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Letheobia weidholzi (WALLACH & GEMEL, 2018)

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Higher TaxaTyphlopidae (Afrotyphlopinae), Typhlopoidea, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes)
Subspecies 
Common NamesE: Weidholz’s Pink Blindsnake 
SynonymTyphlops weidholzi WEIDHOLZ 1941 (nom. nud.)
Letheobia weidholzi WALLACH & GEMEL 2018
Letheobia logonensis TRAPE 2019 
DistributionCameroon (Faro), Nigeria, Chad

Type locality: Poli, Département de Faro, région du Nord, Cameroun (8° 27’ 16.4” N, 13° 15’ 33.7” e, elevation 525 m),

logonensis: Chad; Type locality: “Baïbokoum (07°44’N / 15°40’E) au Tchad”  
Reproduction 
TypesHolotype: NMW 23492, collected by Alfred Weidholz, between 1938–1939.
Holotype: MNHN-RA 2018.0015, formerly IRD 2285.N, collected 29 May 2015 by a famer of a local village who gave it to the author [logonensis] 
DiagnosisDiagnosis. Letheobia weidholzi can be separated from all other members of the genus by the following combination of characters: dorsal and lateral head profiles tapered or pointed with keratinous keel on rostral, lateral head shields obliquely oriented to the vertical, and more than 650 total middorsals. Additional characters distinguishing it from other Letheobia with pointed snouts are: inferior nasal suture in contact with sl 2, length/width ratio greater than 95, and absence of an apical spine. As to the assignment to the genus Letheobia, see Discussion (Wallach & Gemel 2018).

Comparisons. reference to table 1 reveals that L. weidholzi is closest in scale counts to L. graueri (sterNFelD, 1913), and L. gracilis (sterNFelD, 1910), and closest in head profiles to L. acutirostrata (ANDerssON, 1916), and L. praeocularis (steJNeGer, 1894). Letheobia weidholzi differs from L. graueri (of uganda, tanzania and se Democratic republic of the Congo) in having an anterior scale row reduction (26-24-24 vs. 24-24-24), a higher number of mean total middorsal scales (651 vs. 535), a slightly more attenuate body (l/W ratio 96 vs. 58–89), a tapered dorsal head profile (vs. round), a pointed lateral head profile (vs. blunt), an elongate ocular shield (vs. small scale), and absence of an apical spine (vs. present). it differs from L. gracilis (of se Democratic republic of the Congo and Zambia) in the numbers of anterior and midbody scale rows (26 vs. 22–24 and 24 vs. 22), having fewer mean middorsal scale counts (651 vs. 685), a tapered dorsal head profile (vs. round), a pointed lateral head profile (vs. blunt), an elongate ocular shield (vs. small scale), and absence of an apical spine (vs. present). Letheobia weidholzi differs from L. acutirostris (of the Democratic republic of the Congo) in middorsal scale count (651 vs. 440–513, x ̅ = 477), inferior nasal suture contact (sl 2 vs. sl 1), and in absence of an apical spine (vs. present). it differs from L. praeocularis (of Democratic republic of the Congo and Angola) in number of middorsal scales (651
vs. 423–545, x ̅ = 507), in orientation of lateral head shields (oblique vs. vertical), in having the preocular larger than the ocular (vs. smaller than ocular), and absence of an apical spine (vs. present).
Within the borders of, or in proximity to, Cameroon are six species of Letheobia: L. caeca, L. crossii, L. decorosa, L. rufescens, L. zenkeri and an undescribed species (nov. sp. 2). Letheobia weidholzi can be distinguished from L. caeca by a greater number of middorsals (651 vs. 417–561, x ̅ = 493), fewer subcaudals (9 vs. 10–12), higher length/width ratio (96 vs. 46–87, x ̅ = 70), location of inferior nasal suture conact (sl 2 vs. r), and absence of apical spine (vs. present). it can be separated from L. crossii by having more total middorsals (651 vs. 455–513, x ̅ = 482), a larger length/width ratio (96 vs. 54–96, x ̅ = 71), a tapered dorsal profile (vs. pointed), and obliquely oriented lateral head shields (vs. vertically). Letheobia weidholzi can be identified in comparison with L. decorosa by anterior and posterior scale row reductions (vs. none), more total middorsals (651 vs. 460–542, x ̅ = 490), fewer subcaudals (9 vs. 10–12), a more attenuate body (l/W 96 vs. 45–66, x ̅ = 56), a broader rostral shield (rW/HW 0.71 vs. 0.59–0.67), location of contact of inferior nasal suture (sl 2 vs. r or sl 1), snout tapering or pointed in both profiles (vs. rounded or blunted), presence of a horizontal keratinous cutting edge to rostral (vs. absence), lateral head shield with oblique orientation (vs. vertical), preocular larger than ocular (vs. equal in size), and absence of apical spine (vs. present). Compared to L. rufescens, L. weidholzi can be identified by a greater number of scale rows (26-24-24 vs. 20-20-20 or 22-20-22), a t–0 supralabial imbrication pattern (vs. t–ii), a larger tail length ratio (1.1 % vs. 0.7–0.8 %), and tapered or pointed head profile (vs. rounded or blunted). Letheobia weidholzi can be separated from L. zenkeri by number of scale rows (26-24-24 vs. 20-18-18), total middorsals (651 vs. 250–281), total length (376 mm vs. 130–150 mm), length/width ratio (96 vs. 41–52), relative tail length (1.1 % vs. 1.7 %), relative rostral width (0.71 vs. 0.32), location of contact of infranasal suture (sl 2 vs. subocular), number of postoculars (3 vs. 1–2), head profiles (tapered/pointed vs. rounded), horizontal keratinous edge present on rostral (vs. absent), lateral head shield orientation (oblique vs. vertical), and preocular larger than ocular (vs. equal in size). From Letheobia nov. sp. 2, L. weidholzi can be distinguished by the numbers of midbody scale rows (24 vs. 22), total middorsals (651 vs. 451) and subcaudals (9
vs. 12), total length (376 mm vs. 134 mm), length/width ratio (96 vs. 49), relative tail length (1.1 % vs. 1.5 %), relative rostral width (0.71 vs. 0.55), head profiles (tapered/pointed vs. rounded/blunted), horizontal keratinous keel on rostral (present vs. absent), eyespot (absent vs. present), and lateral head shield orientation (oblique vs. vertical) (Wallach & Gemel 2018).

