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Aspidelaps lubricus (LAURENTI, 1768)

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Higher TaxaElapidae, Colubroidea, Caenophidia, Alethinophidia, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes)
SubspeciesAspidelaps lubricus cowlesi BOGERT 1940
Aspidelaps lubricus lubricus (LAURENTI 1768) 
Common NamesE: cowlesi: Angolan Coral Snake
infuscatus: Western Coral Snake
lubricus: Cape Coral Snake
G: Kap-Zwergschildkobra, Schildnasenkobra 
SynonymNatrix lubrica LAURENTI 1768: 80
Elaps lubricus MERREM 1820: 143
Naia Somersetta SMITH 1826: 253
Elaps lubricus — DUMÉRIL & BIBRON 1854: 1218
Aspidelaps lubricus — STERNFELD 1910: 57
Aspidelaps lubricus — FITZSIMONS & BRAIN 1958
Aspidelaps lubricus — BRANCH 1981
Aspidelaps lubricus — WELCH 1994: 19
Aspidelaps lubricus — WALLACH et al. 2014: 56
Aspidelaps lubricus — SCHLEICHER 2020

Aspidelaps lubricus cowlesi BOGERT 1940
Aspidelaps lubricus cowlesi BOGERT 1940: 94
Aspidelaps lubricus infuscatus MERTENS 1954: 215
Aspidelaps lubricus infuscatus — WELCH 1994: 19
Aspidelaps lubricus infuscatus — BAUER et al. 1993
Aspidelaps lubricus cowlesi — WELCH 1994: 19
Aspidelaps lubricus cowlesi — BROADLEY & BALDWIN 2006
Aspidelaps lubricus infuscatus — CIMATTI 2007
Aspidelaps lubricus cowlesi — DOBIEY & VOGEL 2007
Aspidelaps lubricus infuscatus — SCHLEICHER 2015: 212
Aspidelaps lubricus infuscatus — MARQUES et al. 2018

Aspidelaps lubricus lubricus (LAURENTI 1768)
Natrix lubrica LAURENTI 1768: 80
Aspidelaps lubricus lubricus — WELCH 1994: 19
Aspidelaps lubricus lubricus — DOBIEY & VOGEL 2007
Aspidelaps lubricus lubricus — BATES et al. 2014: 394 
DistributionRepublic of South Africa (Cape Province), S Angola, Namibia

lubricus: Cape Province, Orange Free State

cowlesi: S Angola, N Namibia; Type locality: “Munhino (101 km east of Mossamedes, via railroad)” (Bogert 1940:95) [= Muninho, 101 km east of Namibe], Namibe Province, Angola.

infuscatus: Namibia

Type locality: Cape of Good Hope  
Reproductionoviparous 
TypesHolotype: iconotype, based on specimen in Seba, 1735: pl. 43, fig. 3.
Holotype: AMNH 32801 (collectors A.S. Vernay, H. Lang and R. Boulton). [cowlesi] 
DiagnosisDescription (genus): These relatively small, robust elapids are instantly recognizable by their much-enlarged, shield-like rostral. Two species, Iubricus and scutatus , each with three races, comprise the genus, which is restricted to southern Africa. Usually irrascible when first encountered, like cobras they rear up and flatten the neck region, which in Iubricus may form a narrow hood. In common with Hemachatus, which is also a southern African endemic, the maxilla bears no teeth other than a pair of deepIy-groved fangs, while scutatus also has keeled scales, and will sham death when threatened. These morphological and behavioral similarities may indicate a close relationship between the two genera. (Branch 1981)

Description: A small, brightIy-coloured snake, which may reach 750 mm in length, although adults usually average up to 600 mm. The enlarged rostral, that characterizes the genus, is not as large as in scutatus , although it still remains the most distinctive feature of the head, which is small and not distinct from the neck. The eye is of moderate size, and the 3rd and 4th upper labials enter the orbit. The body scales are smooth throughout, and in 19 rows at mid-body. Ventrals range from 142-168, but rarely exceed 160. The anal is entire, and the subcaudals 20-28. The tail is short. (Branch 1981)

Coloration: Beautifully marked in alternating bands of orange to coral red and black (from which the snake derives its common name), it is possibly southern Africa's most attractive snake. 20-47 bands (15-39 on body, 3-10 on tail) occur, the first black band forming a broad nuchal collar, from which a forwardIy-directed chevron extends onto the crown of the head. The black bands are always narrower than the red interspaces, and may form anteriorIy-directed chevrons. The head is reddish, with a black crossbar between the eyes, that may extend through the eyes onto the labial margin. A second black crossbar may extend in a chevron over the head, connecting the angles of the mouth, although this may be reduced to two oblique bars on the posterior temporals. The ventrum is yellowish, except for at least the first two or three black crossbands, which completely encircle the body. Occasionally the remaining black crossbands extend, in paler form, across the ventrum. This is particularly so in juveniles, but fades with growth. (Branch 1981)

Description (infuscatus): A slightly larger snake (adults may reach 800 mm), that
is not as brilliantly coloured as the typical race, and further distinguished in having more ventrals (149-172, average 158), subcaudals (27-36, average 31), and proportionate! y longer, and more pointed tail. All the brilliant orange/coral red colouration of the typical race has been lost, leaving a dull dirty white to yellowish, pinkish to smokey grey, or grey dorsum, the scales of which are usually dark-edged to give a checkered appearance. From 27-44 dark crossbars or transverse bars, extend along the body, although in northern specimens these may be greatly reduced, or even absent. The head may be uniformly black, or pale with similar ark markings to those of the typical race. The dirty cream ventrum may bear dark vestiges of the anterior crossbars. (Branch 1981) 
CommentVenomous!

BROADLEY & BALDWIN synonymized Aspidelaps lubricus infuscatus with A. l. cowlesi.

Type species: Elaps lubricus MERREM 1820 is the type species of the genus Aspidelaps FITZINGER 1843: 28.

Key: Branch 1981 provides a key to Southern African species.

Behavior: Although usually considered relatively harmless, this belief may stem from their small size, and the presence of few published case-histories. However, A. l. infuscatus , at least, has a highly toxic venom, and is capable of inflicting a potentially dangerous bite. (Branch 1981)

Habitat: In habits both species are semi-fossorial, and to this end the enlarged rostral may be likened to a bulldozer-blade, aiding the snake in burrowing through loose soil. This character is shared by a number of other semi-fossorial shakes, noticeable the coiubrids Lytorhynchus and PhyIlorhynchus. A. Iubricus has a less well-developed rostral than scutatus, and this may be correlated with the more arid regions that it inhabits. (Branch 1981) 
References
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