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Antaresia maculosa (PETERS, 1873)

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Higher TaxaPythonidae, Henophidia, Pythonoidea, Alethinophidia, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes)
SubspeciesAntaresia maculosa peninsularis ESQUERRÉ et al. 2021
Antaresia maculosa maculosa (PETERS 1873) 
Common NamesE: Spotted Python, Eastern Small-blotched Python, Eastern Childrens Python
G: Gefleckter Zwergpython, Fleckenpython
E: Cape York Spotted Python [peninsularis] 
SynonymLiasis maculosus PETERS 1873: 608
Antaresia maculosus — KLUGE 1993
Liasis maculosus — SHINE 1994
Antaresia maculosa — MCDIARMID, CAMPBELL & TOURÉ 1999: 162
Antaresia maculosus — COGGER 2000: 606
Antaresia maculosa brentonoloughlini HOSER 2003
Antaresia maculosa — HASSELBERG 2004
Antaresia maculosus — GREER 2006 (online)
Antaresia maculosa — WILSON & SWAN 2010
Antaresia maculosa — WALLACH et al. 2014: 45
Antaresia maculosa — ESQUERRÉ et al. 2021

Antaresia maculosa peninsularis ESQUERRÉ et al. 2021: 12 
DistributionAustralia (New South Wales, E Queensland)

Type locality: “Rockhampton, Port Mackay, Port Bowen” [Queensland]

peninsularis: Australia (Queensland); Type locality: Cooktown, Queensland, Australia (15.47°S; 142.25°E).  
Reproductionoviparous. 
TypesLectotype: ZMB 5948, A. Dietrich. Lectotype designation by Smith (1985).
Holotype: AM R16772 [brentonoloughlini]
Holotype. SAMA R12797 (female), collected at Cooktown, Queensland, Australia (15.47°S; 142.25°E) by H. Ehmann in November 1971. Paratypes. QMSB 33,588 (male) collected at Cairns area, Queensland (16.91° S; 145.77° E) in March 1975. QMSB 78,127 (sex unknown) collected at Lockhart River area, Queensland (12.97° S; 143.52° E) in July 2001. QMSB 31,830 (male) collected at Portland Roads, Queensland (12.6° S; 143.42° E) by G. Ingram on December 1978. MAGNT R5089 (male) collected at Edward River, Queensland (14.65°S; 142.05°E) by J. Bredl in 1976. SAMA R46757 (male) collected at Cairns, Queensland (16.92° S; 145.77° E) by R. Foster in January 1996. SAMA R4906 (female) collected at Cairns, Queensland (16.92° S; 145.77° E) by R. McKecknie in January 1963. SAMA R9942 (male) collected at Leggitts Lagoon, Queensland (15.43° S; 145.15° E) by F. Parker in May 1968 [peninsularis] 
DiagnosisDiagnosis. The clade found in our analyses that we call maculosa b. It differs from Antaresia perthensis by having highly contrasted large dark blotches with usually ragged edges along the body (vs less contrasted blotches and dots), a larger body size (max. SVL 1220 mm vs 670 mm) and a higher number of ventrals (249–280 vs 213–247). It differs from A. childreni by having a blotched pattern (vs. being patternless) or by lacking a space between the blotches in the anterior third of the body creating a lateral pale stripe and by generally having more ragged edges on its blotches. There are no consistent morphological diagnostic characters to differentiate it from the subspecies in Cape York, but it can be differentiated from it by various nucleotide substitutions in the cyt-b gene (see Table S7). From the species in the Torres Strait and New Guinea it is differentiated by having larger and more contrasting blotches (vs smaller scattered dots), and by never having less than four prefrontal scales (vs. sometimes having two or three prefrontals) (Esquerré et al. 2021).

Description. A small python, with a maximum recorded SVL of 1220 mm. Maximum recorded tail length is 112 mm and tail length is on average is 0.094 of the SVL. Head length is on average 0.036 of the SVL, and it is on average 1.68 times the head width. Maximum recorded mid-body girth is 140 mm, and it is on average 2.04 times thicker than the neck.
Head scalation comprises large symmetrical shields. One large roughly hexagonal or pentagonal frontal scale, divided into two scales longitudinally in some specimens. Two parietal scales directly in contact with the frontal, posterior to which scales are largely undifferentiated. Parietals usually in contact but sometimes small scales are formed between them or between them and the frontal. One large supraocular above each eye. Four large prefrontal scales, with sometimes one additional small scale between them. Two internasal scales. Rostral scale in contact with internasals, nasal and first supralabials. There are 9–12 supralabials with an average of 10.5; and 11–14 infralabials with an average of 12.9. Three to four of the infralabials have conspicuous heat pits. There is a single large, anteriorly pointed preocular scale, with an additional much smaller one between it and the fourth and/or fifth supralabial scales. There are 1–11 irregularly sized loreal scales. Two to four postocular scales. Dorsal scales are smooth, rhomboidal and slightly overlapping. In some cases, these are more elongated anteriorly and becoming more compact towards the tail. Ventral scales are transversally elongated shields; ranging in number from 249 to 280, with an average of 259.6. Anal scale is single (undivided). Subcaudal scales range from 37 to 46 with an average of 41.2, most of them divided but sometimes fused towards the tip of the tail.
Background colouration ranges between greyish brown, light sandy colour, and a more reddish ochre. The spots or blotches on top are much darker, ranging from chocolate brown to a reddish dark brown. Shape and distribution of the spots is very variable. They tend to have ragged edges and be irregular in shape. Spots sometimes fuse on the back, creating large continuous and irregular patches. Sometimes (e.g. specimens from Magnetic Island, Queensland), blotches are small and uniformly speckled along the body, and can be quite faint. There is a slightly iridescent sheen to the skin (Esquerré et al. 2021).

