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Lycodon deccanensis GANESH, DEUTI, PUNITH, ACHYUTHAN, MALLIK, ADHIKARI & VOGEL, 2020

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Higher TaxaColubridae, Colubrinae, Colubroidea, Caenophidia, Alethinophidia, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes)
Subspecies 
Common Names 
SynonymLycodon deccanensis GANESH, DEUTI, PUNITH, ACHYUTHAN, MALLIK, ADHIKARI & VOGEL 2020
Lycodon travancoricus – SCLATER 1891 (part.)
Lycodon sp. – GANESH et al. 2018
Lycodon sp. – GANESH et al. 2020 
DistributionIndia (Karnataka)

Type locality: Devarayana Durga (13.371°N, 77.210°E; 1,060 m asl) in Tumkur district, Karnataka, India.  
Reproduction 
TypesHolotype: BNHS 3596, coll. K.G. Punith and Ashok
Kumar Mallik in June 2012.
Paratype: ZSI 13271 from South Arcot district, Tamil Nadu, India; Mus. Coll. Jaffa (also see Sclater 1891). 
DiagnosisDiagnosis: A species of Lycodon inhabiting the Deccan plateau of India, characterized by: small size (total length < 470 mm); scales smooth, in 16–17:17:15 rows, without apical pits; usually 9 supralabials (10, in one case); ventrals 181–201 (n = 9) angulate laterally; anal plate undivided; subcaudals 68–78 (84; n = 8), paired; loreal in contact with internasal, separate from eye; nasal not in contact with prefrontal; anterior pair of genials subequal to posterior pair; supraocular usually contacting prefrontal; preocular usually not contacting frontal (preocular separating frontal, prefrontal, and supraocular in one case); dorsum brown in adults and black in juveniles, with white cross bars. Due to the slender body and smaller head, the new species superficially resembles the genus Dryocalamus, its higher midbody scale rows (17) and lower ventral counts (181–201; avg. 190; n = 9) [vs. rows 13–15; ventrals 200+ in Dryocalamus, see Smith 1943] clearly indicate this species belongs to the genus Lycodon, even if Dryocalamus is regarded as a valid genus (Ganesh et al. 2020).

Coloration in life: Dorsum deep brown with 48 white cross bars on body; cross bars present vertebrally, not extending to full circumference of body along the flanks, wider anteriorly and narrower posteriorly, much thinner and well-spaced anteriorly, thicker and closeset posteriorly; lateral sides of body with white squared spots either between two or subsequent to vertebral cross bars, giving it an overall white-mottled appearance; a distinctive white wash covering the whole posterior part of head from postocular, temporal regions encapsulating until parietal and occipital regions; almost all scales on head presenting a distinctive white outline, except the frontal and prefrontal parts that may have white flecks inside (Ganesh et al. 2020).

Variation: In agreement with the holotype in most respects, and showing the following intraspecific variation (paratype): ventrals 181, subcaudals 72 pairs; 52 white cross bars on body; preocular separating frontal, prefrontal, and supraocular; measurements in mm: snout-vent length: 168; tail length: 42.50; head length: 7.18; head width: 5.19; eye-snout distance: 2.79; eye diameter: 1.55; internarial distance: 2.04; interocular distance: 3.10; inferior eye margin to upper lip margin distance: 0.74; the damaged specimen SACON/VR-93 has parts of head missing, 188 ventrals, 64 paired subcaudals, 49 white cross bars on body and measurements (mm): snout-vent length: 280; tail length: 60; body width: 6.35. The live individuals were very similar to the holotype in morphology, and show the following variation: infralabials 10 or 11 on either side; body scales in 17:17:15 rows, all smooth and glossy; ventrals 181–201, notched laterally; anal plate undivided; subcaudals 68– 78 (84 outlier value) pairs. Adults (total length 360–450 mm) much more brownish; whereas juveniles (< 200 mm) dark coffee-brown to pitch black ground color, on which the white cross bars appear as usual (Ganesh et al. 2020).

Comparisons: Here, Lycodon deccanensis sp. nov. is compared with all the known South Asian congeners (with only the opposing suite of character states listed). Lycodon aulicus (Linnaeus, 1758): anal plate undivided; supraocular not contacting prefrontal; preocular usually not contacting frontal. Lycodon striatus (Shaw, 1802): anal plate undivided; head not short and rounded; neck not indistinct; supralabials usually 9; higher ventral count (154–166 vs. 181–201 in new species); absence of yellow vertebral spots. Lycodon anamallensis Günther, 1864: anal plate undivided; white outlines in scales on top of posterior head, across parietals; dorsal cross bars white, never quite yellow; supralabials not distinctly creamy spotted with brown. Lycodon travancoricus (Beddome, 1870): subcaudals often undivided; loreal in contact with internasal; nasal not in contact with prefrontal; anterior genials subequal to posterior pair; supraocular usually contacting prefrontal; preocular usually not contacting frontal; Lycodon flavomaculatus Wall, 1908: anal plate undivided; higher ventral count (165–183 vs. 181–201 in new species); presence of distinct yellow vertebral spots. Lycodon flavicollis Mukherjee and Bhupathy, 2007: anal plate undivided; no distinct yellow collar mark; presence of white cross bars on dorsum, even in adults (Ganesh et al. 2020). 
Comment 
EtymologyToponym, named after its region of occurrence – the Deccan plateau, a raised table land of late Cretaceous origin, situated between the Eastern Ghats and the Western Ghats of the Indian peninsula. 
References
  • Ganesh SR, Deuti K, Punith KG, Achyuthan NS, Mallik AK, Adhikari O, Vogel G. 2020. A new species of Lycodon (Serpentes: Colubridae) from the Deccan Plateau of India, with notes on the range of Lycodon travancoricus (Beddome, 1870) and a revised key to peninsular Indian forms. Amphibian & Reptile Conservation 14 (3): 74–83 (e256)
  • Ganesh, S.R.; A. Kalaimani, P. Karthik, N. Baskaran, R. Nagarajan & S.R.Chandramouli 2018. Herpetofauna of Southern Eastern Ghats, India – II From Western Ghats to Coromandel Coast. Asian Journal of Conservation Biology, July 2018. Vol. 7 No. 1, pp. 28-45
  • Ganesh, S.R.; S. Bhupathy, P. Karthik, G. Babu Rao & S. Babu 2020. Catalogue of herpetological specimens from peninsular India at the Sálim Ali Centre for Ornithology & Natural History (SACON), India. JoTT 12 (9): 16123–16135 - get paper here
  • Sclater, W. L. 1891. List of snakes in the Indian Museum. Trustees of the Indian Museum, Calcutta, 79 pp. - get paper here
 
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