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Levitonius mirus WEINELL, PALUH, SILER & BROWN, 2020

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Higher TaxaCyclocoridae, Colubroidea, Caenophidia, Alethinophidia, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes)
Common NamesE: Waray Dwarf Burrowing Snake 
SynonymLevitonius mirus WEINELL, PALUH, SILER & BROWN 2020 
DistributionPhilippines (Eastern Samar, Leyte)

Type locality: Philippines, Samar Island, Eastern Samar Province, Taft, Barangay San Rafael (11.8298 ºN, 125.2768 ºE), 187 m elevation.  
TypesHolotype: PNM 9872 (formerly KU 337269; field number RMB 19087), adult male, collected by Kerry Cobb and Rafe M. Brown, 1900–2100 hrs, 17 June 2014.
Paratypes (n=2): KU 305488 (field number CDS 1846), adult male, collected by Cameron D. Siler and Charles Linkem, 16 June 2006; KU 311281 (field number CDS 3403), adult female, collected by Cameron D. Siler, approximately 1200 hrs, 1 January 2007. 
DiagnosisDiagnosis (genus). Members of the genus Levitonius can be distinguished by the possession of five supralabial scales, 15 longitudinal rows of dorsal scales throughout the length of the body, and subcaudal scales unpaired.

Diagnosis: Levitonius mirus can be distinguished from all other SE Asian snake species by having the following combination of characters: small size (largest total length known 172.1 mm); five supralabial scales; 15 longitudinal rows of dorsal scales throughout length of body; subcaudal scales unpaired; pair of internasal scales present; anterior temporal scale present; preocular scale absent; loreal scale present, not in contact with eye; mental scale broadly in contact with anterior chin shields; scales smooth, iridescent; dorsum ground color may be light brown to nearly black; one pale transverse band present on posterior of head, crosses parietals, temporals, and posterior supralabials; pale midventral line present or absent (Weinell et al. 2020).

Comparisons: This new species is most likely to be confused with juveniles of the genera Cyclocorus, Hologerrhum, Myersophis, and Oxyrhabdium, as well as adults and juveniles of Calamaria and Pseudorabdion. Levitonius mirus can be distinguished from all species of Calamaria, Myersophis, Oxyrhabdium, and Pseudorabdion by having unpaired subcaudals (vs. paired). Additionally, from species of Oxyrhabdium, the new species can be distinguished by its much smaller adult body size, by having a pale transverse bar on the head that is centered over the parietals (vs. on the nuchals or absent), five supralabials (vs. 6–8), 107–124 ventrals (vs. >150), and by having 17–31 subcaudals (vs. 33–70); from members of Calamaria and Pseudorabdion by having parietals separated from the supralabials by a large anterior temporal scale (vs. parietals in contact with the supralabials); from all species of Calamaria by having 15 longitudinal rows of dorsal scales (vs. 13); from all species of Cyclocorus and Hologerrhum by its much smaller adult body size, and by having a narrow snout (vs. relatively broad), five supralabials (vs. seven or eight), and by having 15 longitudinal rows of dorsal scales (vs. 17). (Weinell et al. 2020).

Color in life: Unknown; Levitonius mirus has not been photographed in life (Weinell et al. 2020). 
CommentDiet: unknown, but skull morphology suggests that they eat slender-bodied prey, such as earthworms. (Weinell et al. 2020).

Type species: Levitonius mirus is the type species of the genus Levitonius WEINELL, PALUH, SILER & BROWN 2020. 
EtymologyThe species epithet mirus is a Latin adjective, meaning unexpected finding or surprise—a fitting specific epithet for the miniaturized, phylogenetically unique evolutionary lineage represented by the new genus and species described here. The suggested common name, the Waray Dwarf Burrowing Snake, honors the Waray-waray people of the eastern Visayas, in particular the Samareños who live in vicinity of the type locality, among the forested mountains of Samar Island, and the Leyteños who inhabit the new genus’ only other documented locality in the montane forests of Leyte Island. 
  • Weinell, J. L., & Brown, R. M. 2017. Discovery of an old, archipelago-wide, endemic radiation of Philippine snakes. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 119: 144–150 [2018] - get paper here
  • Weinell, Jeffrey L.; Daniel J. Paluh, Cameron D. Siler, Rafe M. Brown 2020. A New, Miniaturized Genus and Species of Snake (Cyclocoridae) from the Philippines. Copeia 108 (4): 907-923 - get paper here
  • Weinell, Jeffrey L.; Errol Hooper, Alan E. Leviton, Rafe M. Brown 2019. Illustrated Key to the Snakes of the Philippines. Proc. Cal. Acad. Sci. (4) 66 (1): 1-49 - get paper here
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