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Oxybelis vittatus (GIRARD, 1854)

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Higher TaxaColubridae, Colubrinae, Colubroidea, Caenophidia, Alethinophidia, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes)
Common Names 
SynonymDryophis vittatus GIRARD 1854: 226
Dryinus aeneus – WAGLER 1824: 12
Oxybelis aeneus auratus – BOGERT & OLIVER 1945: 381
Oxybelis aeneus – KEISER 1974: 7 (part)
Oxybelis vittatus — JADIN et al. 2020 
DistributionPanama likely southward into the Chocoan region of Colombia

auratus: Sonora, Sinaloa, Chihuahua

Type locality: Taboga Island, Bay of Panama, Panama  
TypesHolotype: USNM 7315 
DiagnosisDiagnosis: A vine snake with (1) three upper labials (4–5–6) bordering the orbit; (2) black bars or spots present on the anterior body; (3) no stripes on the ventral surface; venter is mottled; (4) eye diameter greater than preocular; (5) second pair of chin shields separated by smaller scales for most of its length; (6) nine upper labials, three located behind the orbit; (7) snout from above narrow, tapered, and flat at rostral (snout type B); (8) supraocular slightly longer than prefrontals; (9) last upper labial longer than primary temporal; (10) lower surface of head uniform in color; and (11) second upper labial does not contact the preocular.
Tail is 0.7 of the SVL; the eye diameter is 1.4 times the length of the preocular scale and 0.93 of the internasal length. Primary temporal contacts both postoculars, the parietal, and two secondary temporals. Upper labials 6–7–8–9 contact the primary temporal. Ventral counts in males 179–197 (n = 15, x = 188.8, SD = 9.00). In females, ventral counts ranged from 184 to 203 (n = 20, x = 192.1, SD = 9.54). Subcaudal counts 154–188 in males (n = 12, x = 169.5, SD = 17.16) and 146–184 (n = 15, x = 168.2, SD = 19.08) in females. It has 17–20 maxillary teeth (Keiser 1974, Jadin et al. 2020).

Variation The rostral is visible from above and followed by nine plate-like scales on the crown: a pair of internasals, a pair of prefrontals, the frontal and two larger supraoculars, and a pair of parietals. The preoculars extend slightly on to the crown between the prefrontals and supraoculars. In profile, the nasal scale is elongate, extending from the edge of the rostral, beyond the posterior edge of the internasal to the anterior border of the fused prefrontal–loreal. The preocular scale is short and less than the length of the eye’s diameter. The eye diameter/ internasal ratio for one specimen is 0.93. Scales bordering the orbit are the preocular, the supraocular, two small postoculars, and upper labials 4–5–6. The primary temporal contacts both postoculars, the parietal, and two secondary temporals; upper labials 6–7–8–9 contact the primary temporal. Upper labials are usually nine but range from 8 to 10. The eighth upper labial is the shortest. The ninth upper labial is the longest. Upper labials 1–2 contact the nasal, 2–3 contact the prefrontal–loreal, and 3–4 contact the preocular. The tallest upper labial can be the sixth or seventh. Lower labials range from 8 to 10 (usually nine). The first four (rarely five) contact the anterior chin shields, a total of six contact both pair of chin shields. The anterior pair of chin shields are shorter (about 50%) than the length of the second pair of chin shields; the second pair are completely separated by smaller scales. Ventral counts in males vary from 179 to 197 (n = 15, x = 188.8, SD = 9.00). Ventral counts in females vary from 184 to 203 (n = 20, x = 192.1, SD = 9.54). Subcaudal counts 154–188 in males (n = 12, x = 169.5, SD = 17.16) and 146–184 in females (n = 15, x = 168.2, SD = 19.08). Maxillary teeth vary from 17 to 20 (Jadin et al. 2020).

Coloration and pattern The crown of the head and upper face are golden brown to tan. The upper labials and ventral surface of the head are a uniform cream. The transition in color is separated by a preocular dark brown stripe extending from the nasal scale, under the eye, and onto the anterior body. This stripe may continue as a series of spots onto the body. On the anterior body, the first two scale rows are the same yellow color as the ventral surface and form a ventrolateral stripe. A series of black marks occurs on some scales scattered on the sides of the body. An indistinct mid-line stripe occurs on the ventral surface (Jadin et al. 2020).

Comparison A vine snake with the combinations of the second pair of chin shields mostly separated by smaller scales, three upper labials bordering the orbit, four upper labials in contact with the primary temporal, and the eye diameter is about equal to the length of the internasal. Specimens from populations in Central America, Panama, and the western region have the second pair of chin shields in contact and two or three upper labials in contact with the primary temporal. Populations from Eastern Mexico have the second pair of chin shields in contact for most of their length and an eye diameter that is about 0.8 the length of the internasal. Those from northern South America also have three upper labials bording the orbit but have supraocualrs longer than the prefrontal (Jadin et al. 2020). 
CommentSynonymy: Oxybelis vittatus has been considered a synonym of O. aeneus but was resurrected by Jadin et al. 2020. However, the step seems a bit preliminary given that Jadin et al. had only 1 sample of O. aeneus with a known locality in their phylogeny. 
EtymologyThe generic name Oxybelis is derived from the Greek words oxy, meaning "pointed" and belas, meaning "dart," in reference to the elongated head. The specific epithet is the Latin word aeneus, meaning "bronze, or copper" in reference to the body color of the holotype (LEMOS-ESPINAL & DIXON 2013). 
  • Bogert, Charles M.; Oliver, James A. 1945. A preliminary analysis of the herpetofauna of Sonora. Bull. Amer. Mus. Nat. Hist. 83 (6): 297-426
  • Girard, C. 1854. Report to Lieut. James M. Gillis, U.S.N. upon the reptiles collected during the U.S. naval astronomical expedition to Chile. Report US naval. astronomical expedition southern hemisphere House of Representatives Document 121, 33rd Congress, 2: 207–220
  • Girard, C. 1855. Abstract of a report to Lieut. James M. Gilliss, U.S.N., upon the reptiles collected during the U.S.N. Astronomical Expedition to Chili. Proc. Acad. Nat. Sci. Philadelphia 7 [1854]: 226-227. - get paper here
  • Jadin RC, Jowers MJ, Orlofske SA, Duellman WE, Blair C, Murphy JC 2021. A new vine snake (Reptilia, Colubridae, Oxybelis) from Peru and redescription of O. acuminatus. Evolutionary Systematics 5(1): 1-12 - get paper here
  • Jadin, R.C., Blair, C., Orlofske, S.A. et al. 2020. Not withering on the evolutionary vine: systematic revision of the Brown Vine Snake (Reptilia: Squamata: Oxybelis) from its northern distribution. Org Divers Evol (2020) - get paper here
  • Keiser, E. D., Jr. 1974. A systematic study of the neotropical vine snake Oxybelis aeneus (Wagler). Bull. Texas Mem. Mus. 22: 1-51.
  • Keiser, E. D., Jr. 1982. Oxybelis aeneus. Cat. Amer. Amphib. Rept. 305: 1-4. - get paper here
  • Wagler, J. 1824. Serpentum Brasiliensium species novae, ou histoire naturelle des espèces nouvelles de serpens. In: Jean de Spix, Animalia nova sive species novae. [NAtrix bahiensis: 27,. Monaco, Typis Franc. Seraph. Hübschmanni, vii + 75 pp.
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