bicatenata (northern Western Ghats): yellowish scalloping chain-like pattern across both sides of the body; ventral scale count 130–141; U. broughami (southern Western Ghats): 19 midbody scalerows; rostral scale much produced and ridged with a dorsal keel; dorsum brown with distinct small, yellow-black-edged transverse ocelli; ventral scale counts much higher (181–230); U. ceylanica s. auct. (Western Ghats): anterior dorsum without distinct yellow spots; venter lacking a clearly defined brownish scale border; ventral scale counts much lower (119–146; 130 in holotype – Gower et al. 2008); U. macrolepis complex (northern Western Ghats): 15 midbody scalerows; lower ventral scale counts (120–140); dorsum blackish-brown with yellow broken spots forming zig-zag crossbars or annuli or a pair of distinct, thick, yellowish-orange paravertebral stripes extending across most of the body except near neck, where there are two large orange spots; U. madurensis (southern Western Ghats): snout much more rounded in profile; body colour rich brown, dorsal scales with a clearly defined yellow scale border throughout the back, giving a yellow-reticulated appearance; no ventrolateral yellow reticulations, but ventrals with large alternating yellow blotches; ventral scale count 144–157; U. myhendrae (southern Western Ghats): dorsum with brownish-black body, each scale with yellowish posterior border forming more or less complete band or annuli; part of rostral visible from above distinctly longer than its distance from frontal; ventral scales 139–156; U. phipsoni (northern Western Ghats): a pair of yellowish lateral streaks along both sides of the body; part of rostral visible from above distinctly longer than its distance from the frontal; ventral scales 138–157; U. rajendrani (southern Eastern Ghats): ventrals 146–158; rounded snout profile; body deep ochre brown; presence of yellow colouration in the ventral scales; part of rostral visible from above, not much longer than its distance from frontal; U. rubromaculata (southern Western Ghats): presence of two large red caudal spots; much lower ventral counts (127–136); U. rubrolineata (southern Western Ghats): presence of two ventrolateral red stripes; much higher ventral counts (165–172); U. shorttii (southern Eastern Ghats, allopatric): dorsal body brownish or bluish-black, with distinct yellowish annuli or crossbars; ventral scales 137–156 (Ganesh et al. 2021).

Habitus: A fairly small but thick-set, robust shieldtail snake; forebody mildly thicker than the rest of trunk; head not evident, narrower than neck; snout fairly pointed in profile, subovoid; eyes large, ¾ the size of ocular scale; tail with a distinctive flat, thickened, circumscribed disc.

Measurements in mm: snout to vent length 186.2; tail length 11.1; maximum body width 7.1; head length 7.7; head width 4.6; head depth 3.8; internarial distance 1.26; interorbital distance 2.81 at the front of the ocular and 3.41 at the rear of the ocular; eye to snout tip distance 3.67; eye to lip distance 1.12; snout-parietal distance 3.0; posterior end of rostral to posterior end of parietal distance 5.14; tail shield length 9.91; tail shield width 6.12; tail shield depth 3.67; parietal scale length 3.32; parietal scale width 2.71; frontal scale length 1.45; frontal scale width 1.78; ocular scale length 1.41; prefrontal scale length 1.17; midbody ventral scale width 1.33; midbody basal coastal scale width 2.31.

Scalation: Rostral visible from above, partly dividing nasals, anteriorly, but posteriorly in contact with one another, behind rostal; part of rostral visible from above subequal to its distance from frontal; nostril piercing nasal, pointed towards rostrum and first supralabial; nasals slightly smaller than prefrontal; ocular scale slightly smaller than nasal and/ or prefrontal; frontal hexagonal, longer than broad; broader anteriorly, posteriorly produced towards a tapering point, wedged deeper within the midline contact of parietals; parietals large, as large as distance between snout tip and anterior end of frontal; ocular scale separating contact between prefrontal and parietal; ocular, in contact with frontal; supralabials 4/4, first supralabial the smallest of all head scales, rectangular; second supralabial subequal to rostral, higher than broad; third supralabial broader than high, higher anteriorly, shorter posteriorly; fourth supralabial the largest, subequal to frontal, smaller than parietal; infralabials 3/4, first infralabial large, second the largest, third/ fourth ones small and elongate; scales overall smooth and glossy, imbricate, cycloid; dorsal scale rows: 17: 17: 17; ventrals 146, 1.5 times as wide as adjacent scale rows; anal scale paired, subequal to ventral scale but larger than subcaudal scale; subcaudals 9, paired; caudal scales across length of tail shield 8; caudal scales across width of tail shield 4; caudals scales with 2–5 keels per scale; tail shield ending with two projecting spurs.

