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Psammophis sibilans (LINNAEUS, 1758)

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Higher TaxaPsammophiidae, Colubroidea, Caenophidia, Alethinophidia, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes)
Common NamesE: Egyptian Hissing Sand Snake, Striped Sand Snake, Hissing Sand Snake
F: Psammophis rayé
G: Gestreifte Sandrennatter, Schmuck-Sandrennnatter 
SynonymColuber sibilans LINNAEUS 1758: 222
Coluber Gemmatus SHAW 1802: 539
Coluber moniliger DAUDIN 1803
Natrix sibilans — MERREM 1820: 114.
Psammophis sibilans — BOIE 1827: 547
Coluber auritus GEOFFROY DE ST-HILAIRE 1829 (1827: 147)
Coluber lacrymans REUSS 1834: 139.
Psammophis moniliger var. hierosolymitana JAN 1870 — BOETTGER 1880: 163
Psammophis moniliger — PETERS 1862: 274
Psammophis sibilans var. intermedius FISCHER 1884: 49
Psammophis sibilans — SYMONDS 1887: 487
Psammophis sibilans — SCORTECCI 1931: 20
Psammophis sibilans sibilans — LOVERIDGE 1955
Psammophis sibilans sibilans — ROBERTSON et al. 1961
Psammophis sibilans sibilans — PERRET 1961
Psammophis sibilans sibilans — PITMAN 1974
Psammophis sibilans — SCHLEICH, KÄSTLE & KABISCH 1996: 517
Psammophis sibilans — TRAPE & MANE 2004
Psammophis sibilans — LARGEN & SPAWLS 2010: 564
Psammophis sibilans — WALLACH et al. 2014: 580
Psammophis aff. sibilans — TRAPE & MANÉ 2017
Psammophis sibilans — TRAPE et al. 2019: 65 
DistributionEgypt, Sudan (Jumhūriyyat), Ethiopia, possibly neighbouring areas of Eritrea and Republic of South Sudan (RSS) (see comment), Niger, Saudi Arabia

Type locality: “Asia”, in error for Egypt.  
TypesHolotype: UUZM (= ZMUU) 42 (orig. in MP). 
DiagnosisDescription. (325 specimens from Egypt and two spec- imens from Ethiopia examined) Nostril pierced between 2 nasals; preocular 1 (very rarely 2), in short contact with or separated from frontal; postoculars 2 (very rarely 3); temporals basically 2+2+3, but with frequent fusions; su- pralabials 8 (but often 9 in Upper Egypt), the 4th & 5th (or the 5th & 6 th) entering orbit; infralabials usually 10 or 11 (rarely 9 or 12), the first 5 in contact with anterior sublin- guals; dorsal scales in 17-17-13 rows; ventrals 154–178; cloacal divided; subcaudals 98–119 (lowest count 91 fide Anderson 1898, but tip of the tail probably mutilated). Brandstätter (1995, fig. 68–70) has published SEM mi- crographs of a dorsal scale of an Egyptian specimen.
Dorsum brown, top of head often with a pale median stripe on the snout which either terminates at the fron- tal or continue up to two-thirds its length (Fig. 9), back of head often with pale transverse markings; labials im- maculate yellow or with a few dark spots; dorsum plain (Fig. 10) or with a vertebral line with each scale yellow with black laterally or paler at base and pale dorsolateral stripes on scale rows 4 and 5 (Fig. 11); lower half of outer scale row and ventrals yellow; sometimes a pair of faint or broken black ventral hairlines. 
CommentTaxonomy: Closely related to P. phillipsi and both may represent the same species.

Subspecies: Psammophis sibilans rukwae BROADLEY 1966, Psammophis sibilans brevirostris, and P. s. leopardinus have been elevated to full species status.

Type species: Coluber sibilans LINNAEUS 1758 is the type species of the genus Psammophis H. BOIE in F. BOIE 1826: 982 and 1827: 521. However, Psammophis BOIE is preoccupied by Psammophis BOIE in FITZINGER 1826: 30 (substitute name for Macrosoma LEACH).

Type genus: Psammophis is also the type genus of the family Psammophiidae BOURGEOIS, 1968.

Similar species: P. afroccidentalis; the ‘P. sibilans’ on Fig. 11.46 in Chippaux & Jackson 2019 are actually P. afroccidentalis fide Pauwels & Brecko 2020.

Synonymy: Partly after Trape et al. 2019. Kaiser et al. 2013 considered the generic names Eipperus Hoser 2012, Elliottus Hoser 2012, Rayhammondus Hoser 2012, Slatteryus Hoser 2012 invalid and rejected their use instead of Psammophis. Werner 1902 described Psammophis brevirostris temporalis which may be a synonym of Psammophis sibilans brevirostris.

Distribution: P. sibilans has been split up into multiple species, hence older reports of this species list it for many other countries such as Democratic Republic of the Congo (Zaire) ?, Congo (Brazzaville), Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon, Nigeria, Benin ?, Togo, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Gambia, Mauritania,(HÅKANSSON 1981), Central African Republic, Chad, “virtually pan-African” (Largen 1997), Senegal (sudanensis: TRAPE & MANÉ 2002). Erroneously reported from Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia (Schleich et al. 1996; Brandstätter 1996). Not listed by BROADLEY & POYNTON 1998 for the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Zaire). Not in Gabon fide PAUWELS & VANDE WEGHE 2008. Not reported from Benin according to ULLENBRUCH et al. 2010, not in Liberia (L. Chirio, pers. comm., 23 Aug 2013). Not in Sierra Leone fide TRAPE & BALDÉ 2014: 320. Reports from Libya represent most likely P. schokari. P. sibilans, as currently construed, is limited to the Nile Valley of egypt (Baha el din 2006a; Sindaco et al. 2013, Bauer et al. 2017). Hence, reports from Algeria (JOHANN 1981) are also erroneous or do not reflect current taxonomy. Not listed for East Africa by Spawls et al. 2018; not there (i.e. in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi fide S. Spawls, pers. comm., 28 June 2018) despite reports in the older literature (e.g. Uganda, fide PITMAN 1974). Not in Angola (where it is replaced by other Psammophis) fide Marques et al. 2018. For a map see Sindaco et al. 2013.

Hybridization: Psammophis sudanensis and P. sibilans appear to hybridize; P. sibilans and P. subtaeniatus also hybridize (BROADLEY 1966). 
EtymologyThe genus is named after Greek “psammos” = sand, dunes, and Greek “ophis” = snake. 
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