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Rhynchocalamus dayanae TAMAR, ŠMÍD, GÖÇMEN, MEIRI & CARRANZA, 2016

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Higher TaxaColubridae, Colubrinae, Colubroidea, Caenophidia, Alethinophidia, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes)
Common NamesE: Dayan’s Kukri Snake 
SynonymRhynchocalamus dayanae TAMAR, ŠMÍD, GÖÇMEN, MEIRI & CARRANZA 2016 
DistributionIsrael (Negev Mountain)

Type locality: road no. 40 near Nafha Prison, Negev Mountain, Israel, 30.7317 N 34.7709 E WGS84, 700 m above sea level (a.s.l.)  
TypesHolotype: HUJ R21704, Adult male, collected on the 21st of June 2008 by Gal Vine (Fig. 3).
Paratypes. TAU.R15930 (Adult male, collected from road no. 10, Nahal Batur, 30.3922N 34.5918E, 700 m a.s.l., by Aviad Bar on the 11th of July 2011); TAU.R17093 (Sub-adult male, collected from Mitzpe Ramon, 30.6108N 34.8029E, 850 m a.s.l., by Maya Spector on the 26th of October 2014); HUJ.R21705 (Adult male, collected from road no. 171, 30.5011N 34.5884E, by Gal Vine on the 3rd of June 2008). All paratypes (Fig. 3) were collected in the Negev Mountain area, Israel, and were included in the molecular analysis (Table S1). 
DiagnosisDiagnosis. A new species of Rhynchocalamus from the Negev Mountain in southern Israel characterized by the combination of the following characters: (1) SVL 259.8–432.1 mm in adults; (2) tail length 59.2–94.1 mm in adults; (3) loreal scale present; (4) 3rd and 4th upper labial scales large and in contact with the eye; (5) one preocular scale; (6) usually two postocular scales on either side; (7) one temporal scale; (8) one post-temporal; (9) six upper labial scales; (10) eight lower labial scales; (11) four lower labial scales in contact with the anterior inframaxillars; (12) single gular scale in contact with anterior inframaxillars, situated between the posterior inframaxillars; (13) 2–8 gular rows separate the posterior inframaxillars from the 1st ventral; (14) 10–16 black dorsal scales in mid-body (Figs. 3–5); (15) 10–12 dorsal and temporal scales surrounding the margin of parietals; (16) 188–229 ventrals; (17) anal and subcaudal scales divided; (18) 54–62 subcaudal scales.

Comparisons. Rhynchocalamus dayanae sp. nov. differs from the other species of the genus in its head scalation and its head and dorsal colour pattern (Table 1; Figs. 4–5). It differs from its phylogenetically closely-related taxon, R. arabicus from Yemen and Oman, in its lower number of ventrals (188–229 vs. 240 in R. arabicus) and subcaudals (54–62 vs. 71–81 in R. arabicus), and the presence of two postocular scales (one in R. arabicus). The overall black colouration of R. arabicus is an additional differentiation from the solely black head and first dorsal scales of R. dayanae sp. nov. It further differs by a genetic distance of 5.9%, 4.2%, and 10% in the mitochondrial 12S, 16S, and cytb genes, respectively (Table S1).
Rhynchocalamus dayanae sp. nov. differs from the geographically distant species,
R. satunini from Turkey eastwards to Iran, in the lower number of upper labials (6 vs. 7 in R. satunini), and the presence of two postocular scales (one in R. satunini). The head colouration of R. satunini is not uniform black, but features two black patches on a whitish background around the prefrontal scales and the parietals, and a black band around the neck that does not reach the ventrals (the rostral shield, nasals, loreals, upper and lower labials, temporal, and ventrals are whitish). It further differs by a genetic distance of 7.3%, 5.4%, and 11.9% in the mitochondrial 12S, 16S, and cytb genes, respectively (Table S1).
Rhynchocalamus dayanae sp. nov. differs from R. melanocephalus (including its Negev population) by the combination of a higher number of lower labials, eight (100%) vs. seven (90%); higher number of lower labials in contact with the anterior inframaxillars, four (100%) vs. three (74%); the presence of two postocular scales (84% vs. 3%); a higher number of ventrals (198–229 vs. 178–234); lower rostral shield (1.15–1.66 mm vs. 1.22–2.53 mm); a narrower head width (3.73–4.71 mm vs. 3.26–6.35 mm); a narrower distance between nostrils (1.32–2.11 mm vs. 1.59–3.24 mm). Rhynchocalamus dayanae sp. nov. differs from the northern, Mediterranean populations of R. melanocephalus (from central Israel north- wards) by the larger extent of the black dorsal pattern (BDS, 13 ± 2.1 (10–16) vs. 7.8 ± 1.8 (5–14); BPL, 19.8 ± 2.7 (16.32–22.95) mm vs. 15.4 ± 2.5 (10.77–23.25) mm, respectively) and black gulars (absent in the northern R. melanocephalus). Rhynchocalamus dayanae sp. nov. further differs from all populations of R. melanocephalus by a genetic distance of 6.7%, 4%, and 10.2% in the mitochondrial 12S, 16S, and cytb genes, respectively (Table S1 in Tamar et al. 2016). 
EtymologyThe specific epithet, ‘‘dayanae,’’ is named in honour of Professor Tamar Dayan, director of the Steinhardt Museum of Natural History at Tel Aviv University and curator of the Terrestrial Vertebrate Collection. This naming of the new species constitutes a special recognition of Professor Dayan by two of her former students (KT and SM) to acknowledge her immense contribution to the conservation of Israeli fauna, and her efforts in establishing the National Natural History Museum at Tel Aviv University, and in promoting taxonomy, conservation and ecology studies in Israel. 
  • Meiri, Shai; Amos Belmaker, Daniel Berkowic, Kesem Kazes, Erez Maza, Guy Bar-Oz and Roi Dor 2019. A checklist of Israeli land vertebrates. Israel Journal of Ecology and Evolution - get paper here
  • Tamar et al. 2016. An integrative systematic revision and biogeography of Rhynchocalamus snakes (Reptilia, Colubridae) with a description of a new species from Israel. PeerJ 4:e2769; DOI 10.7717/peerj.2769 - get paper here
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