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Atheris mabuensis BRANCH & BAYLISS, 2009

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Higher TaxaViperidae, Viperinae, Colubroidea, Caenophidia, Alethinophidia, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes)
Common Names 
SynonymAtheris mabuensis BRANCH & BAYLISS 2009
Atheris sp. — DOBIEY and VOGEL 2007: 110
Atheris mabuensis — LIVIGNI 2013: 281
Atheris mabuensis — WALLACH et al. 2014: 62 
DistributionN Mozambique

Type locality: main forest camp, Mount Mabu (16°17’12”S, 36°24’14”E, 1000 m elevation), Mozambique.  
Reproductionviviparous (not imputed, fide Zimin et al. 2022) 
TypesHolotype: PEM R17901, collected by local hunter, 20 October 2008. 
DiagnosisDiagnosis: Atheris mabuensis is distinguished from all other members of the genus by a combination of characters: (1) its small size, maximum length 384mm (all other Atheris exceed 580mm TL, with the exception of - A. katangensis, TL 397mm; A. barbouri, TL 369 mm (Barbour and Howell, 1998); and the unique type of A. acuminata, TL 440mm); (2) the lack of ‘horns’ (enlarged supraocular scales are present in A ceratophora); (3) the lack of lanceolate or acuminate scales on top of the head (present in A. hispida and A. acuminata); (4) having weakly keeled gular scales (smooth only in A. nitschei; gulars moderately keeled in the eastern species, A. rungweensis, A. desaixi, A. ceratophora and A. katangensis, and strongly keeled in the remaining central and western species); (5) lacking interoculabials (sensu Broadley, 1998, i.e. the supralabials are in contact with circumorbitals; 1 or 2 in A. desaixi and A. rungweensis); (6) having 19–21 transverse head scales (sensu Broadley, 1998, i.e. number of scales across head between posterior supralabials; these are reduced in highly arboreal species, e.g. A. squamigera, 15–22, A. hispida, 12; and A. acuminata, 10); (7) having 21–23 MSR (most species have 27+ MSR rows; reduced in highly arboreal species such as A. squamigera, 15–25, A. hispida, 15–19, and A. acuminata, 14); (8) lateral body scales not serrated (strongly serrated in A. ceratophora, A. desaixi, A. nitschei, and A. rungweensis, and weakly serrated in A. katangensis); (9) having 8–9 supralabials (six in A. acuminata, 10–12 in A. desaixi); (10) having low ventral counts 128–137 (this is the lowest in the genus; usually over 140 in both sexes in A. nitschei, A. rungweensis, A. desaixi, A. chlorechis, A. hispida, and A. subocularis, and in the only known males of A. acuminata (160) and A. hirsuta (160); (11) having low subcaudal counts - 39–47 (always higher than 45 in A. rungweensis, A. ceratophora, A. chlorechis, A. squamigera and A. hispida; and 54 and 58 in the only known males of A. acuminata and A. hirsuta, respectively); and (12) having a prehensile tail (non-prehensile in A. barbouri), and higher subcaudal (A. barbouri 15–21) and labial (A. barbouri, supralabials 5–6, infralabials 4–5) counts [from BRANCH & BAYLISS 2009]. 
CommentVenomous! Local hunters also noted that bites from the species were painful but not lethal.

Distribution: This is the most southerly record of the genus, and the first record from Mozambique.

Morphology and diet: It appears to be a dwarf, possibly paedomorphic, species that feeds among leaf litter on small frogs and geckos.

Habitat: trees (arboreal) 
EtymologyNamed after the type locality, Mount Mabu, Zambezia Province, northern Mozambique. 
  • Branch WR, Bayliss J. 2009. A new species of Atheris (Serpentes: Viperidae) from northern Mozambique. Zootaxa 2113: 41-54 - get paper here
  • Conradie, Werner; Gabriela B. Bittencourt-Silva, Hanlie M. Engelbrecht, Simon P. Loader, Michele Menegon, Cristóvão Nanvonamuquitxo, Michael Scott, Krystal A. Tolley 2016. Exploration into the hidden world of Mozambique’s sky island forests: new discoveries of reptiles and amphibians. Zoosyst. Evol. 92 (2): 163–180, DOI 10.3897/zse.92.9948 - get paper here
  • CONRADIE, WERNER; WILLIAM R. BRANCH, & GILLIAN WATSON 2019. Type specimens in the Port Elizabeth Museum, South Africa, including the historically important Albany Museum collection. Part 2: Reptiles (Squamata). Zootaxa 4576 (1): 001–045 - get paper here
  • Dobiey, M. & Vogel, G. 2007. Venomous Snakes of Africa - Giftschlangen Afrikas. Edition Chimaira, Terralog 15, 150 pp. - get paper here
  • LiVigni, F. (ed.) 2013. A Life for Reptiles and Amphibians, Volume 1. Chimaira, Frankfurt, 495 pp. - get paper here
  • Menegon, M.; Loader, S.P.; Marsden, S.J.; Branch, W.R.; Davenport, T.R.B. & Ursenbacher, S. 2014. The genus Atheris (Serpentes: Viperidae) in East Africa: Phylogeny and the role of rifting and climate in shaping the current pattern of species diversity. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 79: 12-22 - get paper here
  • Phelps, T. 2010. Old World Vipers. Edition Chimaira, Frankfurt, 558 pp. [critical review in Sauria 33 (3): 19 and HR 43: 503]
  • Wallach, Van; Kenneth L. Williams , Jeff Boundy 2014. Snakes of the World: A Catalogue of Living and Extinct Species. [type catalogue] Taylor and Francis, CRC Press, 1237 pp.
  • Zimin, A., Zimin, S. V., Shine, R., Avila, L., Bauer, A., Böhm, M., Brown, R., Barki, G., de Oliveira Caetano, G. H., Castro Herrera, F., Chapple, D. G., Chirio, L., Colli, G. R., Doan, T. M., Glaw, F., Grismer, L. L., Itescu, Y., Kraus, F., LeBreton 2022. A global analysis of viviparity in squamates highlights its prevalence in cold climates. Global Ecology and Biogeography, 00, 1–16 - get paper here
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