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Leiopython albertisii (PETERS & DORIA, 1878)

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Higher TaxaPythonidae, Henophidia, Pythonoidea, Alethinophidia, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes)
Common NamesE: D’Albertis python, Northern White-lipped Python
G: Weißlippen-Python
E: Huon Peninsula whitelip python [huonensis] 
SynonymLiasis albertisii PETERS & DORIA 1878
Leiopython gracilis HUBRECHT 1879
Liasis albertisii — BOULENGER 1893: 80
Liasis albertisi — DE ROOIJ 1917: 18
Leiopython albertisii — KLUGE 1993
Morelia albertisii — UNDERWOOD & STIMSON 1990: 602
Liasis fuscus albertisii — STULL 1935: 390
Liasis fuscus albertisi — CAPOCACCIA 1961
Bothrochilus albertisii — COGGER et al. 1983
Liasis albertisi — TRUTNAU 1984
Leiopython albertisii — MCDIARMID, CAMPBELL & TOURÉ 1999: 166
Leiopython albertisii — COGGER 2000: 605
Leiopython albertisii barkeri HOSER 2000 (nomen nudum fide SCHLEIP 2008)
Bothrochilus albertisii — RAWLINGS et al. 2008
Leiopython biakensis SCHLEIP 2008: 661
Leiopython huonensis SCHLEIP 2008: 660
Leiopython albertisi barkerorum — HOSER 2009
Leiopython albertisii — SCHLEIP & O’SHEA 2010
Bothrochilus albertisii — REYNOLDS et al. 2014
Bothrochilus biakensis — REYNOLDS et al. 2014
Bothrochilus huonensis — REYNOLDS et al. 2014
Leiopython albertisii — WALLACH et al. 2014: 365
Leiopython biakensis — WALLACH et al. 2014: 366
Leiopython huonensis — WALLACH et al. 2014: 366
Leiopython biakensis — BARKER et al. 2015
Leiopython huonensis — BARKER et al. 2015
Leiopython albertisii — BARKER et al. 2015
Leiopython albertisii — COGGER 2014: 821
Liasis albertisii — KUNZ 2017
Leiopython albertisii — NATUSCH et al. 2020
Leiopython albertisii — ESQUERRÉ et al. 2020 
DistributionPapua New Guinea (Bismarck Archipelago, Normanby Island [M. Lagerqvist, pers. comm.]; Milne Bay Province: S end Sewa Bay, 10.03858°S, 150.97345°E, 54 m elevation; Northern Province: SW slope Mt. Trafalgar, 9.2238°S, 149.1561°E, 187 m elevation [Kraus 2013]), Australia (northern islands of Torres Strait), Indonesia (Salawati, Biak, New Guinea: Irian Jaya)

Type locality: “Kapaor fra i Papua Onin” [Onin Peninsula, Irian Jaya, Indonesia], “near Andai” and “near Andai and Kapaor” fide KLUGE (1993).

biakensis: Indonesia (Biak Island); Type locality: Biak, Schouten Islands

huonensis: Papua New Guinea; Type locality: about 16 km west of Lae  
TypesSyntypes: MSNG 29989, Guinea, collected by O. Beccari, 1875; MSNG 29890, Kapaor, Onin Peninsula, New Guinea, collected by L.M. d'Albertis, 1872.
Holotype: RMNH 10193, female, Museum of Natural History, Leiden, The Netherlands, 1952–1953, donated by Fleet Air Arm Royal Netherlands Navy. Holotype lost in 2013 fide Esther Dondorp, pers. comm. 28 Jan 2019, but paratype RMNH RENA.10194 still extant) [biakensis]
Holotype: AMNH 95535, adult female, collected by L. van Royen in 1964. Labeled: ‘‘Gift to H. M. van Deusen’’; SVL 940 mm; tail 155 mm; head 37 mm [huonensis] 
DiagnosisDiagnosis. Leiopython albertisii is distinguishable from Leiopython hoserae, Leiopython bennettorum, and Leiopython huonensis sp. nov. by the presence of two pairs of parietals. A pair of large scales often separated from the median line by one or more small interparietal follows the anterior pair (Fig. 2A). It further differs from the former two species and from Leiopython fredparkeri sp. nov. by the presence of whitish postocular spots, and can easily be distinguished from Leiopython bennettorum in the number of loreals and prefrontals (Table 3), the average number of postoculars), dorsal midbody rows, ventrals, and subcaudal scales. Leiopython albertisii further differs from Leiopython hoserae and from Leiopython fredparkeri in lighter dorsal color and in having a yellowish flank (Parker, 1982; Barker and Barker, 1994; O’Shea, 1996, 2007), smaller average body size in hatchlings and adults, and additionally from Leiopython hoserae by molecular evidence (see Fig. 4). Leiopython albertisii can be distinguished from Leiopython biakensis sp. nov. by higher average subcaudal (71.5 +/- 2.85; range = 65–79, N = 30 vs. 67.5 +/3.54; range = 65–70, N = 2), and supralabial scale counts (12.9 +/- 0.28; range = 12–13, N = 30 vs. 11.8 +/- 0.35; range = 11–12, N = 2) along with a higher number of supralabials entering the eye (3.0 +/- 0.18; range = 2–3, N = 30 vs. 2, N = 2) [SCHLEIP 2008].

