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Brachyorrhos albus (LINNAEUS, 1758)

IUCN Red List - Brachyorrhos albus - Data Deficient, DD

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Higher TaxaHomalopsidae, Colubroidea, Caenophidia, Alethinophidia, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes)
Common NamesE: Seram Short-tailed Snake 
SynonymColuber albus LINNAEUS 1758: 218
Coluber brachiurus — SHAW 1802: 470 (fide DUMÉRIL et al. 1854)
Brachyorrhos albus — KUHL in SCHLEGEL 1826
Brachyorrhos albus — BOIE 1827: 519
Calamaria brachyorrhos — SCHLEGEL 1837: 33
Brachyorrhos albus — DUMÉRIL, BIBRON & DUMÉRIL 1854: 511
Brachiorrhos albus — JAN 1865
Brachyorrhus albus [sic] — BOULENGER 1893: 305
Brachyorrhos albus — MURPHY 2007
Brachyorrhos albus — MURPHY 2012
Brachyorrhos albus — MURPHY & VORIS 2014 
DistributionIndonesia (restricted to restricted to Seram, Ambon and some island by Murphy et al. 2012)

Type locality: “Indiis” (Ambon, Indonesia)  
TypesHolotype: NRM 19 
DiagnosisDiagnosis (genus). Brachyorrhos are the only homalopsid snakes known to have: bilobed nasal scales separated by rostral, rostral that is as broad as tall, and divided internasal behind and dorsal to nasals. Members of this genus can be distinguished from Calamophis (with which it has been long confused) by lack of dorsal scale row reduction (Brachyorrhos has 19–19–19, Calamophis has 19–19–17); dorsal scales ovate, slightly imbricate or juxtaposed compared to dorsal scales in Calamophis; longer snout, divided nasal scale, and tail that lacks constriction at base and tapers gradually to tip, premaxillary bone present. (MURPHY & VORIS 2014: 6).

Diagnosis. Distinct preocular scale usually present; seven upper labials, fourth (rarely 3+4) in orbit, sixth is tallest; dorsal scales more lanceolate (elongated, taper posteriorly) than in congeners; usually single temporal scale contacting postoculars in Ambon population; two primary temporals in some Seram individuals (MURPHY & VORIS 2014).

Brachyorrhos are fangless, cryptozoic, worm-eating snakes that lack most of the aquatic adaptations seen in the fanged homalopsids.

Comparisons: Murphy & Voris 2020 present a table of characters across the species of Brachyorrhos. 
CommentSynonymy after DUMÉRIL, BIBRON & DUMÉRIL 1854 and MURPHY 2012. Rabdion gastrotaenia BLEEKER 1860 was resurrected from the synonymy of B. albus by MURPHY 2012.

Distribution: previously reported from Timor, Saparua, Nusa Laut, Haruku, Ambon, Buru, Halmahera, Morotai, Ternate, Aru, Jobi, Irian Jaya, and Java (doubtful), but restricted by Murphy et al. 2012.

Type species: Coluber albus LINNAEUS 1758 is the type species of the genus Brachyorrhos KUHL in SCHLEGEL 1826. Note that Brachyorrhos is a substitute name for Brachura Kuhl and van Hasselt, 1822, erroneously believed to be preoccupied by Brachyurus Fischer, 1808.

Habitat: terrestrial/fossorial, occasionally arboreal. 
EtymologyNamed after Latin “albus, -a, -um” = white.

The genus name Brachyorrhos is derived from the Greek words brachy = short, and orrhos = rump or tail; the gender is masculine. 
  • Bleeker, P. 1860. Over de Reptiliën-Fauna van Amboina. Natuurkundig Tijdschrift voor Nederlandsch Indië 22: 39-43 - get paper here
  • Boie, F. 1827. Bemerkungen über Merrem's Versuch eines Systems der Amphibien, 1. Lieferung: Ophidier. Isis von Oken 20: 508-566. - get paper here
  • Boulenger, G.A. 1893. Catalogue of the snakes in the British Museum (Nat. Hist.) I. London (Taylor & Francis), 448 pp. - get paper here
  • Fischer, J. G. 1879. Neue oder wenig bekannte Reptilien. Verh. naturwiss. Ver. Hamburg N.F. III: 78-103 - get paper here
  • Fischer, J. G. 1880. Neue Reptilien und Amphibien. Archiv für Naturgeschichte 46 (1): 215-227 - get paper here
  • Jan, G. 1865. Iconographie générale des ophidiens. 13. Livraison. [Homalosoma mite]. J.B. Bailière et Fils, Paris - get paper here
  • Lang, Ruud de 2013. The snakes of the Moluccas (Maluku), Indonesia. Edition Chimaira, 417 pp. - get paper here
  • Linnaeus, C. 1758. Systema naturæ per regna tria naturæ, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis. Tomus I. Editio decima, reformata. Laurentii Salvii, Holmiæ. 10th Edition: 824 pp. - get paper here
  • Murphy, J.C. & Voris, H.K. 2014. A Checklist and Key to the Homalopsid Snakes (Reptilia, Squamata, Serpentes), with the Description of New Genera. FIELDIANA: LIFE AND EARTH SCIENCES (8): 1–43 - get paper here
  • Murphy, John C. 2007. Homalopsid Snakes: Evolution in the Mud. Krieger Publishing, Malabar, Florida, 249 pp.
  • Murphy, John C. and Harold K. Voris 2020. A new species of Brachyorrhos from Seram, Indonesia and notes on fangless homalopsids (Squamata, Serpentes). Philippine Journal of Systematic Biology 14 (2): 1-8 - get paper here
  • Murphy, John C.; Mumpuni, Kate L. Sanders 2011. First molecular evidence for the phylogenetic placement of the enigmatic snake genus Brachyorrhos(Serpentes: Caenophidia). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 61 (3): 953-957 - get paper here
  • Murphy, John C.; Mumpuni, Ruud de Lang, David J. Gower and Kate L. Sanders 2012. The Moluccan short-tailed snakes of the genus Brachyorrhos Kuhl (Squamata: Serpentes: Homalopsidae), and the status of Calamophis Meyer. The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology 60 (2): 501-514 - get paper here
  • O’Shea, M. 2018. The Book of Snakes. Ivy Press / Quarto Publishing, London, - get paper here
  • Sauvage, H. E. 1879. Sur un Rhabdosomien de genre nouveau provenant de Ternate. Bull. Soc. philom. Paris (7) 3: 61-63 - get paper here
  • Schlegel, H. 1826. Notice sur l’Erpétologie de l’île de Java; Par M. Boïé. Bulletin des Sciences Naturelles et de Géologie, 9: 233-240. - get paper here
  • Schlegel, H. 1837. Essai sur la physionomie des serpens. Partie Descriptive. La Haye (J. Kips, J. HZ. et W. P. van Stockum), 606 S. + xvi - get paper here
  • Shaw, G. 1802. General Zoology, or Systematic Natural History. Vol.3, part 2. G. Kearsley, Thomas Davison, London: 313-615 - get paper here
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