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Suta gaikhorstorum MARYAN, BRENNAN, HUTCHINSON & GEIDANS, 2020

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Higher TaxaElapidae (Hydrophiinae), Colubroidea, Caenophidia, Alethinophidia, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes)
Common NamesE: Pilbara Hooded Snake 
SynonymSuta gaikhorstorum MARYAN, BRENNAN, HUTCHINSON & GEIDANS 2020: 28 
DistributionAustralia (Western Australia)

Type locality: 5 km S of Mount Tom Price Mine, (22°47′49′′S 117°47′20′′E), Western Australia, Australia  
TypesHolotype. WAM R127817, male, collected by S. Anstee, 12 November 1997. Fixed in 10% formalin, stored in 70% ethanol, liver tissue stored in ultrafreezer ‒80°C at WAM.
Paratypes: (n=8) All from Western Australia. WAM R69680, male, 14 km SE of Minthicoondunna Spring, (22º49′S 118º21′E); WAM R102161, male, 5.8 km NNW of Mount Windell, (22°36′08″S 118°31′15″E); WAM R110946, female, 22.1 km WSW of Pannawonica, (21°41′38″S 116°07′04″E); WAM R116676, male, 25 km ESE of Kooline Homestead, (22°47′28″S 116°32′46″E); WAM R135021, male, Mount Whaleback, (23°20′15″S 119°41′48″E); WAM R141401, female, Near Cape Preston, (20°03′50″S 116°09′47″E); WAM R145263, female, 5 km S of Mount Tom Price Mine, (22°48′34″S 117°46′40″E); WAM R163133, male, 8.2 km ENE of Urandy Bore, (22°24′35″S 116°23′32″E). 
DiagnosisDiagnosis: A medium-sized, moderately robust species of Suta (total length to 460 mm, males mean 359 mm, females 352 mm) with: 15 midbody scale rows; 160‒168 ventrals; 23‒34 subcaudals; 164‒172 vertebrals; head moderately distinct from the neck; one or two secondary temporals; variable body colouration of light to rich reddish brown, brown or bright red; body scales often without dark pigment or with indistinct black base or blotch concealed by overlapping posterior edge of preceding scale and occasionally extending back as very fine edge on anterior facets or faint peppering; complete black hood on the head extending back on to first 4‒6, mostly 5 vertebrals on the nape; without pale markings in front of the eyes, and very minimal pale indents behind the eyes, mostly to midpoint level of the lower primary temporals (Maryan et al. 2020). 
CommentDistribution: see map in Maryan et al. 2020: 26 (Fig. 12).

Habitat. Suta gaikhorstorum sp. nov. occupies a variety of arid vegetation associations growing on heavy, often stony soils, including stony plains with Triodia (Fig. 15), Mulga Acacia aneura woodlands, hard alluvial plains with scattered thickets of Mulga or open scrub, rocky hillcrests and slopes typically with Eucalyptus woodlands/ mixed shrublands over a Triodia-dominated understorey and drainage lines of Acacia and/or Eucalyptus over a tussock grass understorey, or the weed Buffel Grass Cenchrus ciliaris Linnaeus. During a series of biological surveys by Biologic Environmental Survey in the Hamersley Range, 16 of 23 records of S. gaikhorstorum sp. nov. were recorded from undulating stony plains with Triodia and Mulga woodlands (M. O’Connell, pers. comm.).
Regarding shelter sites, S. gaikhorstorum sp. nov. is presumably similar to S. monachus. Bush & Maryan (2011: 63) mention under rubbish, rocks and logs; inside Triodia clumps and down earth cracks. There is limited microhabitat information provided with the specimen data, apart from one specimen (WAM R116676) found under a log. A combination of biological surveys conducted by consultancy companies and field observations in the Pilbara region have caught S. gaikhorstorum sp. nov. in funnel or pit-traps, mainly buckets, and found them nocturnally active on sealed roads or tracks. Some degree of habitat partitioning occurs in the Pilbara region, where S. gaikhorstorum sp. nov. and S. fasciata generally prefer the woodlands and/or shrublands on heavy and stony soils and S. punctata the Triodia-dominated sandplains on light soils. In areas where S. punctata dominates on cracking clay plains (see Bush & Maryan 2011: 21), the other two species appear to be less prevalent (B. Bush, pers. obs.) (Maryan et al. 2020). 
EtymologyNamed after “passionate naturalists, wildlife educators and rehabilitators Klaas & Mieke Gaikhorst of the Armadale Reptile & Wildlife Centre, who have made an immense contribution to the public awareness of Australia’s natural heritage.” 
  • Bush, B. & Maryan, B. 2011. Field Guide to Snakes of the Pilbara Western Australia. Western Australian Museum, Welshpool, 112 pp
  • MARYAN, BRAD; IAN G. BRENNAN, MARK N. HUTCHINSON, LUKAS S. GEIDANS 2020. What’s under the hood? Phylogeny and taxonomy of the snake genera Parasuta Worrell and Suta Worrell (Squamata: Elapidae), with a description of a new species from the Pilbara, Western Australia. Zootaxa 4778 (1): 1–47 - get paper here
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