You are here » home advanced search search results Helicops phantasma


Can you confirm these amateur observations of Helicops phantasma?

Add your own observation of
Helicops phantasma »

We have no photos, try to find some by Google images search: Google images

Higher TaxaColubridae (Dipsadinae), Colubroidea, Caenophidia, Alethinophidia, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes)
Common Names 
Helicops leopardinus – SCARTOZZONI 2006 (partim)
Helicops cf. leopardinus – BRANDÃO & PÉRES Jr., 2001 (partim)
Helicops sp. – MARQUES et al. 2015 
DistributionBrazil (Mato Grosso)

Type locality: Brazil, Mato Grosso, Barra do Garças (15º21’35”S, 52º28’08”W), 840 m elevation.  
ReproductionViviparous (Moraes-da-Silva et al. 2021) 
TypesHolotype: UFMT-R 8290, adult male, collected by Ricardo A. Kawashita-Ribeiro, on 26 August 2009.
Paratypes (n = 27): MZUSP, IBSP 
DiagnosisDiagnosis: Helicops phantasma differs from all other congeners by the unique combination of the following characters: (1) dorsal scale rows 19/19/17–19, with moderate keels throughout the whole body length; (2) ventrals 119–131 (119–127 in males and 123–131 in females); (3) subcaudals 53–69 (65–69 in males, 53–60 in females); (4) subcaudal keels absent; (5) supralabials 8/8, 4th with orbit; (6) infralabials 10/10; (7) intergenials absent; (8) nasal semidivided; (9) one preocular; (10) two postoculars; (11) maxillary teeth 14+2–16+2; (12) hemipenis strongly semicapitate, with distinct globular expansion between hemipenial lobes, and two pairs of enlarged spines on the proximal region of base; (13) snout uniform dark greenish brown, lacking any spots or markings; (14) dorsum greenish brown, with narrow irregular dorsal black bands; (15) 32–49 dorsal bands on trunk (32–49 in males, 33–49 in females), and 19–39 dorsal bands on tail (22–29 in males, 19–26 in females); (16) venter background pale red to light orange (in preservative), checkered with asymmetrical black bands, mostly divided at midline with their halves alternately displaced in opposite directions, and (17) 30–42 black bands on venter (30–41 in males, 36–42 in females), and 16–26 black bands on tail (18–26 in males, 16–22 in females) (Moraes-da-Silva et al. 2021).

Comparisons: The dorsal pattern of He. phantasma composed of irregular black bands allows its prompt distinction of most congeners (characters in parentheses), namely He. angulatus, He. apiaka, He. gomesi (saddles), He. carinicaudus, He. infrataeniatus, He. modestus, He. trivittatus (stripes), He. nentur, He. tapajonicus (uniform olive green or greenish brown), He. boitata, and He. scalaris (large spots). The other seven Helicops species (He. danieli, He. hagmanni, He. leopardinus, He. pastazae, He. petersi, He. polylepis and He. yacu) exhibit dark and rounded dorsal spots, but none of them presents fusions rendering a banded pattern as the one of the new species Among the spotted congeners, the presence of 19/19/17–19 dorsals with moderate keels distinguishes Helicops phantasma at least from He. hagmanni (27/23–27/23), He. pastazae (23/21–23/19), He. petersi (21/21–23/16), He. polylepis (23–25/22–25/19–21), and He. yacu (25–29/25–28/18–20). In that sense, the spotted species that are most likely to be confused with He. phantasma are He. danieli and He. leopardinus. However, besides the presence of dorsal irregular bands, the strongly semicapitate hemipenis, with conical lobular tips, and ornamented with two pairs of enlarged spines on the hemipenial base (Fig.6) represent unique features of He. phantasma among all Helicops taxa with known male genitalia, and differ clearly from He. danieli and He. leopardinus (Fig. 7). Enlarged spines also occur in He. danieli, but only on the hemipenial body. Finally, although all the three species (He. phantasma, He. danieli, and He. leopardinus) have keels on dorsal scales which we qualify as moderate (when compared with, for instance, the strong keels of He. angulatus), the keels of the new species are sensibly stronger than those of the two latter congeners (Moraes-da-Silva et al. 2021).

Color in preservative: Dorsum background predominantly olive brown; black dorsal bands; venter pale red to light orange, with black ventral bands (Moraes-da-Silva et al. 2021). 
CommentSimilar species: Helicops leopardinus 
EtymologyThe specific epithet phantasma, from the Greek (Brown 1954) and incorporated to Latin vocabulary (Myers 1982), is a noun in apposition (Vendetti & Garland 2019) meaning “apparition”, “appearance”, “ghost”, “image”, and “phantom”. In Portuguese, the word “fantasma” (ghost, in English) refers more specifically to spirits of the dead that remain among the living. We chose the name as a reference to local extinctions of at least some populations of the new species due to the enormous areas of aquatic habitats suppressed by hydroelectric dams constructed along the Tocantins valley. Goulding et al. (2003) refer to the Tocantins River as “The Dammed River”, discussing the extension of environmental impacts of hydroelectric undertakings throughout the whole Tocantins Araguaia Basin. 
  • Brandão, R. A. & Peres Jr., A. K. 2001. Levantamento da Herpetofauna na área de influência do aproveitamento hidroelétrico Luís Eduardo Magalhães, Palmas, TO. Humanitas, 3: 35–50.
  • Marques, O.A.V., Eterovic, A., Nogueira, C.C. & Sazima, I. 2015. Serpentes do Cerrado. Guia Ilustrado. Holos, Ribeirão Preto, 248 pp
  • MORAES DA SILVA, A.; AMARO, R. C., NUNES, P. M. S., RODRIGUES, M. T., & CURCIO, F. F. 2021. Long known, brand new, and possibly threatened: a new species of watersnake of the genus Helicops Wagler, 1828 (Serpentes; Xenodontinae) from the Tocantins-Araguaia River Basin, Brazil. Zootaxa 4903 (2): 217-241 - get paper here
  • Scartozzoni, R.R. 2006. Natural history notes. Helicops leopardinus (Water snake): reproduction. Herpetological Bulletin, 97, 39–40
  • Schöneberg, Y., & Köhler, G. 2021. Distribution and identification of the species in the genus Helicops Wagler, 1830 (Serpentes, Colubridae, Xenodontinae). ARPHA Preprints, 1, e67869 - get paper here
External links  
Is it interesting? Share with others:

As link to this species use URL address:

without field 'search_param'. Field 'search_param' is used for browsing search result.

Please submit feedback about this entry to the curator