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Melanophidium wynaudense (BEDDOME, 1863)

IUCN Red List - Melanophidium wynaudense - Least Concern, LC

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Higher TaxaUropeltidae, Henophidia, Alethinophidia, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes)
Common NamesE: Wayanad shieldtail, Indian Black Earth Snake 
SynonymPlectrurus wynaudensis BEDDOME 1863
Plectrurus wynandensis — BEDDOME 1863 (ex errore, hence not available)
Plectrurus wynandensis — BEDDOME 1864: 180
Melanophidium wynandense — GÜNTHER 1864: 194
Melanophidium wynaudense — BEDDOME 1886: 30
Melanophidium wynandense — BOULENGER 1893: 163
Melanophidium wynadense — WALL 1919: plate I
Melanophidium wynaudense — SMITH 1943: 67
Melanophidium wyandense [sic] — WILLIAMS 1959
Melanophidium wynaudense — GANS 1966: 10
Melanophidium wynaudense — MCDIARMID, CAMPBELL & TOURÉ 1999: 130
Melanophidium wynaudensis — DAS 2003
Melanophidium wynaudense — WALLACH et al. 2014: 437 
DistributionS India (W Ghats, Tamil Nadu)

Type locality: „Cherambady in the Wynaud", Tamil Nadu, S India; lectotype locality: Manantoddy (Mananthavady), Wayanad  
TypesLectotype: BMNH (= BMNH 1946.1.15.46), designated by Gower et al. 2016.
Syntypes: BMNH (= 1946.1.15.74), 4.29.84 (= 1946.1.15.46); MNHN 1895.108—1895.109. 
DiagnosisDiagnosis (genus): Melanophidium can be distinguished from all other amniotes by the characters given for the family, and from other uropeltids by a mental groove, dorsal scales in 15 rows at mid-body, eye in ocular shield, and no temporal. At least three species (M. bilineatum, M. punctatum, and M. wynaudense) have a unique micro-ornamentation pattern of dorsal scales at midbody, having large (> 18.5 mm), rounded polygonal Oberhäutchen cells with level borders and no denticulations (Gower 2003). These characters separate them from 16 other uropeltid species from all genera except Pseudoplectrurus, and are thus likely also diagnostic characters. In recent studies of skull morphology, the following characters are shared by M. punctatum and M. wynaudense, but not by any sampled representatives of other uropeltid genera (i.e. they are likely, but not definitely, diagnostic of Melanophidium; though Pseudoplectrurus and Teretrurus were not sampled): supraoccipital separate, prootic and opisthotic-exoccipital separate, basisphenoid-basioccipital separate, facial nerve branches into open recess behind the mandibular branch foramen which connects with the posterior opening of the Vidian canal, and posteroventral process of dentary distinct (Rieppel & Zaher 2002; Olori & Bell 2012, Pyron et al. 2016). 
CommentDescription after BEDDOME (1864: 180): “Scales round the body 15, round the neck 16 or 17; rostral scarcely produced back between the nasals; no supraorbital; muzzle more obtuse than in P. Perrotteti; eye small; subcaudals 11 pairs; anal large, bifid; tail compressed; scales smooth, terminal spinose, tail ending in a single horny point. Colour bluish black, with broad white blotches on the belly, which become larger and more numerous towards the tail; tail uniform bluish black.”

Type species: Plectrurus wynaudensis BEDDOME 1863 is the type species of the genus Melanophidium GÜNTHER 1864.

Distriution: The type locality Cherambadi is in Tamil Nadu, not Kerala as stated by Wallach et al. (2014). 
EtymologyNamed after the type locality. 
  • Beddome, R.H. 1864. Description of new species of the family Uropeltidae from Southern India, with notes on other little-known species. Ann. Mag. Nat. Hist. (3) 13: 177-180 - get paper here
  • Beddome, R.H. 1886. An account of the earth snakes of the Peninsula of India and Ceylon. Ann. Mag. Nat. Hist. (5) 17: 3-33. - get paper here
  • Beddome, RICHARD HENRY 1863. Further notes upon the snakes of the Madras Presidency; with descriptions of new species. Madras Quart. J. Med. Sci., 6: 41-48 [Reprint: J. Soc. Bibliogr. Nat. Sci., London, 1 (10): 306-314, 1940]
  • Beddome, RICHARD HENRY 1863. Descriptions of new species of the family Uropeltidae from Southern India, with notes on other little-known species. Proc. Zool. Soc. London 1863: 225-229. - 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
  • Das, Indraneil 2003. Growth of Knowledge on the Reptiles of India, with an Introduction to Systematics, Taxonomy and Nomenclature. J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 100 (2-3): 446-502 - get paper here
  • Ganesh, S. R., P. Gowri Shankar and R. Sreekar. 2012. First record of Wayanad shieldtail Melanophidium wynaudense (Beddome, 1863) from the Central Western Ghats, India. Hamadryad 36 (1): 53-56 - get paper here
  • Gans, C. 1966. Liste der rezenten Amphibien und Reptilien. Uropeltidae. Das Tierreich Lfg. 84, 29 pp.
  • GOWER, DAVID J.; VARAD GIRI, ASHOK CAPTAIN, MARK WILKINSON 2016. A reassessment of Melanophidium Günther, 1864 (Squamata: Serpentes: Uropeltidae) from the Western Ghats of peninsular India, with the description of a new species. Zootaxa 4085 (4): 481–503 - get paper here
  • Günther, A. 1864. The Reptiles of British India. London (Taylor & Francis), xxvii + 452 pp. - get paper here
  • McDiarmid, R.W.; Campbell, J.A. & Touré,T.A. 1999. Snake species of the world. Vol. 1. [type catalogue] Herpetologists’ League, 511 pp.
  • Palot, M.J. 2015. A checklist of reptiles of Kerala, India. Journal of Threatened Taxa 7(13): 8010–8022 - get paper here
  • Pyron R. A., Ganesh S. R., Sayyed A., Sharma V., Wallach V. & Somaweera R. 2016. A catalogue and systematic overview of the shield-tailed snakes (Serpentes: Uropeltidae). [type catalogue] Zoosystema 38 (4): 453-506 - get paper here
  • Sharma, R. C. 2004. Handbook Indian Snakes. AKHIL BOOKS, New Delhi, 292 pp.
  • 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.
  • Wall,F. 1919. Notes on a collection of Snakes made in the Nilgiri Hills and the adjacent Wynaad. J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 26: 552-584 - 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, Ernest E. 1959. The occipito-vertebral joint in the burrowing snakes of the family Uropeltidae. Breviora (106): 1-10 - get paper here
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