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Platyceps rhodorachis (JAN, 1863)

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Higher TaxaColubridae, Colubrinae, Colubroidea, Caenophidia, Alethinophidia, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes)
SubspeciesPlatyceps rhodorachis subniger (BOETTGER 1893)
Platyceps rhodorachis rhodorachis (JAN in FILIPPI 1863) 
Common NamesE: Common Cliff Racer, Wadi Racer, Desert racer, Braid Snake, Jan’s Cliff Racer
G: Jans Pfeilnatter 
SynonymEtairejus rhodorachis JAN 1857: 46 (nomen nudum)
Zamenis rhodorachis JAN 1863: 65
Zamenis rhodorachis — JAN in FILIPPI 1865: 356
Coluber florulentus — RÜPPELL 1845: 308 [part.]
Zamenis ventromaculatus GÜNTHER 1858 (nom. nud. ?)
Platyceps semifasciatus BLYTH 1860: 114 (fide BOULENGER 1890)
Compsosoma semifasciata — STOLICZKA 1870: 188
Gonyosoma dorsale ANDERSON 1872: 395 (fide WALLACH et al. 2014)
Zamenis ventrimaculatus [sic]— GÜNTHER in BURTON 1878: 398
? Zamenis ventrimaculatus — BOULENGER 1887: 408
Zamenis rhodorhachis [sic] — BOULENGER 1893: 381ff [part.]
Zamenis rhodorhachis — BOULENGER 1893: 398
Zamenis rhodorhachis var. ladacensis — BOETTGER 1898: 44
Zamenis rhodorhachis [sic] — STEINDACHNER 1900: 334
Zamenis rhodorhachis — WALL 1908
Zamenis rhodorhachis var. tessellata WERNER 1910: 277 (nomen dubium)
Zamenis rhodorhachis [sic] — BARBOUR 1914: 88
Zamenis ventrimaculatus — NIKOLSKY 1916
Zamenis rhodorhachis ladacensis — SCORTECCI 1929: 299
Coluber rhodorachis — PARKER 1931
Coluber rhodorachis — FLOWER 1933: 809
Coluber rhodorachis — SMITH 1943
Coluber rhodorhachis [sic] — SCHMIDT & MARX 1956: 29
Coluber r. rhodorachis — KRAMER & SCHNURRENBERGER 1963: 501
Coluber rhodorachis — MINTON 1966
Coluber r. rhodorhachis [sic] — MARX 1968: 31
Coluber r. ladacensis — MERTENS 1969: 60 [part.]
Coluber r. rhodorhachis [sic] — WERNER 1971: 244
Coluber rhodorhachus rhodorhachus [sic] — SOCHUREK 1979
Coluber rhodorhachis [sic] — BRANCH 1980: 343
Coluber rhodorachis ssp — PERRY 1985
Coluber rhodorhachis rhodorhachis [sic] — GASPERETTI 1988: 219
Coluber rhodorachis — LEVITON et al. 1992: 92 [part.]
Coluber r. rhodorachis — EL-ORAN et al. 1994: 361
Coluber rhodorachis — FRYNTA et al. 1997
Haemorrhois rhodorhachis — WELCH
Eremiophis rhodorhachis (?)
Coluber rhodorachis — SCHLEICH, KÄSTLE & KABISCH 1996: 484
Coluber rhodorachis kashmirensis KHAN & KHAN 2000: 49
Platyceps rhodorachis — UTIGER et al. 2002
Coluber rhodorachis — SZCZERBAK 2003
Platyceps rhodorachis — NAGY et al. 2004
Platyceps rhodorachus — EGAN 2007 (in error)
Platyceps tessellata — PERRY 2012
Platyceps cf. rhodorachis — SINDACO et al. 2014
Platyceps rhodorachis — WALLACH et al. 2014: 566
Platyceps rhodorachis rhodorachis —  SCHÄTTI et al. 2014: 311
Platyceps rhodorhachis — DAVLETBAKOV et al. 2016
Platyceps rhodorhachis kashmirensis — KHAN 2017
Platyceps tessellata — JESTRZEMSKI 2018
Platyceps rhodorhachis kashmirensis — MALIK et al. 2021

