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Protobothrops kaulbacki (SMITH, 1940)

IUCN Red List - Protobothrops kaulbacki - Data Deficient, DD

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Higher TaxaViperidae, Crotalinae, Colubroidea, Caenophidia, Alethinophidia, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes)
Common NamesE: Kaulback’s lance-headed pitviper
G: Kaulbacks Grubenotter
Chinese: 缅北原矛头蝮 
SynonymTrimeresurus kaulbacki SMITH 1940: 485
Trimeresurus kaulbacki — SMITH 1943: 512
Trimeresurus kaulbacki — WELCH 1994: 117
Protobothrops kaulbacki — KRAUS et al. 1996
Protobothrops kaulbacki — LEVITON et al. 2003
Protobothrops kaulbacki — GUMPRECHT et al. 2004
Protobothrops kaulbacki — WALLACH et al. 2014: 572 
DistributionN Myanmar (= Burma), China (Yunnan ?), India (Arunachal Pradesh, Papum Pare District)

Type locality: Pangnamdim, north of the Triangle, Upper Burma.  
Reproductionoviparous (Smith 1940) 
TypesHolotype: BMNH 1946.1.19.23–24); 1943:512 
DiagnosisDIAGNOSIS (DIAGNOSTIC CHARACTERS). Scales in 23–25 longitudinal rows at midbody; body elongate, head long, massive, with narrow snout; canthus rostralis sharp; single large, squarish loreal; first upper labial completely separated from nasal by a suture; second upper labial anteriorly bordering facial pit; 8–10 scales in line between supraoculars; supraoculars usually single, flat, without a vertical projection; dull grayish or olive green with large, blackish rhombohedral dorsal blotches, either distinct or united to one another; smaller spots on sides; symmetrical yellow lines on head; subcaudals paired; ventrals 201–212; subcaudals 66–78, some of the anterior scutes may be single, others paired; hemipenes with spines. Total length males 1340 mm, females 1410 mm; tail length males 225 mm, females 230 mm. [after LEVITON 2003]

Original description: “Snout three times as long as the diameter of the eye: upper head scales rather small, unequal, smooth, scarcely imbricate, those on the snout larger than those on the crown of the head; supraoculars large, entire, 8-10 scales in a line between them; internasals large, broader than long, in contact with one another, or separated by 1 or 2 scales 2 enlarged scales in a line between the internasals and supraoculars ; 8 supralabials, first entirely separated from the nasal, second forming the anterior border of the loreal pit, third largest; anterior genials very large, followed by 5 or 6 pairs of smaller scales, the two series separated from one another by a deep mental groove no series of scales between the labial and the subocular; temporal scales smooth, the series just above the labials being much larger than the others.
Scales in 25/25/19 or 17 rows, strongly keeled, except the outer one or two rows. V. male 205, female 204, C. male 75+, female 70, some of the anterior ones being single.” (Smith 1940)

Coloration: “Olive green above, with a series of dark, diamond-shaped or angular
vertebral spots, which may be united to one another and form a zig-zag band sides with much smaller and less distinct spots, corresponding in position with the vertebral ones each vertebral spot covers from 12 to 20 scales, which are green at the centres and black at the edges lower parts grey, with large, squarish or semi-lunar yellow spots throat and anterior part of the body mostly whitish top of the head black with yellow longitudinal lines, one extending from the tip of the snout to
between the eyes where it divides, the arms diverging and extending backwards to connect above the angle of the mouth with a line which passes backwards from the eye nape with 2 parallel longitudinal lines upper lip uniform yellow.” (Smith 1940)

Comparisons: “Trimeresurus kaulbacki is most nearly related to T. jerdoni to which
it bears a stong resemblance. It differs in the longer and narrower head, in the greater number of scales round the body, the greater number of ventral and in colouration. The head markings, although of the same pattern, are more clearly defined, as also are the dorsal spots.” (Smith 1940) 

Distribution: see map in Guo et a. 2016: 383 (Fig. 1). Possibly in Yunnan (China) but records from there are questionable (Wang et al. 2022).

