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Craspedocephalus occidentalis (POPE & POPE, 1933)

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Higher TaxaViperidae, Crotalinae, Colubroidea, Caenophidia, Alethinophidia, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes)
Common Names 
SynonymTrimeresurus occidentalis POPE & POPE 1933
Trimeresurus occidentalis — WELCH 1994: 115
Craspedocephalus occidentalis — MALLIK et al. 2021: 605 
DistributionS India (Kerala, C Western Ghats)

Type locality. Mudumallay, near Wayanad [i.e., Mudumalai hills, in Nilgiris dt., Tamil Nadu, India] in the Western Ghats (fide Pope & Pope 1933).  
TypesHolotype, NHMUK 1982.8.26.40, an immature male, collected by R.H. Beddome. 
DiagnosisLineage diagnosis. A cryptic lineage (L2) belonging to the C. gramineus complex, it can be distinguished from C. gramineus s. str. (L1) as follows: lower ventral scale count 142–154 (vs. 158–179). L2 is genetically divergent from C. gramineus s. str. (L1) by 8.1 % at Cyt b and 1.0 % at16S. This lineage is possibly parapatric with respect to its far more widespread sister taxon C. gramineus, and is endemic to the Wyanad-Bramagiri-Coorg hill complex of the central Western Ghats, at higher elevations (> 1000 m MSL) (Mallik et al. 2021).

Redescription (also see Pope & Pope 1933). Holotype in good condition, entire, with a slender, cylindrical body of snout to vent length (SVL) 400 mm and a prehensile tail of length (TL) 97 mm; dorsal scales keeled with anterior dorsal scale rows (DSR) 23, mid body scale rows (MSR) 21 and posterior scale rows (PSR) 15; head prominent, of length 21.5 mm, clearly distinguished from the neck with small, juxtaposed dorsal scales on the head; rostral scale sub triangular with the upper side roughly one fourth the size of the lower side with the tip visible from above; supraoculars of length 1.85 mm and width 4.15 mm, separated by eight scales, between the posterior edge of the supraocular scales; canthus rostralis distinct with four canthal scales on the ridge; two preoculars, two postoculars and a thin elongated crescent shaped subocular, in contact with a pair of scales scales that are in contact with the third and fourth supralabial scale; eye with a distinct elliptical pupil, vertical diameter of the eye 2.23 mm and horizontal diameter 2.44 mm; temporal scales mildly keeled; aperture of the nostril completely covered by the nasal scale, undivided and subrectangular; nasal scale bordering the first supralabial; loreal pit present in contact with the second supralabial with two scales between the nasal and the second supralabial; nine supralabials and 10 infralabials, with seven scales between the last supralabial, including the last supralabial up to the start of the first ventral scale; 1stand 2nd infralabial scale in contact with the first pair of genials; a gap of six scales including the posterior genials followed by 155 ventrals, laterally separated from the dorsal scale rows by a slightly broader row of dorsal scales; anal scale undivided, followed by 60 divided subcaudals scales; terminal scale on the tail larger than the previous scale, blunt at the tip (Mallik et al. 2021).

Colour in life. Head and dorsum colour varies from bright green to faded dull green, with no markings on the dorsum; preocular/ temporal stripe absent; ventrals in creamish yellow to dirty white colour; the region where the ventrals meet the dorsum alternating with the ventral colour once every 2–3 scales; the colour of the dorsum and ventrals divides exactly at the pre/postocular stripe area, with an absence of a dark stripe (as opposed to C. gramineus) (Mallik et al. 2021). 

Synonymy: This species has long been considered a synonym of (and confused with) Craspedocephalus gramineus but revalidated by Mallik et al. 2021.

Habitat: fully arboreal (Harrington et al. 2018, by implication). 
EtymologyLatin, occidentalis, for‘western’, in allusion to its western distribution range, compared to S.E. Asia. 
  • Mallik AK, Srikanthan AN, Ganesh SR, Vijayakumar SP, Campbell PD, Malhotra A, Shanker K 2021. Resolving pitfalls in pit viper systematics – A multi-criteria approach to species delimitation in pit vipers (Reptilia, Viperidae, Craspedocephalus) of Peninsular India reveals cryptic diversity. Vertebrate Zoology 71: 577-619 - get paper here
  • Pope, C.H. & Pope, S.H. 1933. A study of the green pit-vipers of southeastern Asia and Malaysia, commonly identified as Trimeresurus gramineus (SHAW), with description of a new species from Peninsular India. Amer. Mus. Nat. Hist. 620: 1-12
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