Platyceps rhodorachis subniger (BOETTGER 1893)
Zamenis ladacensis var. subnigra BOETTGER 1893: 118
Coluber rhodorachis subniger — LANZA 1963
Coluber rhodorachis subnigra — GANS et al. 1965: 61
Coluber rhodorachis subniger — LANZA 1988
Platyceps subnigra — PERRY 2012
Platyceps rhodorachis subniger — SCHÄTTI et al. 2014 (status unclear) 
DistributionEurope: Turkey,
Africa: Algeria, Egypt, Sudan ?, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, Chad,
Middle East: Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia (incl. Farasan Islands), United Arab Emirates, Oman, Iraq, Iran (Kavir desert), Yemen,
Asia: Afghanistan, W Pakistan, NW India (Jammu and Kashmir), S Turkmenistan, S Uzbekistan, NW Tajikistan, W Kyrgyzstan, S Kazakhstan, China (Tibet)

subniger: Eritrea and Djibouti to N/C Somalia, adjacent Ethiopia; Somalia (Ogaden) fide PERRY 2012. Type locality: Ogaden, Somalia.

kashmirensis: Pakistan (KHAN 2004); Type locality: from under pile of faggots near house of Master Muhammad Sadiq Goi Madan, Kotli, Azad Kashmir 33°30'N, 74°00'E. 1315 m

tessellata: Egypt (Sinai); Type locality: “Asie Mineure,” most likely in error (see WERNER 1910, PERRY 2012, Sinaiko et al. 2018).

Type locality: Persia (fide ARNOLD 1980: 314); Arabian Peninsula; Shiraz (Iran) [fide SCHÄTTI & McCARTHY 2004]  
TypesLectotype: MSNG 30312 (formerly MSNG 3320), female, designated by Kramer & Schnurrenberger 1963: 501. MCZ 902 is (also) catalogued as holotype in MCZ.
Holotype: Natural History Museum, Lahore, Pakistan (fide Perry 2012), MSK 188 (private collection) [kashmirensis]
Holotype: ZSI 7240 [semifasciatus]
Holotype: SMF 62595, male [subniger]
Holotype: IRSNB 2027 (Sinaiko et al. 2018); also given as IRSNB 245 [tessellata] 
DiagnosisDiagnosis (rhodorachis): Supralabials 9, usually two 5th+6th (rarely 4th+5th or 5th, or three 4th+5th+6th) in eye, infralabials 9- 10 rarely 11, midbody scale 19, reduced to 11-13 at vent;; ventrals 205-277, subcaudals 139-144. Total length 859- 1043, tail 244-354 mm. Distinct pre and post oculo-labial stripes present, indistinct oculo-temporal stripe. 
CommentSynonymy: partly after SCHÄTTI et al. 2014 (who provides an 8-page synonymy for this species). Boulenger (1889, 1892, 1893) considered Coluber ventromaculatus Gray, 1834 and Zamenis rhodorachis Jan, 1863 specifically distinct, and Z. ladacensis Anderson, 1871 a junior synonym of the latter. Wall (1914) revitalised the idea that rhodorachis and ventromacula­tus were conspecific. Platyceps tessellata is not clearly diagnosable from either rhodorhachis or saharicus (Sinaiko et al. 2018) and thus a nomen dubium.

Type species: Platyceps semifasciatus BLYTH 1860: 114 is the type species of the genus Platyceps BLYTH 1860.

The genus Platyceps Blyth, 1860 was resurrected and split from Coluber Linnaeus, 1758 by Inger & Clark (1943). Inger & Clark (1943) based this segregation on dorsal scale row reductions, but this was not accepted by most authors (Nagy et al., 2004). The use of the generic name Platyceps began in the early 21st century, following molecular works that had found it to be monophyletic (Schätti & Utiger, 2001, Nagy et al., 2004)

Distribution: Not in Libya fide Bauer et al. 2017. Animals from Eritrea and Ethiopia identified by Largen and Spawls (2010) as P. rhodorachis most likely also belong to P. tessellata (fide PERRY 2012) which apparently has also been also reported from SE Algeria, Libya, Chad, Sudan (Nubia), SW Jordan, NW Saudi Arabia, S Oman. However, the status of tessellata remains dubious (see synonymy). Not in Israel (and possibly nearby countries) where it is replaced by P. saharicus. See map in Burriel-Carranza et al. 2019 for map in UAE. For a global map see Sindaco et al. 2013.

Variation: Highly variable in external morphology, particularly ventral scales.

Subspecies: Platyceps rhodorachis ladacensis (ANDERSON 1871) has been elevated to full species status. The status of kashmirensis is unclear (G. Perry, pers. comm. 6 May 2013). The main diagnostic differences seem to the the posterior genial scales (small, granular in kashmirensis) and the number of subcaudals. Schätti 2014 listed kashmirensis as synonym of rhodorachis.

Hybridization: Schätti et al. 2012 describe hybrids between P. karelini and P. rhodorachis. 
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