Smithophis atemporalis GIRI, GOWER, DAS, LALREMSANGA, LALRONUNGA, CAPTAIN & DEEPAK, 2019
Can you confirm these amateur observations of Smithophis atemporalis?
|Higher Taxa||Colubridae (Natricinae), Colubroidea, Caenophidia, Alethinophidia, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes)|
|Common Names||E: Mizo rain snake, Narrow-headed smithophis|
Mizo: Mizo Ruahrul
|Synonym||Smithophis atemporalis GIRI, GOWER, DAS, LALREMSANGA, LALRONUNGA, CAPTAIN & DEEPAK 2019|
Rhabdops bicolor — DAS 2015: 65
Rhabdops bicolor — LALTANPUIA et al. 2008: 119 (part.)
Type locality: Mizoram University Campus, Aizawl, India, (23.76338°N, 93.09916°E, 833 m elevation
|Types||Holotype. BNHS 3523 (Figs. 2, 3), male, collected by H.T. Lalremsanga on 10 July 2014. See map in Fig. 4.|
Paratypes (n = 6). BNHS 3524—BNHS 3527, BNHS 3529, males and BNHS 3528, female, collected from
Mizoram University Campus, Aizawl on 14 August 2014 by H.T. Lalremsanga.
|Diagnosis||Diagnosis (Smithophis): Natricine snakes with the following combination of characters: (1) a single (‘fused’ or unpaired) internasal shield and a single prefrontal shield, (2) internasal very broad and not or only slightly tapered anteriorly, (3) smooth, unkeeled dorsal scales, (4) fewer than six pairs of supralabial shields, (5) 17 rows of dorsal scales at midbody, (6) C-shaped, valvular external nares, (7) eyes with rounded or elliptical pupils, and (8) eye diameter substantially smaller than distance between eye and naris.|
Remarks. The new genus is clearly monophyletic and most closely related to a monophyletic Opisthotropis in our molecular phylogenetic trees, and the two genera are similar phenotypically in having a single prefrontal shield (paired in a few species of Opisthotropis). Molecular phylogenetic support for Opisthotropis monophyly is not yet compelling though clearly stronger than for its non-monophyly, but we have elected to erect a new genus given also that (1) Smithophis gen. nov. is distinct from Opisthotropis in also having a single internasal shield (which, in concert with the single prefrontal, is a unique condition among natricines), in having fewer than 6 supralabial shields on each side, and in having internasal(s) that are not or only slightly anteriorly tapered, and (2) because the phylogenetic relationships of several key taxa remain unclear given incomplete taxon sampling thus far in phylogenetic analyses—in this context we are thinking particularly of the type species of Opisthotropis (O. ater Günther, 1872), and any representatives of any of the at least superficially similar (David et al. 2015) monotypic Isanophis David et al. 2015, and Paratapinophis Angel, 1929 (though it might be noted that the latter three taxa also differ from Smithophis gen. nov. in having paired internasals that are not notably broad and which taper anteriorly, and in having more than 6 supralabials).
All specimens of Smithophis we have observed have a single internasal shield and, to the best of our knowledge, all specimens of Opisthotropis have paired internasals. Species of all synonyms of Opisthotropis have paired rather than single internasals. Single internasals are derived, providing additional evidence to support the monophyly of the new genus. Wall (1908: 322–323) considered the unusual head shields of Rhabdops bicolor distinctive enough that it was “extremely probable that it will have to be separated and relegated to a genus by itself”.
|Comment||Type species: Smithophis atemporalis GIRI et al. 2019 is the type species of the genus Smithophis GIRI et al. 2019.|
Key: Vogel et al. 2020 provide a key to the 3 species of Smithophis.
|Etymology||The genus has been named in honour of Malcolm A. Smith (1875–1958) in recognition of his many contributions to herpetology and especially to the knowledge of Asian snakes.|
The specific epithet is in reference to the lack of temporal shields, a diagnostic feature of the new species. For nomenclatural purposes, the species epithet is considered a noun in apposition.
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