Diagnosis (peninsularis). The clade found in our analyses that we call maculosa a. It differs from Antaresia perthensis by having highly contrasted large dark blotches with usually ragged edges along the body (vs less contrasted blotches and dots), a larger body size (max. SVL 1320 mm vs 670 mm) and a higher number of ventrals (252–287 vs 213–247). It differs from A. childreni by lacking a space between the blotches in the anterior third of the body creating a pale lateral stripe and by normally having more ragged edges on its blotches. There are no consistent morphological diagnostic characters to differentiate it from A. maculosa maculosa, but it can be differentiated from it by various nucleotide substitutions in the cyt-b gene (see Table S7). From the species in the Torres Strait and New Guinea it is differentiated by having larger and more contrasting blotches (vs smaller scattered dots), and by never having less than four prefrontal scales (vs sometimes having two or three prefrontals), and by never having less than three postocular scales (vs sometimes having two postoculars) (Esquerré et al. 2021). 
CommentHoser (2004) separated brentonoloughlini from the nominate subspecies “by its greater preponderance of light colouration relative to dark blotches on the dorsal surface” (Hoser 2004), stating that the nominate form would “have roughly half to half (50:50) dark versus light blothes” whereas the ratio in this taxon “is generally at least 60% light colour to 40% or less darker blotches” (Hoser 2004), and by larger average size. Type locality: 16 km east of Coen, Queensland, Australia.

Habitat: partly arboreal (Harrington et al. 2018).

Distribution: see Esquerré et al. 2021 for maps of both morphologically and genetically defined populations. Populations from Papua New Guinea were described as A. papuensis. 
EtymologyThe subspecific name maculosa applies from being the nominotypical taxon Antaresia maculosa, which means ‘spotted’, hence we propose the common name ‘Southern Spotted Python’.

The Latin name peninsularis refers to the Cape York Peninsula, where this taxon is found. 
References
  • Barker, Dave; Barker, Tracy 1995. The southern stars of Australia: Australia's small pythons. Vivarium 6 (4): 30-35
  • Cogger, H. G. 2014. Reptiles and Amphibians of Australia, 7th ed. CSIRO Publishing, xxx + 1033 pp. - get paper here
  • Cogger, H.G. 2000. Reptiles and Amphibians of Australia, 6th ed. Ralph Curtis Publishing, Sanibel Island, 808 pp.
  • Esquerré, Damien, Stephen C Donnellan, Carlos J Pavón-Vázquez, Jéssica Fenker, and J Scott Keogh. 2021. Phylogeography, Historical Demography and Systematics of the World’s Smallest Pythons (Pythonidae, Antaresia). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 161: 107181 - get paper here
  • Franz, V. 2003. Pythons of the World. Reptilia (GB) (27): 16-23 - get paper here
  • Franz, Volker 2018. Die Südpythons der Gattung Antaresia – charmante Zwerge aus Australien. Terraria-Elaphe 2018 (4): 20-27 - get paper here
  • Gower, D.; Garrett, K. & Stafford, P. 2012. Snakes. Firefly Books, Buffalo, NY,<br />144 p..
  • Harrington, Sean M; Jordyn M de Haan, Lindsey Shapiro, Sara Ruane 2018. Habits and characteristics of arboreal snakes worldwide: arboreality constrains body size but does not affect lineage diversification. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 125 (1): 61–71 - get paper here
  • Hasselberg, D. 2004. Gefleckter Zwergpython, Antaresia maculosa (PETERS 1873). Reptilia (Münster) 9 (49): 79-81 - get paper here
  • Hoser, R. 2003. A reclassification of the pythoninae including the descriptions of two new genera, two new species and nine new subspecies. Part I. [see also part II.]. Crocodilian 4 (3) (November 2003): 31-37 - get paper here
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  • Kluge, Arnold G. 1993. Aspidites and the phylogeny of Pythonine snakes. Rec. Austral. Mus. (Supplement 19): 1-77 - get paper here
  • Kroeze, Allard 2006. Breeding results Antaresia maculosa. Litteratura Serpentium 26 (4): 237-239 - get paper here
  • Kunz, K. 2017. Die Pythons Neuguineas. Von altbekannt bis geheimnisumwittert. Reptilia (Münster) 22 (127): 16-21 - get paper here
  • Mattison, Chris 2007. The New Encyclopedia of Snakes. Princeton University Press
  • McDiarmid, R.W.; Campbell, J.A. & Touré,T.A. 1999. Snake species of the world. Vol. 1. [type catalogue] Herpetologists’ League, 511 pp.
  • O’Shea M.; Sprackland, R.G. & Bibilale, I.H. 2004. First record for the genus Antaresia (Squamata: Pythonidae) from Papua New Guinea. Herpetological Review 35 (3): 225-227 - get paper here
  • Peters, Wilhem Carl Hartwig 1873. Über eine neue Schildkrötenart, Cinosternon effeldtii und einige andere neue oder weniger bekannte Amphibien. Monatsber. königl. Akad. Wiss. Berlin. 1873 (October): 603-618 - get paper here
  • Schleip, Wulf D & O’Shea, M. 2010. Annotated checklist of the recent and extinct pythons (Serpentes, Pythonidae), with notes on nomenclature, taxonomy, and distribution. ZooKeys 66 (2010) : 29-79 - get paper here
  • Shine, Richard 1994. Sexual size dimorphism in snakes revisited. Copeia 1994 (2): 326-346 - get paper here
  • Smith L A 1985. A revision of the Liasis childreni species-group (Serpentes: Boidae). Rec. West. Austr. Mus. 12 (3): 257-276 - get paper here
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  • Winchell, S. 2009. Pythons Australiens. Reptilia (Münster) 14 (79): 16-27 - get paper here
 
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