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Liopeltis pallidonuchalis POYARKOV, NGUYEN & VOGEL, 2019

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Higher TaxaColubridae, Colubrinae, Colubroidea, Caenophidia, Alethinophidia, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes)
Subspecies 
Common NamesE: Pale-necked Ringneck
Vietnamese: Rắn đai gáy nhạt màu
Russian: Blednyi Gladkiy Kamyshovyi Uzh
G: Blasse Halsbandnatter 
SynonymLiopeltis pallidonuchalis POYARKOV, NGUYEN & VOGEL 2019
Liopeltis frenatus – SMITH 1943: 183 (partim)
Liopeltis frenatus – ZIEGLER et al. 2007: 10–11, Figure 11 (?)
Liopeltis frenatus – ZIEGLER & HOANG 2009: 115 
DistributionC Vietnam (Annamite [Truong Son] Mountains)

Type locality: forest trail in the evergreen montane tropical forest in Kon Chu Rang N.R. (14.5034° N, 108.5383° E, at elevation of 1010 m asl), Gia Lai Province, central Vietnam (Figures 2–4 in Poyarkov et al. 2019)  
Reproduction 
TypesHolotype: ZMMU R-15682, adult male (hemipenis everted), collected by Nikolay A. Poyarkov on 29 May 2016.
Paratypes: DTU 307 (adult female) roadkill specimen from the road in the evergreen montane tropical forest in Bach Ma N.P. (16.2035° N, 107.8540° E, at an elevation of 950 m asl), Thua Thien–Hue Province, central Vietnam (Figure 5), collected by The Anh Nguyen and Phuong Nhu Hoang on 18 June 2018; ZFMK 83105 (adult female) from Bach Ma N.P. (no elevation data available), Thua Thien–Hue Province, central Vietnam, col- lected by Quang Xuan Hoang and students before August 1998.
 
DiagnosisDiagnosis. The new species can be separated from its congeners by the following combination of morphological characters: (1) one single (or missing) loreal; (2) one single nasal shield; (3) dorsal scales in 15-15-15 rows, all smooth; (4) 1 preocular, 2 postoculars and 1 + 2 temporals; (5) 7 supralabials, of which 3d and 4th in contact with the eye; (6) 8 infralabials; (7) nasal contacting internasal; (8) prefrontal touching or separated from supralabials; (9) ventral scales 126–138; (10) subcaudal scales 67–73, paired; (11) relative tail length about 0.274–0.301; (12) an uniform bronze body coloura- tion; (13) a thin postocular stripe extending from eye to end of the neck becoming indistinct posteriorly. The new species can be distinguished from all other congeners by its low subcaudal scales count, and by its characteristic colouration. Poyarkov et al. 2019 provide more detailed comparisons with other species of the genus Liopeltis appear below.

