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Urotheca decipiens (GÜNTHER, 1893)

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Higher TaxaColubridae (Dipsadinae), Colubroidea, Caenophidia, Alethinophidia, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes)
Common NamesE: Pale Ground Snake 
SynonymAblabes decipiens GÜNTHER 1893: 105
Tachymenis decipiens — GÜNTHER 1895
Rhadinaea albiceps AMARAL 1924: 200 (fide MYERS 1974)
Liophis albiceps — AMARAL 1929: 170
Liophis albiceps — PETERS & OREJAS-MIRANDA 1970: 176
Rhadinaea decipiens — MYERS 1974: 166
Rhadinaea decipiens — VILLA et al. 1988
Urotheca decipiens — SAVAGE & CROTHER 1989
Urotheca decipiens — MCCRANIE et al. 2003
Urotheca decipiens — WALLACH et al. 2014: 782 
DistributionHonduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia (incl. Valle del Cauca)

Type locality: Irazú, Costa Rica.  
TypesSyntypes: BMNH 1946.1.3.96-97
Holotype: USNM 22446 [Rhadinaea albiceps] 
DiagnosisDescription” “The following is based on one male (USNM 565613) and one female (UF 137176). Urotheca decipiens is a small, striped snake (maximum recorded TOL 569 mm [Myers, 1974]; 444 mm TOL in largest Honduran specimen [UF 137176]) with an extremely long, thick tail; head slightly distinct from neck; snout moderately elongate, blunt in dorsal outline; ros­ tral not extending posteriorly between intemasals, its length from above about one-half that of median intemasal suture; intemasals short, about two-thirds as long as prefrontal suture;
prefrontals long, their median suture about one-half length of frontal; frontal much longer than wide, widest anteriorly, length about three-quarters that of parietals, in contact with prefrontals, supraoculars, and parietals; supraoculars longer than wide, about two-thirds length of frontal; parietals long, wide, widest anteriorly, their median suture equal to length of frontal; parietals in contact with frontal, supraoculars, upper postocular, anterior and secondary temporals, and about 6 nuchal scales; nasal divided, prenasal slightly larger than postnasal; postnasal contact­ ing loreal, first and second supralabials, prefrontal, and intemasal; loreal single, slightly longer than high, length about one-third that of snout, about one-half length of eye; preocular single; subpreocular single; postoculars 2, upper slightly larger than lower; temporals 1+1, anterior one above sixth and seventh supralabials, secondary one above seventh and eighth supralabials;
supralabials 8, with fourth and fifth bordering eye; pupil circular; infralabials 9-10, first pair in contact posterior to mental, first 4—5 in contact with anterior chinshields; anterior chinshields paired, longer than wide, slightly shorter than posterior chinshields; posterior chinshields paired, separated for posterior half of their length by 2 gulars; mental groove present; ventrals 134 in male [132-137 range-wide], 143 in female [122-143 range-wide]; cloacal scute divided; subcaudals 121 in male [121 also in only extralimital male with published data], 110 in female [90-114 range-wide], divided; dorsal scales smooth, in 17 rows throughout body, without apical pits or supracloacal ridges; TOL 248 mm in male, 444 mm in female; SVL 143 mm in male, 252 mm in female; TAL/TOL 0.423 in male, 0.432 in female.” (McCranie 2011)

Color in life (adult female, UF 137176): "middorsum Sepia (219), lateral portion of dorsum Hair Brown (119A), two areas separated by narrow Straw Yellow (56) stripe on middle of scale row 5, lateral area of dorsum bounded below by zigzag white stripe on adjacent portions of rows 1 and 2; ventrolateral area Hair Brown (lower portion of row 1) confluent with similarly-colored blotch on lateral edge of ventrals; remainder of venter white; dorsum of head Burnt Sienna (132) to mid-parietal level, followed by Chrome Orange (16) nuchal band extending two scales posterior to parietals; supralabials pinkish white, bounded above by dark brown line; lateral and ventrolateral stripes continue to end of tail; iris brown." The second known Honduran specimen (USNM 565613) was similar in color and pattern to that of UF 137176.” (McCranie et al. (2003: 392, McCranie 2011)

Diagnosis/Similar Species. “Urotheca decipiens differs from all other Honduran snakes except U. guentheri, by having the combination of 17 smooth dorsal scale rows throughout the body, a dispoportionately thick tail for most of its length, and paired pale lateral stripes on each side of the body. U. guentheri has pale parietal and nuchal spots and an orange or yellow venter in life (versus no pale parietal and nuchal spots and a white venter present in life in U. decipiens).” (McCranie 2011) 
CommentNote that GÜNTHER’s descriptions appeared over a series of years.

