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Letheobia mbeerensis MALONZA, BAUER & NGWAVA, 2016

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Higher TaxaTyphlopidae (Afrotyphlopinae), Typhlopoidea, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes)
Common NamesE: Mbeere gracile blind snake 
SynonymLetheobia mbeerensis MALONZA, BAUER & NGWAVA 2016
Letheobia mbeerensis — SPAWLS et al. 2018: 358 

Type locality: Kenya, Embu County, Siakago-Mbeere (00°35’ S; 037°38’ E; 1221 m elevation.  
TypesHolotype: NMK S2927, adult; collected on 29 April 2014, by a local farmer (name unknown). Live specimen given to Jacob M. Ngwava, curator at the Nairobi Snake Park, who forwarded it to Patrick K. Malonza at the Herpetology Section, National Museums of Kenya. 
DiagnosisDiagnosis. The new species is assignable to the genus Letheobia on the basis of possessing the combination of characters:laterally rounded snout, gracile or worm-like body form, eyes not or barely visible, reduced to faint spots, and pinkish coloration (Pyron & Wallach 2014). Within Letheobia, L. mbeerensis may be distinguished by the following features: rostral broad, ocular shield reduced, 20 scale rows around the body along its entire length, 670 middorsal scales, tail long (for genus) 2.9% of total length, 20 subcaudal scales. The large number of subcaudal scales separates L. mbeerensis from all its congeners, among which L. lumbriciformis, with 17, has the next highest count. In addition, the new species is easily separated from several of its East African congeners by its lower number of midbody scale rows (20) versus 22 or more scale rows in L. gracilis (Sternfeld) (22–24), L. graueri (Sternfeld) (24), L. jubana Broadley & Wallach (24), L. largeni Broadley & Wallach (22), L. pallida Cope (22–24), L. pembana Broadley & Wallach (24), L. somalica (Boulenger) (24–30), L. sudanensis (Schmidt) (24– 27), L. swahilica Broadley & Wallach (22), and L. toritensis Broadley & Wallach (22–24). Several East African species formerly assigned to Letheobia (e.g., Broadley & Wallach 2007a) but now placed in Rhinotyphlops (R. ataeniata, R. scorteccii (Gans & Laurent 1965), R. unitaeniatus; see Hedges et al (2014) may also be distinguished by their greater number of mid-body scale rows (23–26). Letheobia mbeerensis may also be distinguished from most of its East African congeners by its high number of middorsal scales (670) versus lower numbers in L. erythraea (Scortecci) (443–462), L. graueri (454–622), L. jubana (391–435), L. largeni (432), L. pallida (418– 429), L. pembana (353), L. swahilica (376–396), L. toritensis (427–487), and L. uluguruensis (Barbour & Loveridge) (379–416) as well as Rhinotyphlops ataeniata (443–531), R. scorteccii (311–405), and R. unitaeniata (467–586).
Letheobia mbeerensis is most similar to L. lumbriciformis, with which it shares similar body proportion (mean of 62.0 body diameters in total body length in L. lumbriciformis and 62.2 in the holotype of L. mbeerensis). However L. lumbriciformis has 18 midbody scale rows (versus 20 in L. mbeerensis). The new species may further be distinguished from L. lumbriciformis by having 670 middorsal scales (versus 465–607), a longer tail (2.9% of TL versus 1.3–1.7%; 20 versus 11–17 subcaudals), and eyes minute but visible (versus not visible). 
EtymologyThe specific epithet mbeerensis refers to the species’ greater type locality. 
  • MALONZA, PATRICK K.; AARON M. BAUER, JACOB M. NGWAVA 2016. A new species of Letheobia (Serpentes: Typhlopidae) from central Kenya. Zootaxa 4093 (1): 143-150 - get paper here
  • Spawls, Steve; Kim Howell, Harald Hinkel, Michele Menegon 2018. Field Guide to East African Reptiles. Bloomsbury, 624 pp. - get paper here
  • Wallach, V. & Gemel, R. 2018. Typhlops weidholzi n. inedit., a new species of Letheobia from the republic of Cameroon, and a synopsis of the genus (Squamata: Serpentes: Scolecophidia: Typhlopidae). Herpetozoa 31 (1/2): 27 - 46 - get paper here
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