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Psammophylax ocellatus (BOCAGE, 1873)

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Higher TaxaPsammophiidae, Colubroidea, Caenophidia, Alethinophidia, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes)
Common NamesE: Angolan Skaapsteker
G: Angola-Shaapsteker 
SynonymPsammophylax ocellatus BOCAGE 1873
Psammophylax rhombeatus ocellatus — BOCAGE 1895: 108
Psammophylax rhombeatus — FITZSIMONS 1957: 239
Psammophylax rhombeatus ocellatus — BROADLEY 1977
Psammophylax rhombeatus ocellatus — MARQUES et al. 2018
Psammophylax ocellatus — BRANCH et al. 2019: 324
Psammophylax ocellatus — BRANCH et al. 2019: 356 
DistributionSW Angola, probably adjacent NW Namibia

Type locality: “l’intérieur de Mossamedes (Gambos)”, Huíla Province, Angola. Restricted without comment to “Chibemba, Huíla Province; 15°45'11.18"S, 14°04'31.62"E; 1321 m elevation” by Wallach et al. (2014).  
TypesHolotype: lost, was MB (Museu Bocage), specimen number unknown (collector J.A. d’Anchieta), specimen lost fide Broadley (1977) 
DiagnosisDescription. The smallest skaapsteker (maximum 875 mm; see Broadley 1977b for other species). Nostril pierced between single pre- and post-nasals; preocular 1, separated from frontal; postoculars 2 (sometimes 3 on one side); temporals usually 2+3 (sometimes 2+2 or 2+4); supralabials 8, the fourth & fifth entering orbit (sometimes 3–4); infralabials 10–12, the first 5 usually in contact with anterior sublinguals (rarely 4–6); dorsal scales in 17-17- 13 rows; ventrals 156–183 (see discussion above); cloacal shield divided; subcaudals 57–68. Tail length 21.5–29.1% of total length (see discussion above). Dorsum grey, heavily patterned with longitudinal series of paravertebral and lateral ocelli; paravertebral ocelli comprise 1–2 central reddish brown scales irregularly encircled in black and then with a thin yellow-orange ring, and separated in the midline by a thin white-yellowish line that runs from the neck to the base of the tail; the lateral ocelli are larger and have 1–3 greyish scales and a narrow black edge. Head uniform brown on top with a narrow elongate extension onto the neck; iris of eye brilliant red; the supra- and infralabials are white with scattered black blotches that form more regular bars on the latter; two large, solid back blotches occur on each side of the head, the largest on the temporal region, the other on the side of the neck; ventrum white with 2–5 subtriangular black spots that arise at the base and extend halfway to the free edge of most ventral scales; subcaudals grey-white with scattered blotches on the lateral edges.
Scalation details of specimen are summarized in Branch et al. 2019: 351 (Table 2).
Size: Maximum size: Male (MBL 1724) 720 + 155 = 875 mm 
CommentSynonymy: after BRANCH et al. 2019 who revalidated P. ocellatus. Previsously considered a synonym of P. rhombeatus. See also P. rhombeatus.

Habitat. Recent material was collected in montane grassland on the edge of the Humpata Plateau, in the vicinity of the Chela Escarpment at an altitude of 2100–2300 m a.s.l, with scattered sandstone outcrops, seepage lines, and patches of Protea sp. bush and dwarf miombo woodland dominated by Brachystegia spiciformis (Fig. 1C). The climate, pedology, geomorphology and woody species composition were characterised by Barbosa (1970) for Angolan montane grasslands in the Humpata and Tundavala regions. The Tundavala collecting sites were dominated by the grasses Loudetia simplex, Schizachyrium sanguineum, Diheteropogom filifolius, Hyparrhenia cymbaria and Elionurus muticus. All Tundavala snakes, except for NB171, were collected within close proximity (0.1 km2) and around 1 km from the edge of the plateau in the south of the Tundavala SASSCAL biodiversity observatory in habitat consisting of montane grasslands on sandy soil and with weathered sandstone outcrops (Branch et al. 2019: 357). 
  • Baptista NL, António T, Branch WR. 2019. The herpetofauna of Bicuar National Park and surroundings, southwestern Angola: a preliminary checklist. Amphibian & Reptile Conservation 13(2) [Special Section]: 96–130 (e203) - get paper here
  • Bocage, J.V.B. 1873. Melanges erpetologiques. II. Sur quelques reptiles et batraciens nouveaux, rares ou peu connus d‘Afrique occidentale. Jorn. Sci. Math. Phys. Nat. Lisboa 4: 209-227 - get paper here
  • Bocage,J.V. du B. 1895. Herpétologie d'Angola et du Congo. Lisbon: Imprimerie Nationale, i-xx, 203 pp.
  • BRANCH, WILLIAM R.; NINDA BAPTISTA, CHAD KEATES, SHELLEY EDWARDS 2019. Rediscovery, taxonomic status, and phylogenetic relationships of two rare and endemic snakes (Serpentes: Psammophiinae) from the southwestern Angolan plateau. Zootaxa 4590 (3): 342–366 - get paper here
  • Branch, William R.; Pedro Vaz Pinto, Ninda Baptista, and Werner Conradie 2019. The Reptiles of Angola: History, Diversity, Endemism and Hotspots. Chapter 13 in: B. J. Huntley et al. (eds.), Biodiversity of Angola. Springer Verlag, pp. 283-334 - get paper here
  • Broadley, D.G. 1977. A revision of the African Snakes of the Genus Psammophylax Fitzinger (Colubridae). Occ. Pap. natl. Mus. Rhod. 1976 B6 (1): 1-44.
  • FitzSimons, V. 1957. Reptilia. Serpentes and Sauria. In: Hanström-Perbrinck, B., and G. Rudebeck, South African animal lite. Results of the Lund University Expedition in 1950-1951. Almqvist and Wiksell, Stockholm, pp. 385-405.
  • Fitzsimons, V. 1966. A check-list, with syntopic keys, to the snakes of southern Africa. Annals Transvaal Museum 25 (3): 35-79 - get paper here
  • Keates, C, Conradie, W, Greenbaum, E, Edwards, S. 2019. Snake in the grass: Genetic structuring of the widespread African grass snake (Psammophylax Fitzinger 1843), with the description of a new genus and a new species. J Zool Syst Evol Res. 57: 1039– 1066 - get paper here
  • Marques, Mariana P.; Luis M. P. Ceríaco , David C. Blackburn , and Aaron M. Bauer 2018. Diversity and Distribution of the Amphibians and Terrestrial Reptiles of Angola -- Atlas of Historical and Bibliographic Records (1840–2017). Proc. Cal. Acad. Sci. (Ser. 4) 65: 1-501 (Supplement II)
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