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Acanthophis cryptamydros MADDOCK, ELLIS, DOUGHTY, SMITH & WÜSTER, 2015

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Higher TaxaElapidae (Hydrophiinae), Colubroidea, Caenophidia, Alethinophidia, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes)
Common NamesE: Kimberley death adder 
SynonymAcanthophis cryptamydros MADDOCK, ELLIS, DOUGHTY, SMITH & WÜSTER 2015
Acanthophis lancasteri WELLS & WELLINGTON 1985: 43 (nomen nudum)
Acanthophis lancasteri — WILSON & SWAN 2017
Acanthophis cryptamydros — ELLIS et al. 2021 
DistributionAustralia (Western Australia: Kimberley region)

Type locality: 1 km north-west of Theda Station homestead, Western Australia (14°46'59.10"S, 126°29'22.02"E)  
Reproductionviviparous (not imputed, fide Zimin et al. 2022) 
TypesHolotype: WAM R174083, medium-sized male collected on 8 March 2014 by R. Ellis, G. Bourke, and R. Barrett. Fixed in 10% formalin, stored in 70% ethanol at WAM. Liver samples stored in 100% ethanol at WAM and SAM.
Paratypes. WAM R70690, sub-adult male, 45 km north-northeast Halls Creek, WA (17°51'00"S, 127°50'00"E); WAM R81245, adult male, Packsaddle Springs, near Kununurra, WA (15°54'00"S, 128°41'00"E); WAM R103755, adult male, Surveyors Pool, Mitchell River National Park, WA (14°39'46"S, 125°44'34"E); WAM R165567, adult male, Koolan Island, WA (16°08'04"S, 123°45'05"E); WAM R168918, adult female, Boongaree Island, WA (15°4'39.36"S, 125°11'13.56"E); WAM R172034, adult female, north-west Molema Island, WA (16°14'17"S, 123°49'49"E).
Holotype: WAM R70690 (Western Australian Museum), adult specimen. Collected at 45 km NNE of Halls Creek, Western Australia [lancasteri] 
DiagnosisDiagnosis: A moderately stout Acanthophis to 645 mm total length. Distinguished from all other Australian Acanthophis by a combination of midbody scales in 22 or 23 rows, 125–139 ventrals, undivided prefrontal scales, posterior edge of frontal scale not extending beyond posterior edge of supraoculars, laterally flared supraoculars, area of lower secondary temporal scale equal to or smaller than sixth supralabial, anterior dorsal scales with prominent keels, and ventrum unpigmented except for 1–3 rows of spots on ventrolateral edge.

Comparison with other species. Distinguished from A. pyrrhus by higher average MBSR (23 vs. 21), fewer ventral scales (125–139 vs. 136–158), pigment on lateral periphery of ventral scales (vs. no pigment on ventral scales), presence of pigment patches on infralabials (infralabials unpigmented in A. pyrrhus), less prominent dorsal keeling (strongly keeled in A. pyrrhus, tapering to a sharp point on posterior edge), head scales less rugose, posterior edge of frontal scale not extending beyond posterior edge of supraoculars (equal to or beyond in A. pyrrhus), and undivided pair of prefrontal scales (divided in A. pyrrhus).
Differs from A. wellsi by higher midbody scale rows (22–23 vs. 19–21), less prominent dorsal keeling, posterior edge of frontal scale not extending beyond posterior edge of supraoculars (equal to or beyond in A. wellsi), and more laterally flared supraocular (absent or less prominent in A. wellsi). Differs from melanistic forms of A. wellsi by the absence of prominent black coloration on head and black dorsal bands.
Distinguished from A. antarcticus by higher average MBSR (23 vs. 21), more ventral scales (125+ vs. 124-), and more prominent anterior dorsal keeling (vs. smooth or very weakly keeled in A. antarcticus).
Most similar to A. rugosus group in appearance, but differs through higher average ventral scale counts (130 vs. 127), despite considerable overlap in range, lacking dark pigment on the ventrum other than lateral edge (vs. distinct blotching of dark pigment), posterior edge of frontal scale not extending beyond posterior edge of supraoculars (beyond in 13 of 14 specimens, equal in one specimen) and size of lower secondary temporal not larger than sixth supralabial in area (A. cryptamydros equal in 13 specimens, smaller in 13 vs. A. rugosus equal in 10, larger in 4). See Table 3 for further details.
Comparisons of A. cryptamydros sp nov. to the A. rugosus group are complicated by the likely existence of a number of undescribed species within the latter, which greatly increases variation within this complex. We comment on morphological characters that are useful in distinguishing these two taxa.

