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Psammophis mossambicus PETERS, 1882

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Higher TaxaPsammophiidae, Colubroidea, Caenophidia, Alethinophidia, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes)
Subspecies 
Common NamesE: Olive Whip Snake, Olive Grass Snake,
F: Psammophis olivâtre
G: Olivenfarbige Sandrennnatter, Mosambik-Sandrennnatter 
SynonymPsammophis sibilans var. mossambica PETERS 1882: 122
Psammophis sibilans var. tettensis PETERS 1882: 122
Psammophis sibilans var. intermedius FISCHER 1884: 14 (Arusha, Tanzania).
Psammophis irregularis — SAUVAGE 1884: 201 (not FISCHER)
Psammophis thomasi GOUGH 1908: 30
Psammophis sibilans var. occidentalis WERNER 1919: 504
Psammophis notostictus — WITTE 1933: 123 (not PETERS)
Psammophis notostictus — WITTE 1933: 93
Psammophis brevirostris — WITTE 1933: 123 (not PETERS)
Psammophis brevirostris — WITTE 1933: 93
Psammophis sibilans phillipsii — LOVERIDGE 1940: 41 (part)
Psammophis sibilans sibilans — BOGERT 1940: 79 (part) (not LINNAEUS)Psammophis sibilans sibilans — LOVERIDGE 1940: 30 (part)
Psammophis subtaeniatus — WITTE 1941: 212 (not PETERS) (part)
Psammophis subtaeniatus sudanensis — LAURENT 1956: 248 (part) (not WERNER)
Psammophis subtaeniatus sudanensis — PERRET 1961: 136
Psammophis subtaeniatus sudanensis —WITTE 1962: 117; 1975: 88
Psammophis sibilans phillipsii — WITTE 1962: 117 (part)
Psammophis sibilans phillipsii — PERRET 1961: 136
Psammophis sibilans phillipsii — BÖHME 1975: 40
Psammophis sibilans phillipsii — STUCKI-STIRN 1979: 434
Psammophis phillipsi — JOGER 1982: 331
Psammophis phillipsi — JOGER 1990: 97
Psammophis phillipsi — HUGHES 1983: 346, 353 (part)
Psammophis subtaeniatus — JOGER 1990: 97, Fig. 6 (Bangui, CAR)
Psammophis phillipsi occidentalis — HUGHES & WADE 2004
Psammophis mossambicus — BRANCH 1998: 92
Psammophis mossambicus — HAAGNER et al. 2000: 15
Psammophis mossambicus — HUGHES & WADE 2002: 77
Psammophis mossambicus — SPAWLS et al. 2002: 405
Psammophis mossambicus — BROADLEY 2002
Psammophis mossambicus — BROADLEY et al. 2003: 167, Pl. 110–1
Psammophis mossambicus — MARAIS 2004: 153
Psammophis phillipsi occidentalis — HUGHES & WADE 2004: 129, Fig. 1
Psammophis mossambicus — CIMATTI 2006
Psammophis occidentalis — CHIRIO & LEBRETON 2007: 532
Psammophis sp.1 — CHIRIO & LEBRETON 2007: 538
Psammophis mossambica — JACOBSEN et al. 2010
Psammophis mossambicus — WALLACH et al. 2014: 588
Psammophis mossambicus — BATES et al. 2014: 377
Psammophis occidentalis — WALLACH et al. 2014: 589
Psammophis mossambicus — SPAWLS et al. 2018: 434
Psammophis mossambicus — TRAPE et al. 2019: 73 
DistributionSE Nigeria, Cameroon, S Chad, Central African Republic, Sudan, South Sudan, Gabon, Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Angola, Zambia, Mozambique, Malawi, northeastern Namibia, N Botswana, Zimbabwe, Republic of South Africa (N Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal)

Type locality: Mozambique Island

occidentalis: Senegal, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Liberia, S Ivory Coast, S Ghana (Accra), S Togo, S Benin, S Nigeria, Cameroon, Gabon, Congo (Brazzaville), Central African Republic, elevation 0-1200 m.; Type locality: Liberia.

