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Ahaetulla travancorica MALLIK, SRIKANTHAN, PAL, D’SOUZA, SHANKER & GANESH, 2020

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Higher TaxaColubridae, Ahaetuliinae, Colubroidea, Caenophidia, Alethinophidia, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes)
Common Names 
SynonymAhaetulla travancorica MALLIK, SRIKANTHAN, PAL, D’SOUZA, SHANKER & GANESH 2020: 42
Ahaetulla dispar — ISHWAR et al. 2001 (part) 
DistributionIndia (S Western Ghats, S Kerala)

Type locality: Chemunji (8.67947 N 77.19325 E, 1300 asl), in Peppara wildlife sanctuary, a part of Agasthyamalai hills, Southern Western Ghats.  
TypesHolotype. BNHS 3592 (CESS075); Chemunji, Peppara, Agasthyamalai, Kerala; Coll. Saunak P. Pal and Mrugank Prabu, 2010. 
DiagnosisDiagnosis: A species of Ahaetulla possessing loreal scales (vs. loreal absent in all other Western Ghats congeners except A. dispar), possessing white ventrolateral stripe (vs. absent in A. pulverulenta, A. sahyadrensis nom. nov.); lacking rostral appendage (vs. rostral appendage present in all other Indian Ahaetulla spp., except A. dispar and A. perroteti). From its closest genetic relative, A. dispar, the new species differs by having 2 loreals on each side of head (vs. 0–1 in A. dispar), infralabials 7–8 (vs. 9 in A. dispar), mild keels on 1st dorsal row of scales along vertebra (vs. smooth scales in A. dispar) (Fig 18). From the sympatric Proahaetulla antiqua, the new species is diagnosable by the presence of rather smooth dorsal scales (vs. keeled in P. antiqua); a brownish red tongue (vs. blackish greenish tongue in P. antiqua); postoculars 2 on each side (vs. often 3 in P. antiqua) (Fig. 22, Table 2, Mallik et al. 2020).

Colour in life. Dorsum dark green to olive green; first infralabial and rostral tipped with yellow, other supra- labials, infralabials, venter whitish blue to yellowish green in midbody; light yellow to white ventral stripe along notched ventral keels, slight discolouration in the pre-ocular; inter-scalar skin black and white anteriorly-converging bars; eyes golden yellow with black speckles; concentration of black speckles both in the anterior and posterior ends of a horizontal pupil bordered with light golden yellow; tail, subcaudals light green (Mallik et al. 2020: 44). 
CommentHabitat: Apparently partly terrestrial, in contrast to most other members of the genus. The holotype was found basking in the morning on a shrub at the edge of a shola patch, among montane grassland (Mallik et al. 2020).

Distribution: See map in Mallik et al. 2020: 14 (Fig. 4). 
EtymologyFrom Latin, for an inhabitant of Travancore (a name given to the former province corresponding to present day south Kerala and the far south of Tamil Nadu), in allusion to its distribution in that part of the Southern Western Ghats. 
  • MALLIK, A. K., SRIKANTHAN, A. N., PAL, S. P., D’SOUZA, P. M., SHANKER, K., & GANESH, S. R. 2020. Disentangling vines: a study of morphological crypsis and genetic divergence in vine snakes (Squamata: Colubridae: Ahaetulla) with the description of five new species from Peninsular India. Zootaxa 4874 (1): 1-62 - get paper here
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