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Lycodonomorphus rufulus (LICHTENSTEIN, 1823)

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Higher TaxaLamprophiidae, Colubroidea, Caenophidia, Alethinophidia, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes)
Common NamesE: Common Water Snake, Common Brown Water Snake, Olive-brown Water-Snake, South African Rufous Snake 
SynonymColuber rufulus LICHTENSTEIN 1823: 105
Coluber rufulus — FITZINGER 1826: 57
Coronella Leucopilus SMITH 1831: 17
Coronella rufula — SCHLEGEL 1837: 74
Lycodonomorphus rufulus — FITZINGER 1843: 27
Lamprophis rufulus — SMITH 1847: 58
Ablabes rufula — DUMÉRIL, BIBRON & DUMÉRIL 1854: 308
Lamprophis rufulus — JAN 1866
Ablabophis rufulus — BOULENGER 1893: 318
Ablabophis rufulus — FITZSIMONS 1912: 82
Ablabophus — MITCHELL 1950: 53 (in error)
Lycodonomorphus rufulus rufulus — FITZSIMONS 1966
Lycodonomorphus rufulus — AUERBACH 1987: 155
Lycodonomorphus rufulus — BROADLEY 1990: 486
Lycodonomorphus rufulus — BOYCOTT 1992
Lycodonomorphus rufulus — BROADLEY & BLAYLOCK 2013
Lycodonomorphus rufulus — BATES et al. 2014: 368
Lycodonomorphus rufulus — WALLACH et al. 2014: 406
Lycodonomorphus rufulus — KEATES et al. 2022
Lycodonomorphus rufulus — BROADLEY 1990: 486 
DistributionZimbabwe, S Mozambique, Republic of South Africa (Eastern Cape), Swaziland, Lesotho, Natal, Botswana, Malawi

Type locality: Africa australis = South Africa  
TypesHolotype: ZMB 1759 
DiagnosisDiagnosis (genus): Distributed throughout central, east and southern Africa, this largely aquatic genus is diagnosed by the following combination of characters: body cylindrical and moderately elongated; tail moderately to short; head moderate to small, slightly broader than neck and distinct from it; eye moderate, with vertically elliptical, sub-circular to round pupil; midbody scale rows 19–23 (rarely 25), vertebral row not enlarged; dorsal scales smooth, without apical pits or with two pits; ventrals152–196, without lateral keel; subcaudals paired, 37–89; anal entire (exceptionally divided); maxilla with 18–25 teeth, subequal or slightly smaller or larger posteriorly, diastema absent; hemipenis unforked or very shallowly forked, shaft with feeble basal spines arranged in diagonal rows which change to chevrons distally,spines decrease in size distally; sulcus centrifugal, dividing approximately half way up shaft (Bogert 1940; Broadley 1990; Branch 1998). After KELLY et al. 2011 (See their Table 4 for additional data).

Diagnosis: Maxillary teeth 18-25, small, subequal; mandibular teeth longest anteriorly. Head slightly distinct from neck; eye moderate, with round or vertically subelliptic pupil; nostril directed upwards, in a semi-divided or divided nasal; a loreal; preoculars 1, rarely 2; lateral head shields separated by an inconspicuous groove from the upper labials. Body cylindrical; scales smooth, with or without apical pits, in 19-25 rows; ventrals rounded; anal entire, rarely divided. Tail moderate, tapering; subcaudals paired. Hemipenis of male not (bicolor and subtaeniatus) or distally bifurcate (rufulus); sulcus spermaticus forked. Hypapophyses present posteriorly in the vertebral column [from LOVERIDGE 1959]. 
CommentSynonymy: mostly after LOVERIDGE 1959.

Subspecies: Lycodonomorphus rufulus mlanjensis LOVERIDGE 1953 is now treated as valid species.

Type species: Coronella rufula LICHTENSTEIN 1823 is the type species of the genera Lycodonomorphus FITZINGER 1843 and Ablabophis BOULENGER 1893.

Diet: frogs, fish

Habitat. Restricted by their diet to marshy ground or the vicinity of swamps, pools, and rivers.

