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Craspedocephalus peltopelor MALLIK, SRIKANTHAN, GANESH, VIJAYAKUMAR, CAMPBELL, MALHOTRA & SHANKER, 2021

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Higher TaxaViperidae, Crotalinae, Colubroidea, Caenophidia, Alethinophidia, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes)
Subspecies 
Common Names 
SynonymCraspedocephalus peltopelor MALLIK, SRIKANTHAN, GANESH, VIJAYAKUMAR, CAMPBELL, MALHOTRA & SHANKER 2021: 586 
DistributionIndia (W Western Ghats)

Type locality. Chemmunji, in Peppara Wildlife Sanctuary, a part of Agastyamalai Hill Complex, Southern Western Ghats, 08°40.7’N; 77°11.55’E.  
Reproduction 
TypesHolotype: BNHS 3593, collected in 2010, by Saunak P. Pal & S.P. Vijayakumar. Paratype (BNHS 2950) from Tirunelveli Hills (Agasthyamalai), collected in 1976 by Romulus Whitaker. 
DiagnosisLineage diagnosis. A lineage belongs to the C. macrolepis complex. Differs from C. macrolepis in having lower dorsal scale rows 10–14 (vs. 13–19); higher ventral scale counts 150 (vs. 133–143). The new species is geographically separated from C. macrolepis by the Shencottah gap in the Southern Western Ghats. Craspedocephalus peltopelor sp. nov. (L7) has a shallow genetic divergence (3.7% at cyt b and 0.7–1.0% at 16S) from C. macrolepis (L6).

Description. Holotype in good condition, dissected, with a slender, cylindrical body of snout to vent length (SVL) 263mm and a prehensile tail of length (TL) 57 mm; dorsal scales keeled with anterior dorsal scale rows (DSR) 17, mid body scale rows (MSR) 15 and posterior scale rows (PSR) 10; head prominent, of length 20.5mm, clearly distinguished from the neck with large, smooth dorsal shields on the head; rostral scale triangular with the upper side roughly half the size of the lower side with the tip visible from above; supraoculars of length 5.46 mm and frontal separated by pair of scales on both sides and nasal scales separated by three scales from above; five scales other than the pre and post ocular scales bordering the supraoculars on both sides, with three scales between the posterior edge of the supraoculars; canthus rostralis distinct with 3/3 canthal scale; three preoculars, a postocular and a thin elongated crescent shaped subocular, in contact with a small scale, encompassed by the third and fourth supralabial scale; eye with a distinct elliptical pupil, vertical diameter of the eye 2.94 mm and horizontal diameter 3.52mm; temporal scales smooth; 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; eight supralabials and 12 infralabials, with six scales between the last supralabial, including the last supralabial till the start of the ventral scales; 1st, 2nd and 3rd infralabial scale in contact with the first pair of genials; a gap of four scales including the posterior genials followed by 150 ventrals, laterally separated from the dorsal scale rows by a slightly broader row of dorsal scales; anal scale undivided, followed by 59 divided subcaudals scales; terminal scale on the tail larger than the previous scale, blunt at the tip.

Variation. The paratype, of SVL 504mm and TL 145mm, is discoloured with a uniform dark greenish to black colour throughout the specimen in its current preservation state. It differs from the holotype with respect to pholidosis by having 14 DSR, 14 MSR, 11 PSR, 150 ventrals and 64 subcaudals; a distinct head of length 27.5 mm with supraoculars that are separated by one scale from above; two canthal scales on the canthus rostralis, and 3 cephalic scales from above; 11 infralabials on both sides.

Colour in life. Dark to verdant green on the dorsal surface of the head that fades into a lighter green throughout the body dorsally up to the tail and along the lateral sides of the body including the head; a prominent, 2-scale wide, white lateral stripe runs from the creamy white mandibular region; small hints and patches of blue visible on the head and dorsal scales, with the tail tip banded with dark blue or sometimes fully covered with dark blue or black; the last 11 scale rows of the tail banded with black to dark blue and white to yellow; creamy white to yellow mentum fades into a light creamy green throughout the ventrals, sometimes separated by the white ventral stripe from the lateral part of the body. 
Comment 
EtymologyNamed after Günther’s erstwhile generic nomen that alludes to the shield-like, large scales (peltē: shield/scale, pelor(o)-: a term meaning monstrous [or literally huge], in Greek). 
References
  • 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
 
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