Abundance: Rhadinaea albiceps is known only from type specimen.

Distribution: not in Ecuador fide O. Torres-Carvajal, pers. comm. 8 Sep 2016 although Liophis albiceps has been reported or presumed to be in Ecuador (Type locality: “probably from Ecuador”). 
  • Amaral, A. do 1924. New genus and species of South American snakes contained in the United States National Museum. J. Washington Acad. Sci. 14: 200-202 - get paper here
  • Amaral,A. do 1930. Estudos sobre ophidios neotropicos XVIII. Lista remissiva dos ophidios da região neotropica. Mem. Inst. Butantan 4: 126-271 [1929] - get paper here
  • Castro-Herrera, F. & Vargas-Salinas, F. 2008. Anfibios y reptiles en el departamento del Valle del Cauca, Colombia. Biota Colombiana 9 (2): 251 - 277 - get paper here
  • Castro-Herrera, F.; F. Vargas-Salinas. 2007. Reptilia, Squamata, Serpentes, Colubridae, Urotheca decipiens: Distribution extension. Check List 3 (3):185-189. - get paper here
  • Günther, A. C. L. G. 1885. Reptilia and Batrachia. Biologia Centrali-Américana. Taylor, & Francis, London, 326 pp. [published in parts from 1885-1902; reprint by the SSAR 1987] - get paper here
  • McCranie J R 2011. The snakes of Honduras. SSAR, Salt Lake City, 725 pp.
  • McCranie, J.R.; Townsend, J.H. & Wilson, L.D. 2003. Three snakes new to the herpetofauna of Honduras. Herpetological Review 34 (4): 391-392 - get paper here
  • McCranie, James R. 2015. A checklist of the amphibians and reptiles of Honduras, with additions, comments on taxonomy, some recent taxonomic decisions, and areas of further studies needed. Zootaxa 3931 (3): 352–386 - get paper here
  • Myers, C.W. 1974. The systematics of Rhadinaea (Colubridae), a genus of New World snakes. Bull. Amer. Mus. nat. Hist. 153 (1): 1-262 - get paper here
  • Pérez-Santos,C. & Moreno, A.G. 1988. Ofidios de Colombia. Museo reegionale di Scienze Naturali, Torino, Monographie VI, 517 pp.
  • Roze, Janis A 1964. The snakes of the Leimadophis-Urotheca-Liophis complex from Parque Nacional Henri Pitter (Rancho Grande), Venezuela, with a description of a new genus and species. Senckenbergiana Biologica 45 (3/5): 533-542
  • Salazar, Milton and Marco Barquero 2012. First country records for Urotheca decipiens and Urotheca pachyura and range extensions of Urotheca guentheri in Nicaragua. Herpetological Bulletin (121): 33-35 - get paper here
  • Savage, J.M. 2002. The Amphibians and Reptiles of Costa Rica: A Herpetofauna Between Two Continents, Between Two Seas. University of Chicago Press, 934 pp. [review in Copeia 2003 (1): 205]
  • Savage,J.M. & Crother,B.I. 1989. The status of Pliocercus and Urotheca (Serpentes: Colubridae), with a review of included species of coral snake mimics. Zool. J. Linnean Soc. 95: 335-362 - get paper here
  • Solís, J. M., L. D. Wilson, and J. H. Townsend. 2014. An updated list of the amphibians and reptiles of Honduras, with comments on their nomenclature. Mesoamerican Herpetology 1: 123–144 - get paper here
  • Solorzano, A. 2004. Serpientes de Costa Rica - Snakes of Costa Rica. Editorial INBio, Costa Rica, 792 pp.
  • Sunyer, Javier 2014. An updated checklist of the amphibians and reptiles of Nicaragua. Mesoamerican Herpetology 1 (2): 186–202. - get paper here
  • Valencia-Zuleta A, Jaramillo-Martínez AF, Echeverry-Bocanegra A, Viáfara-Vega R, Hernández-Córdoba O, Cardona-Botero VE, Gutiérrez-Zúñiga J, Castro-Herrera F. 2014. Conservation status of the herpetofauna, protected areas, and current problems in Valle del Cauca, Colombia. Amphibian & Reptile Conservation 8 (2): 1–18 (e87) - 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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