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Dasypeltis crucifera BATES, 2018

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Higher TaxaColubridae, Colubrinae, Colubroidea, Caenophidia, Alethinophidia, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes)
Common NamesE: Cross-marked Egg-eater 
SynonymDasypeltis crucifera BATES in BATES & BROADLEY 2018: 42
Dasypeltis scabra — GANS 1959: 141 (part) (not Linnaeus)
Dasypeltis scabra — LARGEN & RASMUSSEN 1993: 340–341 (part) 

Type locality: Bogos, Eritrea  
TypesHolotype: ZMB 7631 (at Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin), an adult female (right side ovary examined) from Bogos, Eritrea (Gans 1959, Pl. V, Fig. 4; Fig. 23A–B & 24A–C). The specimen was purchased from Edward Gerrard (a London taxidermist and dealer of natural history objects) by the Zoologisches Museum der Königlichen Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität zu Berlin during the second half of the 19th century (F. Tillack in litt., 15 April 2016). Bogos is a name that may refer to the city of Keren (also known as Senhit or Blin: 15°46’40”N, 38°27’29”E; NE 1538C4), but it may have been used as a more general term referring to the land of the Bogo people (an indigenous ethnic group) in Anseba Region, between the highlands and lowlands of Eritrea.
Paratypes. Two specimens: ERITREA. Allotype. MZUT (MRSN) 3582 (at Museo Regionale di Scienze Naturali di Torino, Turin), a juvenile male from Agordat [15°33’N, 37°53’E; NE 1537D2] (the specimen tag notes ‘Giachetti! cei det. 21.8.88’ [Fig. 25A– B]); MSNG 6738, probably female, from Keren [15°46’40”N, 38°27’29”E; NE 1538C4]. 
DiagnosisDiagnosis. Where data for MZUT 3469 (see “Additional material”) falls outside the ranges recorded for the type series, this is indicated below.
Assigned to the genus Dasypeltis on account of its slender form, possession of (usually 3–4) rows of reduced, oblique, keeled and serrated lateral scales (little or no serration in D. inornata) and head barely distinct from the neck (moderately distinct in D. fasciata). Differs from all other taxa in the genus by its unique dorsal colour pattern, in which dark brown oval saddles and lateral bars almost completely enclose pale cross-markings that form the inter-saddle areas (a variation of the ‘5I’ pattern found in Arabian Dasypeltis; Figs 23A & 25A), together with a combination of the following characters: Pattern cycles 51–62 (higher than D. bazi 38–49; lower or mostly lower than D. fasciata 66-141, D. abyssina 65-98, D. atra 62-130, D. arabica sp. nov. 62-79; D. inornatus always uniform brown above, D. gansi uniform or weakly marked); flanks decorated with dark vertical bars (spots, blotches or squarish in D. bazi, D. loveridgei comb. nov. and some populations of D. scabra); and venter immaculate apart from a few dark markings at the edges (extensive dark markings in D. abyssina and in many D. scabra); Ventrals: 226 in male (higher than D. taylori sp. nov. 196–216, D. sahelensis 207– 221, D. inornata 208–225, D. parascabra 210–223), 231–243, 247 (MZUT 3469) in females (higher than D. taylori sp. nov. 208–222); Subcaudals 61 in male (higher than D. loveridgei comb. nov. 47–58; lower than D. inornata 81–92, D. fasciata 59, 71–91, D. medici 69–109, D. gansi 68–83, D. palmarum 68–77, D. parascabra 67–74, D. latericia 66–86, D. arabica 63–65), 49–52 in females (lower than D. inornata 69–84, D. fasciata 64–84, D. palmarum 62–77, D. medici 61–90, D. gansi 59–73; D. latericia 59–72, D. parascabra 57–64, D. arabica sp. nov. 53–61); Inter-prefrontal sulcus weakly marked (moderately to deeply marked in D. arabica sp. nov., weakly to moderately marked in D. bazi, usually moderately marked in D. taylori sp. nov., and variable in D. scabra [often well marked in the south of its range]); Frontal shield marginally pitted, State 1 or 2 (extensively pitted, States 3 & 4, in D. medici, D. taylori sp. nov. and many populations of D. scabra especially in the south of its range); Nasal divided below the nostril (undivided in D. sahelensis and D. parascabra); Postoculars 2 on either side of head (often one, especially in western populations, of D. atra); Supralabials usually 7 (3rd and 4th enter orbit) on either side of head (usually 6[2,3] in D. loveridgei comb. nov.). 
CommentHabitat. This species occurs in the hilly area between the lowlands associated with the drainage of the Barka River, the Sahel and the Highlands of Hamasien. Agor- dat is situated at low altitudes (about 600 m), while the city of Keren is at an altitude of about 1417 m (BATES & BROADLEY 2018: Fig. 26).

Mimicry. Dasypeltis crucifera sp. nov. may mimic Echis megalocephalus Cherlin, 1990 (see photograph of “E. cf. megalocephalus” from Ginda in Dobiey & Vogel 2007; Fig. 30). 
EtymologyThe name of the new species refers to the pale cross-marks between the saddles on its back. 
  • Bates, M.F. & D.G. Broadley 2018. A revision of the egg-eating snakes of the genus Dasypeltis Wagler (Squamata: Colubridae: Colubrinae) in north-eastern Africa and south-western Arabia, with descriptions of three new species. Indago 34 (1): 1-95 - get paper here
  • Gans, C. 1959. A taxonomic revision of the African snake genus Dasypeltis (Reptilia: Serpentes). Annales du Musée Royal du Congo Belge Tervuren 74: ix + 237 pp.
  • Largen,M.J. & Rasmussen,J.B. 1993. Catalogue of the snakes of Ethiopia (Reptilia Serpentes), including identification keys. Tropical Zoology 6: 313-434 - get paper here
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