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Craspedocephalus strigatus GRAY, 1842

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Higher TaxaViperidae, Crotalinae, Colubroidea, Caenophidia, Alethinophidia, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes)
Common NamesE: Horseshoe (pit-) viper 
SynonymTrimeresurus strigatus GRAY 1842: 49
Lachesis strigatus BOULENGER 1896
Atropos darwini DUMÉRIL & BIBRON 1854: 1520 (fide SMITH 1943)
Trigonocephalus (Cophias) neelgherriensis JERDON 1854 (fide SMITH 1943)
Trimeresurus strigatus — SMITH 1943: 514
Trimeresurus strigatus — WELCH 1994: 117
Protobothrops strigatus — KRAUS et al. 1996
Trimeresurus strigatus — HERRMANN et al. 2004
Trimeresurus strigatus — GUMPRECHT et al. 2004
Trimeresurus strigatus — MALHOTRA & THORPE 2004
Trimeresurus (Craspedocephalus) strigatus — DAVID et al. 2011
Craspedocephalus strigatus — WALLACH et al. 2014: 188
Craspedocephalus strigatus — MALLIK et al. 2021: 609 
DistributionIndia (Western Ghats, Nilgiri Hills, Anamalai Hills, Palni Hills, Shevaroy Hills, Deccan, Kerala).

Type locality: “Cape of GoodHope?” and “Madras?”, restricted to “Madras Presidency” by BOULENGER 1896: 550; given as “from Nilgiris, Tamil Nadu” by Mallik et al. 2021.  
TypesSyntypes NHMUK 1946.1.18.79, NHMUK 1946.1.18.78 
DiagnosisLineage diagnosis (also see Whitaker & Captain, 2004). A species of Craspedocephalus (L8) endemic to the Western Ghats, characterized by having the following combination of characters: 2nd supralabial (usually) not bordering the anterior margin of loreal pit (vs. always bordering in the C. malabaricus, C. gramineus complexes); lacking a prehensile tail and green dorsum (vs. having prehensile tail and green dorsum in the C. gramineus, C. macrolepis complexes); having an undivided supraocular (vs. divided or with indented margins in the C. malabaricus complex) (Mallik et al. 2021).

Description. Relatively stout species with a cylindrical body of snout to vent length (SVL) up to 391 mm and a tail of length (TL) up to 64 mm; dorsal scales keeled with anterior dorsal scale rows (DSR) 20 to 22, mid body scale rows (MSR) 19 to 21 and posterior scale rows (PSR) 15 to 17; head prominent, clearly distinguished from the neck with small juxtaposed scales on the dorsal surface of the head; rostral scale sub triangular with the upper side roughly half the size of the lower side with the tip visible from above; supraoculars separated by 9 to 11 scales on the posterior end; canthus rostralis distinct with three canthal scales; two to three preoculars, two to three postocular and a thin elongated crescent shaped subocular; eye with a distinct elliptical pupil; 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; nine to 10 supralabials and 10 to 12 infralabials, with six to eight 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 three scales including the posterior genials followed by 134 to 142 ventrals, laterally separated from the dorsal scale rows by a slightly broader row of dorsal scales; anal scale undivided, followed by 38 to 44 divided subcaudals scales; terminal scale on the tail larger than the previous scale, blunt at the tip (Mallik et al. 2021).

Colour in life. Bronze to light brown dorsum blotched with a stark, continuous alternating saddle-shaped pattern in dark brown to black, strikingly similar to the markings on Vipera berus or Gloydius himalayanus; preocular/temporal stripe in dark brown; post ocular stripe in dirty brown continuing towards the loreal pit and the infralabials; another stripe below the subocular stripe fades into the infralabials followed by another blotch towards the end of the infralabials; base colour of the infralabials and ventrals being light creamish to white in colour, of-
ten dotted with rufous spots in the supralabials the region where the dorsal scales meet the ventrals in altenating dark brown colour and light brown/bronze colour scales; dorsal bronze scales are dotted with darker brown; the nape is characterized with a prominent horse shoe shaped marking hence earning its common name; in juveniles, the bronze colour is replaced with light brown (Mallik et al. 2021). 
EtymologyLatinized from its stem word ‘strigate’ alluding to the pattern streaked with colourful, alternate, transverse bars. 
  • Boulenger, G.A. 1896. Catalogue of the snakes in the British Museum, Vol. 3. London (Taylor & Francis), xiv + 727 pp. - get paper here
  • DAVID, PATRICK; GERNOT VOGEL & ALAIN DUBOIS 2011. On the need to follow rigorously the Rules of the Code for the subsequent designation of a nucleospecies (type species) for a nominal genus which lacked one: the case of the nominal genus Trimeresurus Lacépède, 1804 (Reptilia: Squamata: Viperidae). Zootaxa 2992: 1–51 - get paper here
  • GANESH, S.R. & S. R. CHANDRAMOULI 2018. Die Verbreitung von Trimeresurus strigatus Gray, 1842 – Eine berichtigende Notiz. Sauria 40 (1): 87-91 - get paper here
  • Ganesh, S.R.; S. Bhupathy, P. Karthik, G. Babu Rao & S. Babu 2020. Catalogue of herpetological specimens from peninsular India at the Sálim Ali Centre for Ornithology & Natural History (SACON), India. JoTT 12 (9): 16123–16135 - get paper here
  • Gray, J. E. 1842. Synopsis of the species of Rattle snakes, or Family of Crotalidae. Zoological Miscellany 2: 47- 51. - get paper here
  • Gumprecht, A.; Tillack, F.; Orlov, N.L.; Captain, A. & Ryabow, S. 2004. Asian pitvipers. Geitje Books, Berlin, 368 pp.
  • Herrmann, H.-W.; Ziegler, T.; Malhotra, A.; Thorpe, R.S. & Parkinson, C.L. 2004. Redescription and systematics of Trimeresurus cornutus (Serpentes: Viperidae)based on morphology and molecular data. Herpetologica 60 (2): 211-221 - get paper here
  • Malhotra, Anita & Thorpe, Roger S. 2004. A phylogeny of four mitochondrial gene regions suggests a revised taxonomy for Asian pitvipers (Trimeresurus and Ovophis). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 32: 83 –100 [erratum p. 680] - get paper here
  • 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
  • Palot, M.J. 2015. A checklist of reptiles of Kerala, India. Journal of Threatened Taxa 7(13): 8010–8022 - get paper here
  • Sharma, R. C. 2004. Handbook Indian Snakes. AKHIL BOOKS, New Delhi, 292 pp.
  • Smith, M.A. 1943. The Fauna of British India, Ceylon and Burma, Including the Whole of the Indo-Chinese Sub-Region. Reptilia and Amphibia. 3 (Serpentes). Taylor and Francis, London. 583 pp.
  • Wall, F. 1906. The poisonous snakes of India and how to recognize them, Part II. J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 17: 299-334 - get paper here
  • 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.
  • Whitaker, Romulus and Ashok Captain 2004. Snakes of India. Draco Books, 500 pp., reprinted 2007 - get paper here
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