Comparisons. Comparative morphological data for the new species and currently recognised members of the genera Liopeltis and Gongylosoma is presented in Table 1. We decided to include the new species into the genus Liopeltis rather than Gongylosoma for the following reasons: the number of dorsal scales, and the prefrontal touching the upper labials, both characters are unknown in the genus Gongylosoma. According to Leviton (1964) the head shape of the new species resembles the genus Gongylosoma. However, Leviton did only compare the two species G. baliodeirum (Boie, 1827) and L. tricolor. Several other Liopeltis species do rather have the ‘short, deep and convex’ head profile than the ‘long shallowed and flattened’ shape which Leviton defined for the genus Liopeltis. Presently, based entirely on morphological reasons we are not convinced about the necessity of separation of these two genera.
Morphologically Liopeltis pallidonuchalis sp. nov. is most closely resembling L. calamaria and L. frenata. The main characters which separate it from L. calamaria is the colouration; the fact that the nasals are fused with the internasals in L. calamaria and the prefrontal is widely separated from the prefrontal by the postnasal. Beside that there is a huge distribution gap between the Indian, Sri Lankan and Nepalese localities of L. calamaria and the type locality of Liopeltis pallidonuchalis sp. nov., which makes a conspecifity very unlikely.
The main differences of the new species from L. frenata are the lower number of ventrals, subcaudals and the colouration as well. For photos of the type specimen of Cyclophis frenatus Günther, 1858 (BMNH 1946.1.1.72) see Figure 7. Liopeltis pallidonucha- lis sp. nov., differs from L. frenata by a significantly lower number of ventrals (126–138 vs. 140–172). The difference in the number of subcaudals seems to be slim, but in L. frenata has a large sexual dimorphism in the number of subcaudals. So the lower part of the range of the subcaudals in L. frenata corresponds to female specimens and the lowest number is given by Boulenger (1890) as 87–96 in both sexes, by Smith (1943) and Das (2010) as 70–105 in both sexes, by Deuve (1970) as 87–103 in both sexes, by Orlov et al. (2003) as 84 in the male, by Yang and Rao (2008) as 93 in the female, by Pham et al. (2014) as 100 in the male, 94 in the female. We counted 99 in a single male of the holotype of L. frenata, which is much higher than the 67–69 in the males and 71–73 in the females of Liopeltis pallidonuchalis sp. nov. In Liopeltis pallidonuchalis sp. nov. the postocular stripe is thin whereas it is very thick in L. frenata (see Figures 7–8). Besides the postocular stripe, in L. frenata 3–4 narrower lateral dark stripes are present, which run from the neck region posteriorly along the anterior half of the body (Figures 7 and 8); such dark markings are absent in the new species. Finally, molecular data suggest that there is a deep divergence between cyt b gene sequences of L. frenata sensu stricto from northern Myanmar and Liopeltis pallidonuchalis sp. nov. (p = 15.3–15.6%), which is exceeding the species-level of divergence in colubrid snakes.
Liopeltis pallidonuchalis sp. nov. differs from L. philippina by having regularly one loreal (vs. missing); 7 supralabials, 3rd and 4th in contact with the eye (vs. 8 supralabials, fourth and fifth in contact with the eye); slight lower number of ventral scales (126–138vs. 139–150), lower number of subcaudals (67–73 vs. 110–119), dorsal scales in 15-15-15 rows (vs. 15-15-13 rows), postocular stripe is thin (vs. four longitudinal brown stripes begin on neck and continue along body). Liopeltis pallidonuchalis sp. nov. differs from L. rappi by having one nasal (vs. two nasals), temporals 1 + 2 (vs. 1 + 1), higher number of supralabials (7 vs. 6), lower number of ventral scales (126–138 vs. 176–195), a thin postocular stripe (vs. none); Liopeltis pallidonuchalis sp. nov. differs from L. stoliczkae by having 7 supralabials, 3rd and 4th in contact with the eye (vs. 8 supralabials, fourth and fifth in contact with the eye); lower number of ventral scales (126–138 vs. 148–154); lower number of subcaudals (67–73 vs. 116–134); dorsal scales in 15-15-15 rows (vs. 15- 15-13 rows); Liopeltis pallidonuchalis sp. nov. differs from L. tricolor by having regularly one loreal (vs. missing); slight lower number of ventral scales (126–138 vs. 140–187), lower number of subcaudals (67–73 vs. 103–137), dorsal scales in 15-15-15 rows (vs. 15- 15-13 rows), postocular stripe is thin (vs. very thick).
Liopeltis pallidonuchalis sp. nov. differs from members of the genus Gongylosoma as follows: G. baliodeirum by having one nasal (vs. two), dorsal scales in 15-15-15 rows (vs. 13-13-13 rows), 7 supralabials, third and fourth in contact with the eye (vs. 6–7 supra- labials, fourth and fifth in contact with the eye), a thin postocularstripe (vs. none); G. longicaudum (Peters, 1871) by having dorsal scales in 15-15-15 rows (vs. 13-13-13), lower number of subcaudals (67–73 vs. 91–120), postocular streak thin and dark (vs. light), no stripes at least anteriorly (vs. stripes present); G. mukutense Grismer, Das & Leong, 2003 by having one nasal (vs. two nasals), dorsal scales in 15-15-15 rows (vs. 13- 13-13 rows), temporals 1 + 2 (vs. 1 + 1), lower number of subcaudals (67–73 vs. 99), postocular streak thin and dark (vs. light), no stripes at least anteriorly (vs. stripes present); G. nicobariense (Stoliczka, 1870) one nasal (vs. two nasals), dorsal scales in 15-15-15 rows (vs. 17–17-17 rows), regularly one loreal (vs. missing), temporals 1 + 2 (vs. 2 + 2), lower number of ventrals (126–138 vs. 192), lower number of subcaudals (67–73 vs. 84), postocular streak thin and dark (vs. light); G. scriptum (Theobald, 1868) by having one nasal (vs. two), 7 supralabials third and fourth in contact with the eye (vs. 8 supralabials, 3rd and 5th in contact with the eye), lower number of subcaudals (67–73 vs. 87–98), dorsal scales in 15-15-15 rows (vs. 13-13-13 rows), postocular streak thin (vs. none). 
CommentKnown from 4 specimens.

Habitat: montane evergreen tropical forest 
EtymologyThe specific name ‘pallidonuchalis’ is a Latinised adjective in the nominative singular (feminine gender), derived from Latin ‘pallidus’ for ‘pale’ and Medieval Latin ‘nucha’, derived from Arabic ‘nuka’ for ‘nape’, ‘dorsal surface of neck’, referring to the pale postocular marking of the new species disappearing in nuchal area. 
References
  • Kwet, A. 2020. Liste der im Jahr 2019 neubeschriebenen Reptilien. Elaphe 2020 (3): 44-67
  • Poyarkov Jr, Nikolay A.; Tan Van Nguyen & Gernot Vogel 2019. A new species of the genus Liopeltis Fitzinger, 1843 from Vietnam (Squamata: Colubridae). Journal of Natural History, 53:27-28, 1647-1672 - get paper here
  • Smith, M.A. 1943. The Fauna of British India, Ceylon and Burma, Including the Whole of the Indo-Chinese Sub-Region. Reptilia and Amphibia. 3 (Serpentes). Taylor and Francis, London. 583 pp.
  • Ziegler T, Hoang QX. 2009. Liopeltis frenatus. Herpetological Review 40 (1):115 - get paper here
  • ZIEGLER, THOMAS; RALF HENDRIX, VU NGOC THANH, MARTINA VOGT, BERNHARD FORSTER & DANG NGOC KIEN 2007. The diversity of a snake community in a karst forest ecosystem in the central Truong Son, Vietnam, with an identification key. Zootaxa 1493: 1-40 - get paper here
 
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