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Sonora episcopa (KENNICOTT, 1859)

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Higher TaxaColubridae, Colubrinae, Colubroidea, Caenophidia, Alethinophidia, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes)
Common NamesE: Ground Snake 
SynonymLamprosoma episcopum KENNICOTT in BAIRD 1859
Homalosoma episcopum — JAN 1865
Contia episcopa — GARMAN 1884: 94
Contia episcopa — MOCQUARD 1899: 319
Sonora episcopa — STICKEL 1938: 184
Sonora episcopa — FORCE 1928
Sonora episcopa — SMITH & TAYLOR 1945
Sonora episcopa — WEBB & ORTENBURGER 1953
Sonora episcopa — DOWLING 1959
Sonora episcopa episcopa — LINER et al. 1977
Sonora episcopa —SHINE 1994
Sonora semiannulata — FROST 1983
Sonora (Sonora) episcopa — COX et al. 2018: 967 
DistributionUSA (Missouri, N Arkansas, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, SE Colorado, S/E New Mexico
Mexico (Coahuila)

Type locality: ‘Eagle Pass’, Maverick County, Texas. Stickel (1943) speculates that this may have been only a shipping locality, rather the collection locality.  
TypesLectotype: USNM 2042, designated by Stickel 1938; paralectotype: USNM 2045 
DiagnosisDiagnosis: This species is distinct from Sonora cincta, S. fasciata, S. straminea, S. aemula, S. annulata, S. occipitalis and S. palarostris by the lack of rostral or caudal adaptations. Sonora episcopa can potentially be confused with S. semiannulata and S. taylori, both of which with it is either sympatric or narrowly allopatric. The S. semiannulata species group has been historically difficult to define using morphological characteristics, and in fact it was this lack of clear colour pattern or meristic characters delimiting species that led Frost and VanDevender (1979) to synonymize S. episcopa with S. semiannulata. However, our genetic data show clear reciprocal monophyly of S. episcopa, S. taylori and S. semiannu- lata. Perhaps the best way to distinguish S. episcopa from S. taylori and S. semiannulata is by geographic range (see below). Beyond geographic range, the expression of colour pattern in morphs that express black crossbands seems to distinguish S. episcopa and S. semiannulata. Sonora semiannulata generally has rectangular black crossbands, while S. episcopa has oval-shaped saddles. Besides geographic range, Dixon and Werler (2005) suggests that S. episcopa can be distinguished from S. taylori based upon 14 or 15 midbody scale rows (13 in S. taylori). [Cox et al. 2018: 967]

Variation: This is one of the most spectacularly variable snakes in North America and is one of the most variable in the genus Sonora. Populations can be polymorphic for the presence or absence of black crossbands, a red, longitudinally oriented dorsal stripe, a single nuchal band, or a black cap on the head. Some individuals have a longitudinal stripe that does not have any red pigment, but lacks maculation that is present on the remaining dorsal scales. Banded individuals can vary greatly in appearance, with bands ranging in expres- sion from complete saddles to broken bands or symmetrical dorsolateral dots. Bands often change in appearance from the head to the tail, becoming broken or absent on the tail and distal surfaces of the body. Ground colour can range from grey, to tan, to brown, to russet or red. The presence of maculations on the scales can vary tremendously, ranging from a barely detectable dot to a large marking that encompasses most of the scale. [Cox et al. 2018: 967]
CommentDistribution: see map in Cox et al. 2018: 958 (Fig. 3). The precise range boundaries of S. episcopa, S. taylori and S. semiannulata are not well known. Cox et al. 2018 have not yet recovered any examples of hybridization or introgression between these lineages.

Synonymy: Wallach et al. 2014: 681 listed this species as synonym of S. semiannulata. 
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