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Apostolepis assimilis (REINHARDT, 1861)

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Higher TaxaColubridae (Dipsadinae), Colubroidea, Caenophidia, Alethinophidia, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes)
Common NamesE: Common red Blackhead, Reinhardt's Burrowing Snake
Portuguese: Cobra-Coral, Coral, Coral-Cabeça-Preta-de-Rabo-Preto, Coral-Falsa, Falsa-Coral 
SynonymElapomorphus assimilis REINHARDT 1861: 235
Elapomorphus assimilis — JAN 1865
Elapomorphus assimilis — STRAUCH 1884: 586
Apostolepis assimilis — BOULENGER 1896: 234
Apostolepis assimilis — PETERS et al. 1970: 22
Apostolepis assimilis — CEI 1993
Apostolepis assimilis — DE LEMA 2002
Apostolepis tertulianobeui DE LEMA 2004
Apostolepis assimilis — BERNILS et al. 2007
Apostolepis parassimilis DE LEMA & RENNER 2011
Apostolepis tertulianobeui — COSTA & BÉRNILS 2015
Apostolepis assimilis — MARTINS & DE LEMA 2015
Apostolepis assimilis — WALLACH et al. 2014: 50
Apostolepis assimilis — NOGUEIRA et al. 2019
Apostolepis tertulianobeui — NOGUEIRA et al. 2019
Apostolepis assimilis — ENTIAUSPE-NETO et la. 2021 
DistributionC/SW Brazil (central Brazilian cerrados, Goias, Mato Grosso), Argentina (Chaco, uncertain), E Paraguay

Type locality: Minas Gerais, Brazil

tertulianobeui: Brazil (Minas Gerais, Bahia); Type locality: "Hinterland" Minas Gerais state, region Cerrado morphoclimatic domain

parassimilis: Brazil (Minas Gerais); Type locality: Minas Gerais State, in the municipality of Uberlândia  
TypesHolotype: ZMUC 63806
Holotype: MCP 8535 (originally IP 1934 = Instituto Pinheiros Produtos Terapêuticos S.A.), later transferred to the Museu de Ciências Naturais from Fundação Zoobotânica do Rio Grande do Sul (MCP hereafter) in Porto Alegre, Brazil [tertulianobeui]
Holotype: MCNRS 8535, young male; from IPSP (formerly IPSP.1934), with the pattern well visible; paratype: MNRJ 6524, young female, from Bahia State, with visible pattern and colors [parassimilis] 
DiagnosisDiagnosis: Rostral short and rounded, not prominent; little visible from above;
ventrals 236-267 in males, 246-270 in females; subcaudals 31-39 in males, 25-31 in females, light snout blotch cream; white supralabial blotch usually covering at least two supralabials; a single white nuchal color 2-3 scales long, followed by a black cervical color 3-4, restricted dorsally.

Diagnosis: This species presents (1) dorsal scales 15/15/15; (2) preocular present, separated from nasal; (3) loreal absent; (4) temporals 0 + 1 (rarely 1 + 1 or 0 + 0); (5) supralabials six (rarely five or seven), 2nd–3rd in contact with orbit; (6) infralabials six or seven (rarely eight), 1st–4th in contact with anterior chinshields; (7) ventrals 230–268 (225–260 males, 243–267 females); (8) subcaudals 24–39 (28–39 males, 24–35 females); (9) dorsal pattern uniform red or orange (vertebral and dorsoventral stripes rarely present, vestigial); (10) ventral pattern uniform red, head and tail black (rarely, infralabials and chinshields white); (11) white nuchal collar covering 1–5 rows, black nuchal collar covering 1–4 rows; (12) caudal blotch 8–11 scales wide on dorsum, 7–11 in venter, terminal scale black (rarely white or bicolor); (13) supralabial blotch medium sized, covering two or three supralabial scales and postocular; (14) maxillary teeth 3 + 2 or 4 + 2; (15) SVL 140–780 mm, TL 10–55 mm (Entiauspe-Neto et al. 2021).