Diagnosis (logonensis): “Un Typhlopidé du genre Letheobia connu seulement par l’holotype. Il est caractérisé par la combinaison des caractères suivants : museau pointu en angle aigu vers l’avant, absence d’yeux apparents, grande rostrale nettement plus large que la frontale en vue dorsale, préoculaire plus grande que l’oculaire, 24 rangs d’écailles autour du corps, plus de 530 écailles longitudinales et moins de 10 sous-caudales, rapport entre la longueur totale et la longueur de la queue supérieur à 100, rapport entre la longueur totale et le diamètre du corps supérieur à 90.” (Trape 2019)

Comparisons (logonensis): “L’aspect du museau, l’absence d’yeux apparents et les caractéristiques de l’écaillure, dont notamment la forme de la rostrale, inscrivent clairement cette espèce dans le genre Rhinotyphlops, sensu Roux-Estève (1974) et le genre Letheobia, sensu Broadley et Wallach (2007a). Sur les 33 espèces retenues dans le genre Letheobia par Wallach et al. (2014) et les trois espèces que ces auteurs conservent dans le genre Rhinotyphlops, seules cinq présentent ensemble les trois caractères suivants : museau en pointe aigüe dirigée vers l’avant, 24 rangs d’écailles autour du corps et plus de 500 écailles longitudinales. Il s’agit des espèces suivantes (Roux-Estève 1974, Broadley & Wallach 2007a, Pyron & Wallach 2014, Hedges et al. 2014) : Letheobia acutirostrata (Andersson, 1916), Letheobia caeca (Duméril, 1856), Letheobia crossii (Boulenger, 1893), Letheobia praeocularis (Stejneger, 1894) et Letheobia somalica (Boulenger, 1895). Parmi elles, L. praeocularis du sud du bloc forestier congolais et L. somalica de la corne de l’Afrique présentent un aspect des plaques céphaliques bien différent, avec notamment une oculaire sensiblement plus grande que la préoculaire alors que c’est l’inverse chez Letheobia logonensis sp. nov. Chez L. caeca –qui possède habituellement seulement 22 rangs d’écailles transversales – et chez L. acutirostrata, l’oculaire est minuscule, à peine plus grande que les écailles du corps, et la pointe du museau est légèrement surélevée par rapport au plan de la bouche, alors que l’oculaire est au moins quatre fois plus grande que les écailles du corps et la pointe du museau très surélevée chez Letheobia logonensis sp. nov. C’est de L. crossii d’Afrique de l’Ouest que Letheobia logonensis sp. nov. est le plus proche. Ces deux espèces présentent néanmoins plusieurs différences importantes : chez L. crossii la rostrale est étroite en vue dorsale et pas plus large que la frontale, la préoculaire est aussi large que l’oculaire, le nombre d’écailles longitudinales varie de 455 à 513 et celui de sous-caudales de 10 à 15, tandis que chez Letheobia logonensis sp. nov. la rostrale est deux fois plus large que la frontale, la préoculaire est nettement plus large que l’oculaire, le nombre d’écailles longitudinales dépasse 530 et le nombre de sous-caudales est inférieur à 10.” (Trape 2019). 
CommentSynonymy: Otto Wettstein, curator at the Natural History Museum in Vienna, left a hand-written description of this species around 1940 but never formally published it. Weidholz 1941 mentioned the name in a book, also without details, hence creating a nomen nudum. Trape et al. 2020 synonymized Letheobia logonensis with L. weidholzi.

Distribution: Apparently only known from 3 specimens in 3 countries (Trape et al. 2020).

Habitat: grassland with scrub trees around 500 m elevation. it is found within the humid Sudan-Guinea savanna biome or the tropical Wet-Dry savanna (Aw) climate of Köppern (1884). 
EtymologyNamed after Alfred Weidholz, a Viennese private banker, who collected the type on one of several trips to Africa.

Letheobia logonensis was named after the Logone River which is close to the type locality. 
References
  • Gemel, R.; G. Gassner & S. Schweiger 2019. Katalog der Typen der Herpetologischen Sammlung des Naturhistorischen Museums Wien – 2018. Ann. Naturhist. Mus. Wien, B 121: 33–248
  • Trape, Jean-François; Israël Demba Kodindo, Ali Sougoudi Djiddi, Joseph Mad-Toïngué & Clément Hinzoumbé Kerah 2020. The snakes of Chad: results of a field survey and<br />annotated country-wide checklist. Bonn zoological Bulletin 69 (2): 367–393
  • Trape, Jean-François 2019. Scolecophidiens (Squamata : Ophidia) nouveaux d’Afrique centrale. Bull. Soc. Herp. France 169: 27-44
  • 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
  • Weidholz, A. 1941. Bei den Bergheiden in Nordkamerun. Wien, Ostmarken–Verlag, 240 pp.
 
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