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Opisthotropis zhaoermii REN, WANG, JIANG, GUO & LI, 2017

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Higher TaxaColubridae (Natricinae), Colubroidea, Caenophidia, Alethinophidia, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes)
Common NamesE: Zhao’s Mountain Stream Snake
Chinese: 赵氏后棱蛇 (“Zhao Shi Hou Leng She”) 
SynonymOpisthotropis zhaoermii REN, WANG, JIANG, GUO & LI 2017 
DistributionChina (W Hunan)

Type locality: Zuolong Gorges, Guzhang, Tujia-Miao of western Hunan, China (28°42'17.88" N, 109°55'26.26" E, 561 m elevation (Figure 6 in REN et al. 2017)  
TypesHolotype: CIB 109999, adult female (field No. HNYS 20170049) (Figures 1A, 1B, 2A, 2B, 3A, 4A), collected by Jin-Long Ren and Si-Bo Su on 24 August 2017. Paratypes: One adult male, CIB109998 (field No. HNYS20170019) (Figures 1C, 1D, 2C, 2D) and one adult female CIB110000 (field No. HNYS20170050), collected by Jin- Long Ren and Si-Bo Su at the same locality as holotype on 22 and 23 August 2017. 
DiagnosisDiagnosis A large-sized species of Opisthotropis diagnosed by the following morphological characters: (1) head barely distinct from neck; (2) body and tail moderately slender; (3) prefrontal single, much broader than long; (4) nostrils directed upwards; (5) eyes small; (6) maxillary teeth subequal; (7) anterior neck dorsal scales smooth, middle body with faint keels, tending to moderately keeled rear body and on tail.
The new species differs from all congeners by a combination of the following characters: (1) body size large (TL 514–586 mm); (2) tail moderate (Tal/TL 0.20–0.21); (3) dorsal scale rows 17:17:17; (4) ventral scales 147–152; (5) subcaudal scales 54– 62; (6) preocular absent; (7) loreal elongated and entering orbit; (8) supralabials mostly 9 (rarely 8), fifth and sixth entering obit; (9) anterior temporals short, ToL/ToD 1.74–2.04; (10) maxillary teeth 28–30; (11) irregular yellow stripes edged with ochre present on dorsal and lateral head; (12) clear black and yellow longitudinal streaks present on dorsal and lateral body, some streaks fused to light patches or stripes anteriorly; (13) venter pale yellow in life, with asymmetric blackish speckles along outer margins.