Comparisons: Apostolepis assimilis can be misidentified with other three red Apos-
tolepis that occur in the Cerrado: Apostolepis cearensis Gomes, 1915, Apostolepis flavotorquata (Duméril, Bibrón, and Duméril, 1854), and Apostolepis sanctaeritae Werner, 1924. Data from other species will be presented inside parenthesis. The first species, A. cearensis (Fig. 6, E), can be diagnosed from A. assimilis based on its light supralabial blotch relatively larger size (small or indistinct, usually restricted to 4th supralabial), white nuchal collar reaching up to 1–5 rows (4–5 rows long), white ventral head coloration (usually black), smaller range of ventrals, 225–260 males, 243–267 females (215–237 males, 227–248 females), smaller and usually single shaped rostral blotch (usually divided and not reaching up to the frontal scale), white rostral blotch (orange), and acuminate snout shape (projected) (Ferrarezzi et al., 2005).

Apostolepis flavotorquata (Fig. 6, G) can be diagnosed from A. assimilis based on its distinct white ventral coloration in life (yellow), smaller and distinctly shaped rostral white blotch (divided and not reaching up to the frontal scale), black nuchal collar covering 1–4 rows (up to two scales wide), usually undivided light supralabial blotch (divided, covering four supralabials), hemipenis small and slightly bilobed (organ long and simple, spinules restricted to proximal area, enlarged spines absent, asulcate surface calyculate) (Lema & Renner, 2005).

Apostolepis sanctaeritae (Fig. 6, F) can be readily diagnosed from A. assimilis by having an additional white nuchal collar; however, this nuchal collar might not be visible in preserved specimens, but other characters can be verified, as A. assimilis will have a black nuchal collar covering 1–4 rows (4–7 scales wide), relatively larger light supralabial blotch (small or indistinct, usually restricted to 4th supralabial), white snout blotch coloration in life (orange), hemipenial morphology with smaller spines on asulcate side (larger spines on asulcate side) (Guedes et al., 2018a; Entiauspe-Neto et al., 2020b).

From Apostolepis albicollaris Lema, 2004a,b,c (Fig. 6, H), it can be distinguished based on its uniformly red dorsal pattern (two lateral black stripes), an entire snout blotch (divided), and a smaller (up to three scales) white supralabial blotch (up to five scales wide).
An extralimital species, Apostolepis quirogai Giraudo & Scrocchi 1998 (Fig. 6, J), presents a similar coloration pattern, nuchal collar, tail and snout blotch; it can be distinguished from A. assimilis based on its uniformly red dorsal pattern (two lateral black stripes).
Two other extralimital species, Apostolepis multicincta Harvey, 1999 (Fig. 6, I) and Apostolepis dorbignyi (Schlegel, 1837) are remarkably similar to A. assimilis. Although we have encountered great difficulty in distinguishing A. multicincta from A. dorbignyi, as they are sympatric and have a near total overlap of their diagnostic features, until their taxonomic status is evaluated, we can distinguish them from A. assimilis based on their tail tip coloration (white), black in the former species.
Furthermore, A. assimilis can be distinguished from Apostolepis adhara França, Barbo, Silva-Jr, Silva, and Zaher 2018, Apostolepis arenaria Rodrigues, 1993, Apostolepis borelli Peracca, 1904, Apostolepis breviceps Harvey, Gonzales, and Scrocchi, 2001, Apostolepis cerradoensis Lema, 2003, Apostolepis christineae Lema, 2002, Apostolepis dimidiata (Jan, 1862), Apostolepis gaboi Rodrigues, 1993, Apostolepis goiasensis Prado, 1942, Apostolepis intermedia Koslowsky, 1898, Apostolepis kikoi Santos, Entiauspe-Neto, Araújo, Souza, Lema, Strüssmann, and Albuquerque, 2018, Apostolepis lineata Cope, 1887, Apostolepis longicaudata Gomes, 1915, Apostolepis nelsonjorgei Lema & Renner, 2004, Apostolepis niceforoi Amaral, 1935, Apostolepis nigrolineata (Peters, 1869), Apostolepis nigroterminata Boulenger, 1896, Apostolepis phillipsi Harvey, 1999, Apostolepis quirogai Giraudo & Scrocchi, 1998, Apostolepis serrana Lema & Renner, 2006, Apostolepis striata Lema, 2004a,b,c, Apostolepis tenuis Ruthven, 1927, Apostolepis thalesdelemai Borges-Nojosa, Lima, Bezerra, and James, 2017, Apostolepis underwoodi Lema & Campbell, 2017, and Apostolepis vittata (Cope, 1887) based on a combination of its uniformly red dorsal pattern (none, two, three, five, seven, or eleven dorsal stripes, over red, yellow, brown, black or gray background coloration) with presence of white and black nuchal collars (nuchal collars absent in A. breviceps, A. christineae, A. dimidiata, A. goiasensis, A. intermedia, A. lineata, A. longicaudata, A. niceforoi, A. serrana, A. striata, A. vittata, variable for A. nigrolineata and A. thalesdelemai). Although Apostolepis ambiniger (Peters, 1869) bears a uniformly red dorsal pattern, it can be distinguished from A. assimilis in lacking nuchal collars (Entiauspe-Neto et al. 2021).