Distribution: for a map of the genus see Tiutenko et al. 2022: 258 (Fig. 12). 
  • Auerbach, R.D. 1987. The Amphibians and Reptiles of Botswana. Mokwepa Consultants, Botswana, 295 pp.
  • Bates, M.F.; Branch, W.R., Bauer, A.M.; Burger, M., Marais, J.; Alexander, G.J. & de Villliers, M.S. (eds.) 2014. Atlas and Red List of the Reptiles of South Africa, Lesotho, and Swaziland. Suricata 1. South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria, 512 pp.
  • Bauer, A.M. 2000. Comments on the types and type localities of South African reptiles collected by Heinrich Bergius and Ludwig Krebs. African Journal of Herpetology 49:53-60 - get paper here
  • Boulenger, G.A. 1893. Catalogue of the snakes in the British Museum (Nat. Hist.) I. London (Taylor & Francis), 448 pp. - get paper here
  • Boycott, R.C. 1992. An Annotated Checklist of the Amphibians and Reptiles of Swaziland. The Conservation Trust of Swaziland - get paper here
  • Branch, William R. 1993. A Photographic Guide to Snakes and Other Reptiles of Southern Africa. Cape Town: Struik Publishers, 144 S.
  • Broadley, D. & Blaylock 2013. The Snakes of Zimbabwe and Botswana. Chimaira, Frankfurt, 387 pp. [book review in Sauria 35 (2): 59 and Copeia 2014: 388] - get paper here
  • Broadley, D.G. 1959. The herpetology of Southern Rhodesia. Part I--the snakes. Bull. Mus. Comp. Zool. Harvard 120 (1): 1-100 [reprint 1972] - get paper here
  • Broadley, D.G. 1962. On some reptile collections from the North-Western and North-Eastern Districts of Southern Rhodesia 1958-1961, with descriptions of four new lizards. Occ. Pap. Nat. Mus. South. Rhodesia 26 (B): 787-843
  • Broadley, D.G. 1967. A review of the genus Lycodonomorphus Fitzinger (Serpentes: Colubridae) in southeastern Africa, with a key to the genus. Arnoldia 3 (16): 1-9
  • Broadley, Donald G. and F. P. D. Cotterill. 2004. The reptiles of southeast Katanga, an overlooked 'hot spot'. [Congo]. African Journal of Herpetology 53 (1): 35-61. - get paper here
  • Conradie, Werner; Brain Reeves, Sandile Mdoko, Lwandiso Pamla, Oyama Gxabhu 2020. Herpetological survey of the Ongeluksnek (Malekgalonyane) Nature Reserve on the foothills of the Drakensberg, Eastern Cape Province, South Africa. Herpetology Notes 13: 717-730 - get paper here
  • Conradie, Werner; Brian Reeves , Neil Brown, & Jan A. Venter 2016. Herpetofauna of the Oviston, Commando Drift and Tsolwana nature reserves in the arid interior of the Eastern Cape Province, South Africa. Indago 32: 81-98 - get paper here
  • Fitzinger, L. 1826. Neue Classification der Reptilien nach ihren natürlichen Verwandtschaften nebst einer Verwandschafts-Tafel und einem Verzeichnisse der Reptilien-Sammlung des K. K. Zoologischen Museums zu Wien. J. G. Heubner, Wien, 66 pp. - get paper here
  • Fitzinger, L. 1843. Systema Reptilium, fasciculus primus, Amblyglossae. Braumüller et Seidel, Wien: 106 pp. - get paper here
  • Fitzsimons, V. 1966. A check-list, with syntopic keys, to the snakes of southern Africa. Annals Transvaal Museum 25 (3): 35-79 - get paper here
  • Fraser M. 2023. Reptiles and Amphibians of the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve, Western Cape, South Africa. Biodiversity Observations 13: 162–185. 14 March 2023 - get paper here
  • Haagner, G.V. 1992. Life History Notes - Lycodonomorphus rufulus. J. Herp. Assoc. Africa (41): 42-42 - get paper here
  • Hörold, R. 2018. Hausschlangen – versteckte Vielfalt. Reptilia 23 (129): 16-22
  • Jan, G. 1866. Iconographie générale des ophidiens. 17. Livraison. J.B. Bailière et Fils, Paris - get paper here
  • Lichtenstein, M. HINRICH C. 1823. Verzeichniss der Doubletten des zoologischen Museums der Königl. Universität zu Berlin nebst Beschreibung vieler bisher unbekannter Arten von Säugethieren, Vögeln, Amphibien und Fischen. Königl. Preuss. Akad. Wiss./ T. Trautwein, Berlin. x, 118 pages - get paper here
  • Loveridge,A. 1958. Revision of five african snake genera. Bull. Mus. Comp. Zool. Harvard 119: 1-198 (141) - get paper here
  • Marais, J. 2004. A Complete Guide to the Snakes of Southern Africa, 2nd ed. Struik Publishers, 312 pp.
  • Mitchell, B.L. 1950. Some reptiles and amphibians of Nyasaland. The Nyasaland Journal 3 (2): 46-57 - get paper here
  • Phelps, Tony 2002. A study of the Black Mamba (Dendroaspis polylepis) in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, with particular reference to long-term-refugia. Herpetological Bulletin (80): 7-19 - get paper here
  • Reeves, B., Brooke, C. F., Venter, J. A., & Conradie, W. 2022. The Reptiles and Amphibians of the Mpofu-Fort Fordyce Nature Reserve Complex in the Winterberg Mountains, Eastern Cape Province, South Africa. African Journal of Wildlife Research, 52(1) - get paper here
  • SCHMIDT, W. 2011. Lycodonomorphus rufulus (Lichtenstein, 1823) Diet. African Herp News (54): 15-17 - get paper here
  • Smith, A. 1831. Contributions to the natural history of South Africa, No. 1. South African Quart. J. (1) 2 (5) 5: 9-24.
  • Smith, A. 1847. Illustrations of the zoology of South Africa, Reptilia. Smith, Elder, and Co., London - get paper here
  • Smith, A. 1849. Illustrations of the Zoology of South Africa. 3 (Reptiles). Smith, Elder, and Co., London [facsimile published by Winchester Press, Johannesburg, 1977] - get paper here
  • Tiutenko, A., Koch, C., Pabijan, M., & Zinenko, O. 2022. Generic affinities of African house snakes revised: a new genus for Boodon erlangeri (Serpentes: Elapoidea: Lamprophiidae: Lamprophiinae). SALAMANDRA, 58(4), 235-262 - get paper here
  • Venter, Jan A.; Werner Conradie 2015. A checklist of the reptiles and amphibians found in protected areas along the South African Wild Coast, with notes on conservation implications. Koedoe 57 (1): 1-25. doi: 10.4102/koedoe.v57i1.1247 - 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.
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