Habitat: partly arboreal (Harrington et al. 2018). 
EtymologyNamed after Lieutenant-Colonel Ronald John Henry Kaulback (1909-1995), a British intelligence officer, botanist and explorer who travelled extensively in Myanmar, Tibet, and China. The name has also been spelled s “Kaulbach”, e.g. in the National Portrait Gallery, London. 
  • Beolens, Bo; Michael Watkins, and Michael Grayson 2011. The Eponym Dictionary of Reptiles. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, USA - get paper here
  • Bhide, K.S.; Captain, A.; Bhatt, B.B.; Gumprecht, A. & Tillack, F. 2008. Protobothrops kaulbacki (SMITH). Sauria 30 (2): 2 - get paper here
  • Dowling, H.G., & Jenner, J.V. 1988. Snakes of Burma: checklist of reported species and bibliography. Smithsonian Herp. Inf. Serv. (76): 19 pp. - get paper here
  • Gumprecht, A.; Tillack, F.; Orlov, N.L.; Captain, A. & Ryabow, S. 2004. Asian pitvipers. Geitje Books, Berlin, 368 pp.
  • Guo, Peng, Anita Malhotra, Pi P. Li, Catharine E. Pook and Simon Creer. 2007. New evidence on the phylogenetic position of the poorly known Asian pitviper Protobothrops kaulbacki (Serpentes: Viperidae: Crotalinae) with a redescription of the species and a revision of the genus Protobothrops. The Herpetological Journal 17 (4):237-247 - get paper here
  • GUO, PENG; QIN LIU, TAO WEN, RONG XIAO, MING FANG, GUANGHUI ZHONG, NGUYEN Q. TRUONG, FEI ZHU, ROBERT C. JADIN, CAO LI 2016. Multilocus phylogeny of the Asian Lance-headed pitvipers (Squamata, Viperidae, Protobothrops). Zootaxa 4093 (3): 382–390 - get paper here
  • Harrington, Sean M; Jordyn M de Haan, Lindsey Shapiro, Sara Ruane 2018. Habits and characteristics of arboreal snakes worldwide: arboreality constrains body size but does not affect lineage diversification. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 125 (1): 61–71 - get paper here
  • Leviton, Alan E.; Guinevere O.U. Wogan; Michelle S. Koo; George R. Zug; Rhonda S. Lucas and Jens V. Vindum 2003. The Dangerously Venomous Snakes of Myanmar Illustrated Checklist with Keys. Proc. Cal. Acad. Sci. 54 (24): 407–462 - get paper here
  • Orlov, Nikolai L.; Sergei A. Ryabov, and Nguyen Thien Tao 2009. Two New Species of Genera Protobothrops Hoge et Romano-Hoge, 1983 and Viridovipera Malhotra et Thorpe, 2004 (Ophidia: Viperidae: Crotalinae) from Karst Region in Northeastern Vietnam. Part I. Description of a New Species of Protobothrops Genus. Russ. J. Herpetol. 16 (1): 69-82 - get paper here
  • PAN, Hujun; Basundhara CHETTRI, Daode YANG, Ke JIANG, Kai WANG, Liang ZHANG and Gernot VOGEL 2013. A New Species of the Genus Protobothrops (Squamata: Viperidae) from Southern Tibet, China and Sikkim, India. Asian Herpetological Research 4 (2): 109–115 - get paper here
  • Rao D. & Zhao E. 2005. A NEW RECORD FROM CHINA-PROTOBOTHROPS KAULBACKI (REPTILIA, SERPENTES, VIPERIDAE). Acta Zootaxonomica Sinica 2005 30 (1), 209 - 211
  • Smith, M.A. 1940. The Amphibians and Reptiles obtained by Mr. Ronald Kaulback in Upper Burma. Records of the Indian Museum 42: 465-486 - get paper here
  • 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.
  • Vasaruchapong, T., Laoungbua, P., Tangrattanabul, K., Tawan, T. and Chanhome, L. 2017. Protobothrops mucrosquamatus (Cantor, 1839), A highly venomous species added to the snake fauna of Thailand (Squamata: Viperidae). Tropical Natural History 17 (2): 111-115 - 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.
  • Wang K, Lyu ZT, Wang J, Qi S, Che J 2022. Updated Checklist and Zoogeographic Division of the Reptilian Fauna of Yunnan Province, China. Biodiversity Science 30 (4): 21326, 1–31 - 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
  • YANG, JIAN-HUAN; NIKOLAI L. ORLOV & YING-YONG WANG 2011. A new species of pitviper of the genus Protobothrops from China (Squamata: Viperidae). Zootaxa 2936: 59–68 - get paper here
  • Zhao, E.M. 2006. The snakes of China [in Chinese]. Hefei, China, Anhui Sience & Technology Publ. House, Vol. I, 372 pp., Vol. II (color plates), 280 pp.
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