Colouration: Dorsum lustrous dark blackish grey overall; anterior end (head, neck) with a brownish tinge, while the posterior end (tail shield) steely bluish-black; dorsum with very fine, scarce yellow powdering all along the trunk from head to near pre-cloacal region; tail and tail shield devoid of yellow patterning above; a distinct pair of yellow ventrolateral stripes from snout tip till tail shield; the yellow stripes rather evident from infralabials till neck, from where onwards the yellow colouration becomes restricted only to scale borders of the last rows of coastal scales; the central part of coastal scales and almost whole of the ventral scales totally black, rarely with any yellow intrusions; thick yellow stripes along subcaudals that widen and meet across the anal shield; tongue dark reddish-brown, darker at the tips; iris black.

Dentition: On each side of the jaw, eight maxillary (upper jaw) teeth and five mandibular or dentary (lower jaw) teeth present; teeth conical, visibly curved inwards, uniform in size throughout, except for the two front-most teeth that are slightly smaller; diastema absent.

Variation shown by paratypes: Agreeing well with the holotype in general and showing the following intraspecific variations: dorsal scale rows 17:17:17; supralabials 4; infralabials 3/4; ventrals 143–148; subcaudals 7–9; snout to vent length 147–201 mm; tail length 8–13 mm; maximum body width 5.2–7.0 mm; head length 7.0–8.8 mm; head width 3.0–4.3 mm; head depth 3.1–4.1 mm; internarial distance 1.2–1.9 mm; interorbital distance 2.9–3.4 mm front, 3.2–3.7 mm back; eye to snout tip distance 3.0–3.9 mm; eye to lip distance 1.0–1.1 mm; snout-parietal distance 2.8–4.9 mm; posterior end of rostral to posterior end of parietal distance 4.1–5.8 mm; tail shield length 7.3–9.3 mm; tail shield width 4.8–5.9 mm; tail shield depth 3.4–5.1 mm; parietal scale length 2.0–3.5 mm; parietal scale width 1.4–2.8 mm; frontal scale length 1.5–3.7 mm; frontal scale width 1.6–2.9 mm; ocular scale length 1.0–2.1 mm; prefrontal scale length 1.2–1.5 mm; midbody ventral scale width 2.1–3.9 mm; midbody basal coastal scale width 1.1–1.8 mm. Because the paratype from Devarayana Durga was still in ecdysis, its colouration differed to a more brownish than dark blackish colouration overall. The paratypes from Nandi Durga were understandably paler and less intense in colouration, due to long years of preservation. They had overall dull brown body colour with straw yellow side stripes and ventral patches. One historical paratype, BNHS 216a has left lower jaw and right temporal damaged and torn off. All the historical paratypes had posterior parts of underside incised. (GANESH et al., 2021).  
EtymologyPatronym named in genitive singular case, honouring Thomas Caverhill Jerdon (1811–1872), a pioneering English naturalist who described some of the earliest reptiles from the Bengaluru uplands. 
  • Ganesh, S., Punith, K., Adhikari, O.D. and Achyuthan, N. 2021. A new species of shieldtail snake (Squamata: Uropeltidae: Uropeltis) from the Bengaluru uplands, India. Journal of Threatened Taxa. 13, 6: 18508–18517 - get paper here
  • Kalki, Yatin; Chayant Gonsalves , Daniel B. Wylie , Karthik A. K. Sundaram and Tristan D. Schramer 2021. Annotated checklist of the snakes of Bengaluru Urban District, Karnataka, India with notes on their natural history, distribution, and population trends over the last 150 years. Journal of Animal Diversity 3 (2): 26-41 - get paper here
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