Type locality: Congo.  
Reproductionoviparous 
TypesLectotype: ZMB 2468A (designated by Broadley)
Lectotype: NMW 19245.2, female, designated by Hughes & Wade (2004: 129). [occidentalis] 
DiagnosisDescription (760 specimens examined): Nostril pierced between 2 (rarely 3) nasals; preocular 1, usually widely separated from frontal; postoculars 2; temporals usually1/2+3; supralabials 8 (very rarely 6, 7 or 9), the fourth & fifth (rarely third & fourth or fifth & sixth) entering orbit; infralabials usually 10 (rarely 9 or 11), the first 4 (very rarely 5) in contact with anterior sublinguals; dorsal scales in 17-17-13 rows; ventrals 150-180; cloacal shield divided; subcaudals 82-121. Dorsum olive brown, often yellowish posteriorly, uniform, or with black-edged mid-dorsal scales forming black lines, or with irregularly scattered black scales on the neck. NMZB from Livingstone, Zambia, has 50% of the dorsal scales black and NMZB 13697 from the Haroni/Rusitu confluence on the Zimbabwe /Mozambique border has 90% of the dorsum black and about 60% of the ventrum. I encountered what appeared to be an all black P. mossambicus on the road between Victoria Falls and Kazungula. Head uniform or with indications of a pattern like P. subtaeniatus, usually in chestnut. Each labial and sublingual is adorned with a dark spot with a pale centre. Ventrum yellow or white, uniform or with lateral rows of black spots or short streaks or irregular black speckling [BROADLEY 2002].

Description (431 specimens examined): Nostril pierced between 2 (rarely 3) nasals; preocular 1, usually widely separated from frontal; postoculars 2 (rarely 1 or 3); temporals usually2+2/3 but fusions or partial fusions frequent; supralabials 8 (very rarely 6, 7 or 9), the fouth and fifth & (rarely third & fourth or fifth and sixth) entering orbit; infralabials usually 10 (rarely 9 or 11), the first 4 (rarely 5, e.g. sequenced specimen IRD 2226.N) in contact with anterior sublinguals; dorsal scales in 17-17-13 rows; ventrals 154–188; cloacal divided (rarely entire); subcaudals 84–122.
Dorsum brown or greenish brown often uniform (Fig. 22), sometimes yellowish posteriorly, sometimes with scattered black scales (rarely more black scales than olive ones). Other specimens have black-edged dorsal scales, a vertebral chain and a yellow or whitish dorsolateral stripe on scale rows 4 and 5 (Fig. 23), this pattern almost constant in specimens from coastal areas of Gabon, Republic of the Congo and Democratic Republic of the Congo. Top of head uniform or reticulated, which fades out in adults. Supralabials uniform or speckled with black. Venter yellow or whitish, uniform or with lateral rows of black spots or short streaks or irregular black speckling, sometimes delimiting a mid-ventral band of grey ofuscation. A specimen from coastal Gabon with a contrasted head and body pattern is illustrated in Pauwels & Vande weghe (2008, Figs 333–334), and a specimen from Kenya with uniform dorsum is illustrated in Spawls et al. (2002: 405). Roux-Estève (1965) provided a detailed description of the two types of patterns of the populations of southern Central African Republic (Trape et al. 2019: 73). 
CommentDistribution: see map in BROADLEY 2002: 91 (Fig. 5). Country list after Trape et al. 2019.

Habitat. Moist savannas and grasslands, especially ri- parian habitats, swamps, reed beds and cultivated areas from sea level to 1,500 metres.

Synonymy: Mostly after Trape et al. 2019. Broadley (1977, 1983) has previously assigned this species to P. phillipsii (Hallowell), but Brandstätter (1995, PhD thesis) and Hughes (1999) consider P. phillipsii, a uniform olive form with an entire cloacal shield, to be restricted to West Africa, where it occupies forest clearings and moist savanna. Branch (1998) used the name P. mossambicus Peters; Broadley selected a lectotype in Berlin and this name is certainly applicable to the big Olive Whip Snake, but the first available name for this species may actually be P. irregularis Fischer, 1856, based on a specimen from Peki in eastern Ghana with a divided cloacal shield, which has extensive black dorsal patches on the anterior third of the body, decreasing posteriorly. Kelly et al. (2008) tentatively conclude that P. mossambicus is a synonym of P. phillipsi. P. p. occidentalis may include specimens some have identified as P. subtaeniatus sudanensis and others would include in P. rukwae.

See also P. phillipsi. 
EtymologyNamed after the type locality. The specific name occidentalis (Latin) refers to the western distribution of this species. 
References
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