Diagnosis (tertulianobeui). Species similar to Apostolepis assimilis (Reinhardt 1861), from which differs presenting: (a) head high (vs head flat); (b) snout rounded not projecting (vs projecting); (c) inner margins of the parietal plates light marbled (vs fully black); (d) mental and gular regions white unblemished (vs strong blotched with black, or almost fully black); (e) black cervical collar small, long as 1/3 +1 DO rows; reaching the up side of the 3rd row; (f) tail blotch black only dorsally, grayish bellow (vs fully black); (g) terminal shield fully white (vs fully black). It’s similar also, to Apostolepis freitasi Lema 2002, from which differs by the snout round not projecting (vs projecting); white snout (not red); small cervical black blotch (vs normal or long); lower sides immaculate white (vs blotched on lower head); and by the higher number of ventral scales, 236-270 instead 208-245; and by distribution: A. freitasi that’s restricted to SE of Bahia, near Atlantic littoral, into the Caatinga domain (Lema 2004). 
CommentSynonymy: partly that of CEI 1993.

Belongs to the assimilis species group of Apostololepis that can be distinguished within the genus Apostolepis. The group is characterized by a uniform red dorsal pattern, broad nucho-cervical collars, enlarged light snout blotch, dark ventral head, and entirely black terminal shield.

Distribution: see map in Entiauspe-Neto et al. 2020: 334 (Fig. 2). See map in Nogueira et al. 2019.

Synonymy: Apostolepis tertulianobeui was listed as synonym of Apostolepis assimilis by WALLACH et al. 2014: 50. Ferrarezzi et al. (2005) synonymized A. tertulianobeui with A. assimilis as follows: ‘In most relevant diagnostic features presented by Lema (2004b), the holotype of A. tertulianobeui does not differ from the range of variation we have observed in a large sample of A. assimilis [...]. Therefore, even though we did not examine the holotype of A. tertulianobeui, we have no doubt that this name must be relegated as a junior synonym of A. assimilis.’ (Ferrarezzi et al. 2005: 218). Two years later, Lema & Renner (2007:129–130) compared the holotype of A. tertulianobeui with over 100 specimens of A. assimilis and resurrected A. tertulianobeui from the synonymy of the last species [COSTA & BÉRNILS 2015]. The synonymy of Apostolepis tertulianobeui with assimils was confirmed by Entiauspe-Neto et al. 2021.

Types: The holotype of A. parassimilis is MCN 8535, the same onomatophore that based the description of A. tertulianobeui (although the provenance has been attributed by Lema & Renner 2012 to the municipality of Uberlândia, state of Minas Gerais, Brazil). Despite minor rephrasing and other writing details, the description of the holotype of A. parassimilis is virtually identical to that of A. tertulianobeui. The main difference is that Lema & Renner (2012) describe the snout of MCN 8535 as ‘not projecting’, in contrast to Lema’s (2004) description of the same specimen. Lema & Renner (2012) also make no reference to A. tertulianobeui; it is also worth noting that illustrations of the holotype of A. tertulianobeui and A. parassimilis are clearly based on different specimens. Actually, Figures 5–8 in Lema & Renner (2012) are based on MNRJ 6524, the paratype of A. parassimilis (Fig. 1E–H) [COSTA & BÉRNILS 2015]. 
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