Comparisons. For pholidosis characteristics, Opisthotropis zhaoermii sp. nov. is most similar to O. cheni and O. latouchii in having the same number of dorsal scale rows (17:17:17) and postoculars (2), and all three species possessing elongated loreals that enter orbits. However, Opisthotropis zhaoermii sp. nov. can be distinguished from both recognized species by a suite of morphological characteristics. The new species differs from O. cheni by having a higher number of maxillary teeth (28– 30 vs. 25–28), a different temporal format (1+2 [rarely 1 only] vs. 1+1, occasionally 1+2), shorter anterior temporals (ToL/ToD 1.74–2.04 vs. 2.36–3.63), a larger distance between the lower margins of the eye and of lip (SoL/HL 0.15 vs. 0.12–0.14), and distinct dorsal color patterns (alternate, longitudinal black and yellow stripes vs. uniform dark olive with light-yellow transverse bands); from O. latouchii by having a larger body size (TL 514– 586 mm vs. 360–419 mm), a higher number of maxillary teeth (28–30 vs. 12–25), lower ventral counts (147–152 vs. 155–159), a different temporal format (1+2 [rarely 1 only] vs. 1+1, occasionally 1+2), and a distinct dorsal color pattern (alternate longitudinal stripes partly fused vs. distinct stripes never fused together) (Figures 3, 4; Table 3).
For other congeners that also have 17:17:17 dorsal scale rows, Opisthotropis zhaoermii sp. nov. differs from O. lateralis and O. maxwelli by having a different loreal position (loreals entering orbits vs. separate from orbits). In addition, the new species differs from O. lateralis by having a lower number of supralabials (8–9 vs. 10–11) and a larger size (TL 514–586 mm vs. 294–461 mm); from O. maxwelli by having a higher number of maxillary teeth (28–30 vs. 22–23) and a higher number of supralabials (8–9 vs. 6–7). Furthermore, Opisthotropis zhaoermii sp. nov. differs from O. andersonii by having a higher number of maxillary teeth (28–30 vs. 22–23), a larger body size (TL 514–586 mm vs. 240–462 mm), and a longer tail (TaL/TL 0.20–0.21 vs. 0.15–0.20); from O. daovantieni Orlov, Darevsky and Murphy, 1998 and O. spenceri Smith, 1918 by having a different internasals location (separated from loreals vs. in contact) and fewer ventrals (147–152 vs. 189–194 in O. daovantieni and 178–185 in O. spenceri).
For congeners that have 17 rows of dorsal scales at the midbody, including O. rugosa (Lidth de Jeude, 1890), O. tamdaoensis Ziegler, David and Vu, 2008, and O. atra Günther, 1872, the new species differs from O. rugosa and O. tamdaoensis by having a different dorsal scale formula (17:17:17 vs. 19:17:15 in O. rugosa, 19:17:17 in O. tamdaoensis), and from O. atra by lower number of ventrals (147–152 vs. 170), lower subcaudal counts (54–62 vs. 65), and higher number of supralabials (8–9 vs. 7).
For the remaining congeners, Opisthotropis zhaoermii sp. nov. differs from O. guangxiensis, O. jacobi, O. kikuzatoi Okada and Takara, 1958, and O. maculosa by having different dorsal scale rows at the midbody (17 vs. 15) and a lower number of ventrals (147–152 vs. 164–174 in O. guangxiensis, 155–179 in O. jacobi, 180–183 in O. kikuzatoi, and 166–188 in O. maculosa); from O. balteata, O. kuatunensis, O. shenzhenensis, O. durandi Teynié, Lottier, David, Nguyen and Vogel, 2013, and O. laui, 2013 by a distinct formula of dorsal scale rows (17:17:17 vs. 19:19:17 in O. balteata, 19:19:19 in O. kuatunensis and O. shenzhenensis, 19:21:17 in O. durandi, and 25:23:23 in O. laui); from O. cucae David, Pham, Nguyen and Ziegler, 2011 by having a distinct position of internasals (truncated anteriorly and separate from loreal vs. curved and in contact with loreal); from O. typica (Mocquard, 1890) and O. alcalai Brown and Leviton, 1961 by having a distinct prefrontal condition (complete vs. divided). 
EtymologyNamed after renowned Chinese herpetologist, Prof. Er-Mi Zhao, who unfortunately passed away on 24 December 2016. Designation of this specific epithet honors his great contribution to herpetological research in China. See Zhao et al. 2017 and Adler 2017 for biographical details. 
  • Adler, K. 2017. Obituary: Ermi Zhao (1930-2016) and the modern development of herpetology in China. Herpetological Review 48 (4): 921-926 - get paper here
  • Ren, Jin-Long; Kai Wang, Ke Jiang, Peng Guo, Jia-Tang Li 2017. A new species of the Southeast Asian genus Opisthotropis (Serpentes: Colubridae: Natricinae) from western Hunan, China. Zoological Research 38(5): 251-263 - get paper here
  • Wang, Kai; Jinlong Ren, Hongman Chen, Zhitong Lyu, Xianguang Guo Ke Jiang, Jinmin Chen, Jiatang Li, Peng Guo, Yingyong Wang, Jing Che 2020. The updated checklists of amphibians and reptiles of China. Biodiversity Science 28 (2): 189-218 - get paper here
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