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Agkistrodon piscivorus (LACÉPÈDE, 1789)

IUCN Red List - Agkistrodon piscivorus - Least Concern, LC

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Higher TaxaViperidae, Crotalinae, Colubroidea, Caenophidia, Alethinophidia, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes)
Common Namespiscivorus: Northern Cottonmouth
leucostoma: Western Cottonmouth
G: Wasser-Mokassinotter
G: Östliche Wasser-Mokassinotter [piscivorus]
G: Westliche Wassermokassinotter [leucostoma] 
SynonymCrotalus piscivorus LACÉPÈDE 1789: 130
Acontias leucostoma TROOST 1836: 176
Trigonocephalus piscivorus — DUMÉRIL & BIBRON 1854: 1491
Ancistrodon piscivorus — COPE 1860: 336
Toxicophis piscivorus — BAIRD & GIRARD 1853
Toxicophis pugnax — BAIRD & GIRARD 1853
Agkistrodon piscivorus piscivorus — GLOYD & CONANT 1943: 166
Agkistrodon piscivorus leucostoma — GLOYD & CONANT 1943: 164
Toxicophis pugnax — SCHMIDT 1954: 306
Agkistrodon piscivorous — MEHRTENS 1987: 355 (in error)
Agkistrodon piscivorus — CONANT & COLLINS 1991: 228
Agkistrodon piscivorus leucostoma — CONANT & COLLINS 1991: 229
Agkistrodon piscivorus — MCDIARMID, CAMPBELL & TOURÉ 1999: 238
Agkistrodon piscivorus piscivorus — CROTHER 2000: 56
Agkistrodon piscivorus leucostoma — CROTHER 2000: 56
Agkistrodon piscivorus leucostoma — DIXON 2000
Agkistrodon piscivorus leucostoma — TENNANT & BARTLETT 2000: 494
Agkistrodon piscivorus piscivorus — TENNANT & BARTLETT 2000: 490
Agkistrodon piscivorus piscivorus — CROTHER et al. 2012
Agkistrodon piscivorus — CROTHER et al. 2012
Agkistrodon piscivorus leucostoma — CROTHER et al. 2012
Agkistrodon piscivorus — WALLACH et al. 2014: 18
Agkistrodon piscivorus — BURBRINK & GUIHER 2014
Agkistrodon piscivorus — CROTHER et al. 2017
Agkistrodon piscivorus piscivorus — GUYER et al. 2018 
DistributionUSA (Texas, S/E Oklahoma, S Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Kansas, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, E North Carolina, W Tennessee, W Kentucky, S Illinois, Indiana, SE Virginia)

piscivorus: Atlantic coastal plain south from SE Virginia west to Alabama, Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina. Type locality: “Carolina”; Schmidt (1953 :225) proposed to restrict it to the vicinity of Charleston, South Carolina.

leucostoma: from the Mexican border (Rio Grande valley) through Texas, E Oklahoma to C Missouri and S Illinois, W Kentucky, Tennessee to Mobil Bay, Alabama. Type locality: "western district of Tennessee." Proposed emendation to "10 miles northeast of Bolivar, Hardeman County, Tennessee" by
Schmidt (1953:225).  
Reproductionviviparous; facultative parthenogenesis (BOOTH et al. 2012). 
TypesType: unlocated fide McDiarmid et al. 1999; unknown fide Burbrink & Guiher 2014.
Holotype: USNM 4262 [leucostoma] 
DiagnosisDiagnosis (piscivorus): Combining characteristics for the subspecies Agkistrodon piscivorus piscivorus and Agkistrodon piscivorus leucostoma, we provide a diagnosis for A. piscivorus. The Northern Cottonmouth (A. piscivorus) is a mediumto large-bodied semi-aquatic pit viper with an average adult size of 76–114 cm and a maximum size of 188 cm (Gloyd & Conant, 1990; Conant & Collins, 1991), with a ratio of tail to total length of 0.13–0.19 in males and 0.12–0.18 in females. They possess a single anal plate, keeled dorsal scales and typically 25 midbody scale rows (range 23–27; Gloyd & Conant, 1990). Subcaudals range from 38 to 53 in males and from 42 to 53 in females, whereas ventral scales number 128–142 with no variation between sexes (Gloyd & Conant, 1990). Supralabials and infralabials range from 6 to 10 (mode 8) and 8 to 12 (mode 11), respectively and total postoculars + suboculars range from 1 to 4 (mode 3; Gloyd & Conant, 1990). A combination of geography and colour pattern distinguishes the Northern Cottonmouth from the Florida Cottonmouth. There are 10–17 dark cross-bands on an olive, brown or black background, whereas A. conanti features 11–16 crossbands. Crossbands in A. piscivorus are often indistinguishable from the ground colour in adults, yet may be prominent or subdued in adult A. conanti. The head is typically black or brown, lacking vertical rostral stripes; a dark cheek stripe is present in juveniles but may be subdued or indistinguishable from the ground colour in adults yet often present in adult A. conanti (Gloyd & Conant, 1990; Conant & Collins, 1991). The Northern Cottonmouth occupies lower elevations throughout the south-eastern USA from south-eastern Virginia to central Georgia, east of the Appalachian Mountains, north to southern Illinois and eastern Kansas, south into central Texas in the west, whereas the Florida cottonmouth (A. conanti) ranges from southern Florida to approximately Savannah Georgia, and west to south-eastern Alabama (Fig. 5B). Hybridization with the Florida Cottonmouth occurs in the midAtlantic coastal plains in southern North Carolina to the southern coastal plains in south-eastern Louisiana and diagnosis may be difficult for some individuals in this area without additional morphological and molecular data (Fig. 5B). 

Taxonomy: The monophyletic Florida subspecies of A. piscivorus may be a distinct species (at 4.8% SD), whereas two western subspecies of A. contortrix also appear to constitute a single distinct species, pending additional analyses. Both species of Agkistrodon can be used as suitable ectothermic models to gauge impacts of future climate change (DOUGLAS et al. 2009). Strickland et al. 2014 found two poorly resolved clades roughly corresponding to the Florida and continental populations but their finding does not support the splitting suggested by Burbrink & Guiher 2015.

Synonymy: Burbrink & Guiher (2015) synonymized A. p. piscivorus and A. p. leucostoma into a single species, A. piscivorus. They split off A. conanti as separate species whose range completely falls into that of A. piscivorus.

ICZN opinion 1463 retains the name of LACÉPÈDE 1789.

Habitat: occasionally in brackish waters (”marine”). 
EtymologySpecific epithet refers to dietary habit, derived from Latin pisces and vorare, translated as ‘fish’ and ‘to devour’, respectively. 
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