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Boiga whitakeri GANESH, MALLIK, ACHYUTHAN, SHANKER & VOGEL, 2021

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Higher TaxaColubridae, Colubrinae, Colubroidea, Caenophidia, Alethinophidia, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes)
Subspecies 
Common NamesE: Whitaker's cat snake 
SynonymBoiga whitakeri GANESH, MALLIK, ACHYUTHAN, SHANKER & VOGEL 2021 
DistributionIndia (Southern Western Ghats: Tamil Nadu, Kerala: Devarmalai and Agasthyamalai hills)

Type locality: Devar Malai (9.173N, 77.261E; 1020 m asl), Tirunelveli dt., Tamil Nadu.  
Reproduction 
TypesHolotype: BNHS 3597 (ex. CESS 255) an adult male collected in 2011; Paratype: BNHS 1863 coll. K.G. Adiyodi, from Pullompara, Ernakulam dt., Kerala, in June 1961. 
DiagnosisDiagnosis: A species of Boiga occurring in the Southern Western Ghats, having 19 midbody scale rows; ven trals 235–243; subcaudals 88–98; a creamy brown dorsum with orange transverse streaks; crown with faint markings; ventrolateral pattern composed of small brown dots; phylogenetically delineated as a species, sister to B. ceylonensis of Sri Lanka (node support 98%), sufficiently divergent (5.1% at cyt b, 0.9% at 16s, 4.2% at ND4) from and closely allied to the allopatric B. ceylonensis than to any other sampled Indian or Sri Lankan congeners (Ganesh et al. 2021).

Comparisons: Boiga whitakeri sp. nov. can be distinguished from related and sympatric congeners as follows: 19 midbody dorsal scale rows (vs. 21–23 in B. nuchalis, B. dightoni); a dorsal color that is creamy yellow with orange streaks vs. (greyish brown body with dark brown bars in B. ceylonensis; yellowish-brown dorsal color with black patterns in B. thackerayi; green or greenish in B. flaviviridis; yellowish ground color with black bands in B. beddomei); subcaudals < 100 (vs. > 110 in B. beddomei, B. flaviviridis); crown with faint brown markings (vs. crown markings absent or obscure in B. beddomei; crown with prominent black markings in B. ceylonensis, B. thackerayi); ventrolateral region with small brown dots (vs. unpatterned in B. flaviviridis; large alternating white and black blotches in B. thackerayi, B. barnesii); head, neck and body cream-colored with orange streaks throughout (vs. head and neck yellowish-brown, interscalar skin yellowish-brown with distinct black crossbars and markings in B. thackerayi, body pale brownish, with blackish-brown crossbars and pattern in B. ceylonensis) (see GANESH et al., 2021).

Description: Holotype coiled, hemipenis everted, ventral region of the mid body incised for tissue. A medium-sized snake measuring 645 mm total length, snout-vent length: 500 mm, tail length: 145 mm, rela tive tail size 22.4%; vertical eye diameter: 3.3 mm, horizontal eye diameter: 3.7 mm; head length: 16.4 mm; eye to nostril distance: 2.6 mm; eye to lip distance: 1 mm; body with slender habitus, thin neck 3.88 mm at nape, wide head 8.44 mm at the angle of the jaw; head relatively longer with HL 19.54 mm, HW/HL ratio 41.9%; tail long (22.4%); dorsal scale rows 19:19:17; rostral visible from above; preocular 1, subequal to loreal; postoculars 2 on both sides; loreal 1 on both sides; supralabials 8/8, with 3rd , 4th and 5th supralabials touching eye on both sides, 6th supralabial being the largest; infralabials 11/12, 1–3 touching the first genials and 4–6 touching the second genials; temporals 10 on both sides; prefrontal in contact with the preocular; a pair of prefrontals that are in contact with the nasals, prefrontal length 2.2mm; sub-triangular frontal of length 4.3 mm; nasal divided, posterior part of the nasal in contact with the prefrontal and the first and second supralabial and the loreal, preventrals 2; ventrals 235, angulate laterally; anal scale entire; subcaudals 98 pairs. Dorsal color cream to light brown (in life), rather uniform throughout the dorsum; except in parts of labials and coastal scales that were whitish; dorsum with 122 (83 on body, 39 on tail) orange cross bars; cross bars covering 2–4 scales in size, extending on either side up to 3–4 scale rows across; interspaces often with sparse streaks; a distinct dark brown postocular stripe up to the jaw angle; labials, chin and venter light cream to dirty white. The specimen in preservative faded into a light grey dorsally with slightly darker markings and cross bars on the body. The dark nuchal and head markings faded; dirty white gular region and ventrum light yellow finely dotted with brown spots; head with dark markings and a dark brown distinct temporal streak extending from behind the oculars till the angle of the jaw. Holotype somewhat impacted by suboptimal preservation (Ganesh et al. 2021).

Variation shown by the paratype. Agreeing well with the holotype and showing the following intraspecific variations: snout to vent length: up to 677 mm, with tail length up to 154 mm; head length: 22 mm; head width: 14 mm; eye diameter: 4.7 mm; inter-orbital distance: 11.4 mm; anterior scale rows: 18; posterior scale rows: 15; ventrals 243; subcaudals 88; preventrals 3; supralabials 9 (4–6 touch eye); infralabials 12–13 (1–6 touch genials); dorsum with much bolder series of cross bars; a distinct horizontal crossbar on occiput; venter with small brown spots. Paratype in good condition retaining the colour pattern and habitus, without any preservation artifact (GANESH et al., 2021). 
Comment 
EtymologyNamed after the eminent Indian herpetologist Romulus Earl Whitaker (b. 1943-). 
References
  • GANESH, S., MALLIK, A. K., ACHYUTHAN, N., SHANKER, K., & VOGEL, G. 2021. A new species of Boiga (Serpentes: Colubridae) from the Southern Western Ghats of India with a molecular phylogeny and expanded characterisation of related species. Zootaxa 4981(3): 449-468 - get paper here
 
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