Diagnosis (lancasteri): “A member of the Acanthophis antarcticus complex, most closely related to Acanthophis praelongus, and readily identified by the description in Storr (1981:209-210) the material utilised by Storr, excluding those specimens from the Northern Territory, is referable to Acanthophis lancasteri, rather than A. praelongus). Acanthophis lancasteri is believed confined to northwestern Australia and across the 'Top End' of the Northern Territory. Acanthophis praelongus is believed confined to Cape York, Peninsula Queensland. Excellent diagnostic illustrations of Acanthophis lancasteri appear in Storr (1981: Fig. 4), Cogger (1983: Plate 764 - cited as 'Acanthophis praelongus'), in Gow (1977: Plate 22 - cited as 'Acanthophis antarcticus') and in Gow (1982: Plate 3 - cited as 'Acanthophis praelongus' [paper not cited]).” (Wells & Wellington 1985: 43) 
CommentSynonymy: closely related to A. hawkei with which A. lancasteri has also been synonymized. The description of A. lancasteri refers to a geographic population of A. praelongus as described in Storr 1981 without further diagnosis, hence it is a nomen nudum. Wellington 2016 contested the validity of A. cryptamydros, but see Ellis et al. 2021 for further details.

Diet: frogs, lizards, and mammals. 
EtymologyThe specific epithet is modified from the Greek words kryptos (cryptic, hidden) and amydros (indistinct, dim) in reference to the cryptic nature of the species and its indistinct appearance relative to its surroundings making its presence unknown to predators and prey. Used as a noun in apposition.

Acanthophis lancasteri was named after American actor (“and philosopher”) Burt Lancaster (with the philosopher part probably referring to Lancaster’s political activism). 
  • ELLIS, RYAN J.; HINRICH KAISER, SIMON T. MADDOCK, PAUL DOUGHTY & WOLFGANG WÜSTER 2021. An evaluation of the nomina for death adders (Acanthophis Daudin, 1803) proposed by Wells & Wellington (1985), and confirmation of A. cryptamydros Maddock et al., 2015 as the valid name for the Kimberley death adder Zootaxa 4995 (1): 161–172 - get paper here
  • Gow, G.F. 1977. Snakes of Darwin. N. T. Museum Pub!., Darwin (undated first edition, but note that a second edition in 1978 is errone- ously dated 1977)
  • Kwet, A. 2016. Liste der im Jahr 2015 neu beschriebenen Reptilien. Terraria-Elaphe 2016 (3): 56-67 - get paper here
  • MADDOCK, SIMON T.; RYAN J. ELLIS, PAUL DOUGHTY, LAWRENCE A. SMITH & WOLFGANG WÜSTER 2015. A new species of death adder (Acanthophis: Serpentes: Elapidae) from north-western Australia. Zootaxa 4007 (3): 301–326 - get paper here
  • Mirtschin, P., Rasmussen, A.R. & Weinstein, S.A. 2017. Australia’s Dangerous snakes. CSIRO Publishing, 424 pp. - get paper here
  • Wellington, Ross 2016. Acanthophis cryptamydros Maddock, Ellis, Doughty, Smith & Wüster, 2015 is an invalid junior synonym of Acanthophis lancasteri Wells & Wellington, 1985 (Squamata, Elapidae). Bionomina 10: 74-75 - get paper here
  • Wilson, S. & Swan, G. 2017. A complete guide to reptiles of Australia, 5th ed. New Holland Publishers, 647 pp.
  • Zimin, A., Zimin, S. V., Shine, R., Avila, L., Bauer, A., Böhm, M., Brown, R., Barki, G., de Oliveira Caetano, G. H., Castro Herrera, F., Chapple, D. G., Chirio, L., Colli, G. R., Doan, T. M., Glaw, F., Grismer, L. L., Itescu, Y., Kraus, F., LeBreton 2022. A global analysis of viviparity in squamates highlights its prevalence in cold climates. Global Ecology and Biogeography, 00, 1–16 - get paper here
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