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Smithophis arunachalensis DAS, DEEPAK, CAPTAIN, WADE & GOWER, 2020

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Higher TaxaColubridae (Natricinae), Colubroidea, Caenophidia, Alethinophidia, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes)
Common NamesE: Arunachal Rain Snake, Black and Yellow Smithophis 
SynonymSmithophis arunachalensis DAS, DEEPAK, CAPTAIN, WADE & GOWER 2020
Rhabdops bicolor — SMITH 1943: 329 (part)
Rhabdops bicolor — SANYAL & GAYEN 1985: 301 (part);
Rhabdops bicolor — CAPTAIN & PATEL 1997: 14 (part)
Rhabdops bicolor — PAWAR & BIRAND 2001: 77 (part)
Rhabdops bicolor — BHATT 2004: 196
Rhabdops bicolor — BORANG et al. 2005: 23
Rhabdops bicolor — SANYAL & GAYEN 2006: 273 (part)
Rhabdops bicolour [sic] — SANYAL & GAYEN 2006: 248 (part)
Rhabdops bicolor — SHARMA 2007: 238 (part)
Rhabdops bicolor — AHMED et al. 2009: 159 (part)
Rhabdops bicolor — DAS 2010: 261–265 (part)
Smithophis bicolor — GIRI et al. 2019: 245, 255 (part
Smithophis bicolor — VOGEL et al. 2020: 51-64 
DistributionIndia (Arunachal Pradesh)

Type locality: Koronu, Lower Dibang Valley District, Arunachal Pradesh, India (Fig. 4: 28.101333° N, 95.908111° E, 310 m elevation)  
TypesHolotype. BNHS 3650 (Figs. 1–2), female, collected by Abhijit Das on 21 April 2005.
Paratypes (n = 2). BMNH 1935.10.12.10 (Figs. 4a, 5), male, collected from Dening, Mishmi Hills, “Assam” (28.019225° N, 96.227778° E, 650 m elevation, currently in Lohit District, Arunachal Pradesh, India), collected by D.K. Barnah, donated by M. Steele; ZSIK 23875 (Fig. 4b), male, collected from Namdapha Camp, 58 km east of Miao, Changlang District, Arunachal Pradesh, India (27.492361°N, 96.381666°E, 580 m elevation) 23 April 1981, by S. Biswas. 
DiagnosisDiagnosis and identification. Smithophis arunachalensis sp. nov. is referred to the genus Smithophis based on the presence of single internasal and single prefrontal shields (a unique condition within Natricinae: see Giri et al. 2017; Vogel et al. 2020). The new species is distinguished from congeners as follows: S. arunachalensis sp. nov. differs from S. atemporalis by the presence of temporal shields (versus absence) and by having bright yellow venter in life (versus whitish); from S. bicolor in colour pattern, by having a sharply zigzag border between the darker dorsum and paler venter, along the entire lateral surface of the body and tail (versus absence of zigzag border), and in having (versus lacking) and a dark midventral line on the underside of the tail (see Figs. 1–2,4,6,8–9; Table 2 & 3). The new species differs from S. linearis by having fewer than six circumorbital scales (excluding the supralabi- als: versus more than 5) and by lacking (versus having) narrow dark and pale longitudinal lines on upper surface of body and tail.

Colour in life. Based on holotype (Fig. 2). Dorsum (head, body and tail) predominantly black above, including downward pointing triangles on flanks; venter and upward pointing triangles of body and tail bright yellow. Most head scales uniformly black; rostral predominantly black. Supralabials black above, cream-yellow below; border between the two colours indistinct. Iris black. Mental and tip of first pair of chin shields black mottled. Dark parts of venter and underside of tail blackish. The venter of ZSIK was recorded as yellowish-white by Sanyal & Gayen (1985, 2006) but it is not clear whether that was in life or preservation. A photograph of an individual from Deban (Namdapha Tiger Reserve, Changlang District, Arunachal Pradesh, India) seen by one of us (A.C.) had a bright yel- low venter in life. 
CommentSynonymy after Das et al. 2020. 
EtymologyNamed after Arunachal Pradesh, India, an Indian state that has yielded many notable herpetological discoveries. 
  • Ahmed, M. Firoz; Abhijit Das and S.K. Dutta 2009. Amphibians and Reptiles of Northeast India: A Photographic Guide. Aaranyak, 168 pp.
  • Bhatt, B.B. 2004. Present status of Ophidian fauna and habitat ecology of certain species of ophidian in Arunachal Pradesh, India. PhD Thesis, Department of Zoology, Guwahati University, Guwahati, Assam, 326 pp.
  • DAS A, Deepak V, Captain A, Wade EOZ, Gower DJ. 2020. Description of a new species of Smithophis Giri et al. 2019 (Serpentes: Colubridae: Natricinae) from Arunachal Pradesh, India. Zootaxa 4860 (2): 267-283 - get paper here
  • Das, A. 2010. Systematics and biogeography of the snakes of Northeast India. PhD thesis, Utkal University, Orissa, 467 pp
  • GIRI, VARAD B.; DAVID J. GOWER, ABHIJIT DAS, H.T. LALREMSANGA, SAMUEL LALRONUNGA, ASHOK CAPTAIN, V. DEEPAK 2019. A new genus and species of natricine snake from northeast India. Zootaxa 4603 (2): 241-264 - get paper here
  • Pawar, S. and Birand, A. 2001. A survey of amphibians, reptiles, and birds in Northeast India. CERC Technical Report #6, Centre for Ecological Research and Conservation, Mysore, 120 pp. - get paper here
  • Sanyal, D.P. & Gayen N.C. 1985. Reptilia In: Director Zoological Survey of India (Ed.), Fauna of Namdapha: Arunachal Pradesh ‘A Proposed Biosphere Reserve’. Records of the Zoological Survey of India, 82 (1–4): 297–302
  • Sanyal, D.P. & Gayen, N.C. 2006. State Fauna Series (Reptilia). In: Alfred, J. R.B. (Ed.), Fauna of Arunachal Pradesh. 13 (1). Zoological Survey of India, Kolkata, pp. 247–284
  • Sharma, R. C. 2007. Fauna of India and the adjacent countries. Reptilia III(Serpentes). Zoological Survey of India, Kolkata, 410 pp - 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.
  • VOGEL, G., CHEN, Z., DEEPAK, V., GOWER, D. J., SHI, J., DING, L., & HOU, M. 2020. A new species of the genus Smithophis (Squamata: Serpentes: Natricidae) from southwestern China and northeastern Myanmar. Zootaxa 4803 (1): 51-74 - get paper here
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