Diagnosis (albertisii): Leiopython albertisii is distinguished from L. meridionalis by its dark yellow or golden dorsal colouration (versus dark brown or black in L. meridionalis); presence of small specks of white patterning on the postocular scales in most specimens; and generally two parietal scale pairs (as opposed to a single pair in most L. meridionalis). Compared to L. meridionalis, L. albertisii possesses a shorter and nar- rower head size relative to its body (Natusch and Lyons, 2012). Leiopython albertisii also differs from L. meridionalis in having a lower mean number of dorsal midbody rows and a higher mean number of ventral scales (259–283 versus 258–275, respectively). However, an overlap in the ranges of the scale counts, coupled with small sample sizes for this wide-ranging taxon, renders these aspects of scalation of doubtful diagnostic value. Importantly, L. albertisii is easily differentiated from L. meridionalis on the basis of molecular genetic data (Natusch et al. 2020).

Description (albertisii): Leiopython albertisii is a large and robust python spe- cies growing to almost 2.5 m in total length and ~ 3.5 kg in mass in wild (Natusch and Lyons, 2012). The head is black or dark brown dorsally and is distinct from the neck. The jaws are white ventrally with thin black bars on the anterior edges of the supralabial and infralabial scales. A white postocular spot is present in most specimens (McDowell, 1975; Schleip, 2008). The body is dark yellow or golden dorsally, becoming lighter laterally and fading to white or cream on the ventral surface. The head and body are strongly iridescent. The sexes do not appear to be sexually dimorphic (Natusch and Lyons, 2012, Natusch et al. 2020).

Diagnosis (biakensis). This species differs from Leiopython albertisii in having only two labials entering the orbit (100%, N 5 2) and in lower ventral scale counts (271 6 1.41; range 5 270–272, N 5 2) than found in specimens from the western part of Papua (278 6 2.49; range 5 274–283, N 5 13; KW-test: x21 5 4.99, P , 0.05; see also Brongersma, 1956). However, ventral scales counts are in the range of specimens from PNG. It differs from Leiopython fredparkeri in the head scale arrangement, with this species having large and wide posterior parietals, whereas Leiopython fredparkeri shows two slender elongate posterior parietal scales (Fig. 2). It further differs from the latter species by the presence of whitish postocular spots, and additionally from Leiopython huonensis and Leiopython hoserae in having two pairs of parietals. It is also distinguishable from Leiopython bennettorum in the number of prefrontals and loreals (Schleip 2008).

Diagnosis (huonensis): This species differs from Leiopython albertisii, Leiopython biakensis, and Leiopython fredparkeri in having only one pair of parietals followed by small, irregular scales (Fig. 2C, 6I). It can be distinguished from Leiopython bennettorum by the lower number of loreal and prefrontal scales as well as a lower average number of postoculars (KW-test: x21 5 3.95, P , 0.05) and from Leiopython hoserae by the scale arrangement posterior to the parietal scales showing small, irregular scales. It also differs from Leiopython albertisii (KW-test: x21 5 10.31, P , 0.001) and from Leiopython hoserae (KW-test: x21 5 5.35, P , 0.05) by lower average ventral scale counts. Additionally, it can be distinguished from the latter taxon by the presence of the whitish postocular spot (Schleip 2008). 
CommentSynonymy: HOSER (2000) described several new subspecies of Leiopython albertisii and a new species, Leiopython hoserae. However, due to their vague description we list them as synonyms of Leiopython albertisii. For example, Leiopython albertisii barkeri is diagnosed as “separated from L. albertisii albertisii by the mutually exclusive distribution and by analysis of mitochondrial DNA [of which no data is provided]. Ventral counts for this species are near the lower limit for the range for New Guinea L. albertisii.” L. a. bennetti is described as follows: “Essentially similar in most respects to L. albertisii albertisii from which it can usually be differentiated by its higher loreal count. L. albertisii albertisii usually has a single loreal in broad contact with the prefrontal. The three specimens listed above are typical for their subspecies in that they have two or three loreals on each side. Specimens of L. albertisii albertisii usually have a single pair of elongated prefrontal scutes with their median suture three or more times as long as the suture between the internasals. However in L. albertsis bennetti it is not unusual for there to be a pair of small lateral prefrontals, broadly separated from each other by the median prefrontals but in contact with the frontal posteriorly and with the more posterior loreal anteriorly”. Natusch et al. 2020 synonymized Leiopython biakensis and L. huonensis with L. albertisii (without even mentioning their relationship to Bothrochilus).

In Hoser's (2000a) python paper, the name barkeri requires emendation to barkerorum, and bennetti to bennettorum, as the subspecies were each named after two people (WÜSTER et al. 2001).

Type species: Leiopython gracilis HUBRECHT 1879 is the type species of the genus Leiopython HUBRECHT 1879. 
Etymologynamed in honor of Italian naturalist Luigi Maria D’Albertis, who made a name for himself in New Guinea.

L. biakensis was named after the type locality.

L. huonensis was named after the locality where this species is found, the Huon Peninsula at the east coast of PNG. 
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