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Cerberus australis (GRAY, 1842)

IUCN Red List - Cerberus australis - Least Concern, LC

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Higher TaxaHomalopsidae, Colubroidea, Caenophidia, Alethinophidia, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes)
Common NamesE: Australian Bockadam 
SynonymHomalopsis australis GRAY 1842: 65
Cerberus rynchops australis — LOVERIDGE 1948:389
Cerberus rynchops novaeguineae LOVERIDGE 1948:388 (fide MURPHY 2007)
Cerberus australis — GYI 1970
Cerberus rynchops novaeguineae — O’SHEA 1996
Cerberus australis — WILSON & SWAN 2003
Cerberus australis — ALFARO 2004
Cerberus australis — GREER 2006 (online)
Cerberus australis — MURPHY 2007
Cerberus australis — MURPHY & VORIS 2014: 11
Cerberus australis — WALLACH et al. 2014: 154 
DistributionN Australia (Northern Territory, Western Australia), SC Papua New Guinea

Type Locality: Port Essington N.T. (~12°28’S 130°54’E) Australia.

Type Locality: Merauke, Dutch New Guinea [novaeguineae]  
TypesHolotype: BMNH 1946.1.2.40 (formerly iii.16.4b)
Syntypes: MCZ 22818, BMNH 1965.642. Collector: P. T. L. Putman [novaeguineae] 
DiagnosisDiagnosis. Cerberus australis can be distinguished from all other members of the genus by its 23 scales rows (range 21–25) at midbody, imbricate scales on the crown, lack of keeled scales on crown anterior to the angle of the jaw; lack of contact between first labial and loreal; horizontally divided last upper labial; and mottled venter Cerberus dunsoni has 23 scale rows at mid body, the first labial usually contacts the loreal; and the crown has rounded juxtaposed scales, the venter is a uniform black. Cerberus microlepis has 27–31 scale rows at mid-body. Cerberus rynchops has 25 scale rows at mid body (rarely 23); keeled scales on the crown anterior to the angle of the jaw, and the last two upper labials are horizontally divided. Cerberus schneiderii usually has 23 scale rows at mid-body (rarely 21 or 25), the first upper labial usually contacts the loreal [from MURPHY et al. 2012].
CommentMost recent authors (e.g. Cogger, 1975, 2000; Cogger et al., 1983; Storr
et al., 1986; Shine, 1991; Greer, 1997) have not recognized C. australis as a separate species, but included it in C. rynchops. Genetic differences suggest that it is a different species from C. rynchops (Alfaro et al. 2004) although C. australis is morphologically and ecologically very similar to Oriental C. rynchops.

Variation: Cerberus australis has several color and pattern morphs, individuals can be: a uniform red or gray or have partial transverse bands that may alternate sides, a mid-dorsal row of spots that may extend onto the tail; many specimens have a postocular stripe. The venter may be cream, yellow or salmon with mottling or blotches.

Habitat: aquatic; mud flats and mangrove forests; estuaries, fresh-water streams, sometimes basking on mud flats (Kinghorn 1929, Murphy 2007). 
EtymologyNamed after occurrence in Australia. 
  • Alfaro, Michael E.; Karns, Daryl R.; Voris, Harold K.; Abernathy, Emily; Sellins, Stacey L. 2004. Phylogeny of Cerberus (Serpentes: Homalopsinae) and phylogeography of Cerberus rynchops: diversification of a coastal marine snake in Southeast Asia. Journal of Biogeography 31:1277-1292. - get paper here
  • Cogger H.G., Cameron EE & Cogger HM 1983. Zoological Catalogue of Australia, Volume 1: AMPHIBIA AND REPTILIA. Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra.
  • Cogger, H. G. 1975. The sea snakes of Australia and New Guinea. pp. 59-139 in Dunson, W. (ed. ) The Biology of Sea Snakes. Baltimore: University Park Press
  • Cogger, H. G. 2014. Reptiles and Amphibians of Australia, 7th ed. CSIRO Publishing, xxx + 1033 pp. - get paper here
  • Cogger, H.G. 2000. Reptiles and Amphibians of Australia, 6th ed. Ralph Curtis Publishing, Sanibel Island, 808 pp.
  • Gray, J. E. 1842. Monographic Synopsis of the Water Snakes, or the Family of Hydridae. Zoological Miscellany 2: 59-68. - get paper here
  • Greer, A. E. 1997. The biology and evolution of Australian snakes. Surrey, Beatty and Sons, Sydney, 350 pp.
  • Gyi, Ko Ko 1970. A revision of colubrid snakes of the sub-family Homalopsinae. Univ. Kans. Publs. Mus. Nat. Hist 20 (2): 44-223 - 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.; HAROLD K. VORIS & DARYL R. KARNS, 2012. The dog-faced water snakes, a revision of the genus Cerberus Cuvier, (Squamata, Serpentes, Homalopsidae), with the description of a new species. Zootaxa 3484: 1–34 - get paper here
  • O'Shea,M. 1996. A Guide to the Snakes of Papua New Guinea. Independent Publishing, Port Moresby, xii + 239 pp. - get paper here
  • Parkin, T., Jolly, C. J., de Laive, A., & von Takach, B. 2020. Snakes on an urban plain: Temporal patterns of snake activity and human–snake conflict in Darwin, Australia. Austral Ecology - get paper here
  • Shine, Richard; Claire Goiran, Catherine Shilton, Shai Meiri, Gregory P Brown 2019. The life aquatic: an association between habitat type and skin thickness in snakes. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, blz136 - get paper here
  • Somaweera, R. 2009. Snakes of Darwin. Poster, University of Sydney
  • Storr, G. M.; Smith, L. A. & Johnstone, R. E. 1986. Snakes of Western Australia. Western Australia Museum, Perth, ix + 187 pp.
  • 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.
  • Wilson, S. & Swan, G. 2010. A complete guide to reptiles of Australia, 3rd ed. Chatswood: New Holland, 558 pp.
  • Wilson,S. & Swan, G. 2003. A complete guide to the Reptiles of Australia. Princeton University Press, 480 pp. [review in Sauria 26 (3): 32]
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