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Liopholidophis grandidieri MOCQUARD, 1904

IUCN Red List - Liopholidophis grandidieri - Vulnerable, VU

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Higher TaxaPseudoxyrhophiidae, Colubroidea, Caenophidia, Alethinophidia, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes)
Common NamesE: Grandidier's Water Snake 
SynonymLiopholidophis grandidieri MOCQUARD 1904: 304
Liopholidophis grandidieri — GLAW & VENCES 1994: 338
Liopholidophis grandidieri — WALLACH et al. 2014: 395 
DistributionMadagascar (RNP , Ambohimitombo Forest, Tsinjoarivo)

Type locality: "l'embouchure du Saint-Augustin, Madagascar." Emended to "embouchure du fleuve Saint Augustin (S.O. Madagascar)," fide MNHN catalogue and Guibé, 1958: 218 [=Saint Augustin bay or mouth of Onilahy River, 25 km south of Toliara, southwestern Toliara Province, southwestern Madagascar].  
TypesHolotype: MNHN-RA 1902.0103, a 912 (SVL) and 1636 (total length) mm male (G. Grandidier) 
DiagnosisDiagnosis. A species of Liopholidophis characterized by more than 200 subcaudals in males, more than 100 subcaudals in females; tail >50% of total length in males (35% in females); venter (except for anterior ventral plates) entirely black, including the anal plate, and not bordered by a marginal white stripe; lateral black stripe on dorsal rows 2-4 anteriorly and 2-3 posteriorly, but dark dorsal stripes otherwise lacking. These features distinguish Liopholidophis grandidieri from all species of Liopholidophis, none of which have such proportionally long tails; all species but dolicocercus have dorsal stripes (light or dark) on scale rows other than 2 + 3. Liopholidophis grandidieri is most easily confused with L. dolicocercus; distinguishing features are given in the account for that species (Cadle 1996: 403).

Description. The following description is based on examinaton of two males (including the holotype) and two females. Measurements, proportions, and scutellation are summarized in Table 1. Largest specimen the male holotype, 1,636 mm total length, 904 mm tail length; largest female (BMNH 674 mm total length, 238 mm tail length. Tail length strongly sexually dimorphic, 54-55% of total length in males, 34-35% in females (Figs.18, 20). Dorsal scales smooth, lacking apical pits, in 17-17-15 rows. Scale row reduction from 17 to 15 rows by fusion of rows 3 + 4 at the level of ventrals 92-112 (N = 3). Ventrals 169-171 in males, 147-161 in females. Anal plate divided. Subcaudals 215-221 in males, 113 in female with complete tail (98+ in female with incomplete tail). Eight upper labials with 4-5 touching eye; 9 lower labials, the first pair in contact behind the mental, 1-4 touching an anterior genial, 4-5 touching a posterior genial. Anterior genials shorter than posterior genials. Two postoculars; temporals 1+2. Body slightly higher than wide; ventrolateral edge of body angulate. Head slightly wider than neck. Pupil round. Eye relatively large, its diameter greater than distance between eye and posterior edge of nostril (x=1.25±0.1; range1.16-1.38; N=3), its diameter 60-65% of the distance from anterior edge of eye to tip of snout. Scattered minute pits and tubercles appear to be present on the anterior head plates (Cadle 1996: 403).

Coloration in Life. “I have not seen Liopholidophis grandidieri in life. However, given the overall exceedingly similar patterns of grandidieri and dolicocercus, I suspect that the two species have similar coloration in life (see species account for
dolicocercus)” (Cadle 1996: 404).
CommentType species: Liopholidophis grandidieri MOCQUARD 1904 is the type species of the genus Liopholidophis MOCQUARD 1904 (WILLIAMS & WALLACH 1989).

All described species of Liopholidophis generally share 17 dorsal scale rows at midbody, and all but L. varius are characterised by an extreme sexual dimorphism in tail length. Males have much longer tails, a higher number of subcaudal scales and usually a longer snout-vent length than females; consequently, their total length is also longer. Cadle (1996a) noted that L. rhadinaea shows remarkable similarities to species of the genus Liophidium in morphology and colouration, making a clear definition and delimitation of these two genera difficult.

Distribution: reports of “Liopholidophis grandidieri” from the Andringitra Massif (Raxworthy and Nussbaum 1996) are apparently based on UMMZ 209474, which has been subsequently reidentified as L. sexlineatus (Gregory E. Schneider, pers. comm., cited in Cadle 2014). 
EtymologyNamed after Alfred Grandidier (1836-1921), French explorer, geographer, and ornithologist who collected in Madagascar (1865). 
  • Beolens, Bo; Michael Watkins, and Michael Grayson 2011. The Eponym Dictionary of Reptiles. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, USA - get paper here
  • Cadle, J. E. 1996. Snakes of the genus Liopholidophis (Colubridae) from Eastern Madagascar: New species, revisionary notes, and an estimate of phylogeny. Bull. Mus. Comp. Zool. Harvard 154 (5): 369-464. - get paper here
  • Cadle, John E. 2009. Sexual Dimorphism and Reproductive Biology in the Malagasy Snake Genus Liopholidophis (Lamprophiidae: Pseudoxyrhophiinae) Proc. Cal. Acad. Sci. 60 (15): 461–502
  • Cadle, John E. 2014. Natural History and Taxonomic Notes on Liopholidophis grandidieri Mocquard, an Upland Rain Forest Snake from Madagascar (Serpentes: Lamprophiidae: Pseudoxyrhophiinae). Herp. Cons. Biol. 9 (2): - get paper here
  • Glaw ,F. & Vences, M. 1994. A Fieldguide to the Amphibians and Reptiles of Madagascar. Vences & Glaw Verlag, Köln (ISBN 3-929449-01-3)
  • Glaw, F.; Nagy, Z.T.; Franzen, M. & Vences, M. 2007. Molecular phylogeny and systematics of the pseudoxyrhophiine snake genus Liopholidophis (Reptilia, Colubridae): evolution of its exceptional sexual dimorphism and descriptions of new taxa. Zoologica Scripta 36: 291–300 - get paper here
  • Mocquard,M.F. 1904. Description de quelques reptiles et d'un batracien nouveaux de la collection du Muséum. Bull. Mus. Natl. Hist. Nat. Paris 10 (26): 301-309 - get paper here
  • Wallach, Van; Kenneth L. Williams , Jeff Boundy 2014. Snakes of the World: A Catalogue of Living and Extinct Species. [type catalogue] Taylor and Francis, CRC Press, 1237 pp.
  • Williams, K.L. & Wallach, V. 1989. Snakes of the World. 1. Synopsis of snakes generic names. Krieger, Malabar, Florida, 234 pp.
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