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Tantilla excelsa MCCRANIE & SMITH, 2017

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Higher TaxaColubridae, Colubrinae, Colubroidea, Caenophidia, Alethinophidia, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes)
Common Names 
SynonymTantilla excelsa MCCRANIE & SMITH 2017
Tantilla taeniata — WILSON & MEYER 1971: 32, in part
Tantilla taeniata — WILSON 1982: 56, in part
Tantilla taeniata — WILSON & MEYER 1982: 109, in part
Tantilla taeniata — WILSON & MEYER 1985: 103, in part
Tantilla taeniata — WILSON & MCCRANIE 1999: 328, in part
Tantilla taeniata — MCCRANIE 2011a: 227, in part
Tantilla taeniata — MCCRANIE 2011b: 44, in part
Tantilla taeniata — MCCRANIE et al. 2012: 623
Tantilla taeniata — WILSON & MATA-SILVA 2015: 457, in part
Tantilla excelsa — ANTÚNEZ-FONSECA et al. 2020 
DistributionHonduras (Atlántida), elevation 30–700 m

Type locality: Lancetilla (15°44’N, 87°27’W), 30 m elevation, department of Atlántida, Honduras  
TypesHolotype: USNM 579682, an adult male, collected 26 February 2011 by Leonel Marineros. Paratypes (n 1⁄4 3).—UF 157566, an adult female from Compan ̃ia Agricola Paradise near Pen ̃a Blanca (14°58’N, 88°01’W), 700 m elevation, Corte ́s, Honduras; UMMZ 58417, an adult female that is dehydrated and has an incomplete tail, from El Progreso (15°24’N, 87°48’W), Yoro, Honduras, 30 m elevation; MCZ 22045, head and anterior portion of body of an adult, from Progreso District, Yoro, Honduras, about 30 m elevation. 
DiagnosisDiagnosis. Tantilla excelsa (in preservative) is defined by the following combination of characters: (1) pale middorsal stripe tan, extending length of body and at least half of tail, stripe on vertebral row and adjacent halves of paravertebral rows throughout its length; (2) tan to white lateral stripe occupying adjacent halves of scale rows 3 and 4; (3) ventrolateral area similar in pale color to that of lateral stripe; (4) lower two-thirds anteriorly and about lower third posteriorly of scale row 1 white similar to that of ventrals; (5) lateral edges of ventrals white, no, or very few, dark spots present; (6) ventral and subcaudal surfaces yellow (shortly after death) and white; (7) two females with 161–178 ventrals, single male with 169 ventrals, subcaudals 61 in one female, 70 in male; (8) tail length 23% of total length in one female, 24% in male.
Tantilla excelsa can be distinguished from T. taeniata by having 169 ventrals in single male, 161–178 in two females, and by having yellow ventral surfaces in life (vs. 141–152 ventrals in males and 150 in single known female, and ventral surfaces pale purplish pink grading to darker salmon color on posterior two-thirds of body and tail).
Tantilla excelsa differs from T. impensa and T. steni- grammi by having the middorsal pale stripe involving all of the vertebral scale row and adjacent thirds of paravertebral scale rows throughout its length (vs. middorsal stripe confined to vertebral row in those two species [on at least anterior half of body in T. stenigrammi]) and having female ventrals numbering up to 178 (vs. to 172 in T. impensa and 159 in female T. stenigrammi). Tantilla excelsa differs from T. olympia in having complete middorsal and lateral pale stripes, with the middorsal stripe extending onto lateral edges of paravertebral rows, and having 169 ventrals and 70 subcaudal scales in single male (vs. those stripes reduced to dashes and spots, respectively; pale middorsal dashes restricted to vertebral row; and 148 ventrals and 49 subcaudals in a male specimen). Tantilla excelsa differs from T. psittaca by having yellow ventral and subcaudal surfaces in life and white to pale yellow in preservative and in having 169 ventrals in single male and 161–178 in two females (vs. those surfaces pink and grading to red in life and pale brown medially and pale brown with pinkish tinge on posterior third of body and under tail in preservative, 153–163 ventrals in males and 154–161 in female specimens). Tantilla excelsa differs from T. tritaeniata in having 169 ventrals in single male and 161–178 ventrals in two females, and having a complete pale nuchal collar (vs. 157 ventrals in single male and 155–161 in females, and pale nuchal collar divided). 
CommentHabitat: on the ground on coffee farms, Lowland Moist Forest, Premontane Wet Forest 
EtymologyThe specific name excelsa is an adjective from the Latin excelsus, which in this case means high. The name refers to the relatively high number of ventral scales in this nominal form. 
  • Antúnez-Fonseca CA, Castro JA, España FG, Townsend JH, Wilson LD. 2020. A new species of Tantilla of the taeniata group (Squamata: Colubridae) from Refugio de Vida Silvestre Barras de Cuero y Salado in Caribbean coastal Honduras. Amphibian & Reptile Conservation 14(3) [Taxonomy Section]: 86–102 (e258) - get paper here
  • McCranie J R 2011. A new species of Tantilla of the taeniata species group (Reptilia, Squamata, Colubridae, Colubrinae) from northeastern Honduras. Zootaxa 3037: 37–44 - get paper here
  • McCranie J R 2011. The snakes of Honduras. SSAR, Salt Lake City, 725 pp.
  • McCranie, J.R., L. Marineros, and L. Valde ́s Orellana. 2012. Geographic distribution: Honduras, Atlántida: Tantilla taeniata. Herpetological Review 43: 623 - get paper here
  • McCranie, James R. and Eric N. Smith 2017. A Review of the Tantilla taeniata Species Group (Reptilia: Squamata: Colubridae: Colubrinae) in Honduras, with the Description of Three New Species. Herpetologica Dec 2017, Vol. 73, No. 4: 338-348. - get paper here
  • Wilson, L. D., & MEYER, J. R. 1971. A revision of the taeniata group of the colubrid snake genus Tantilla. Herpetologica 27: 11-40. - get paper here
  • Wilson, L. D., & MEYER, J. R. 1982. The Snakes of Honduras. Milwaukee Publ. Mus. Publ., Biol. & Geol. No. 6, 159 pp.
  • Wilson, L. D., & MEYER, J. R. 1985. The Snakes of Honduras. 2d ed. Milwaukee Publ. Mus. Publ., Biol. & Geol. No. 6, 150 pp.
  • Wilson, Larry David and Vicente Mata-Silva 2015. A checklist and key to the snakes of the Tantilla clade (Squamata: Colubridae), with comments on distribution and conservation. Mesoamerican Herpetology 2 (4): 418 - get paper here
  • Wilson,L.D. 1982. A Review of the Colubrid Snakes of the Genus Tantilla of Central America. Milwaukee Publ. Mus. Contr. Biol. Geol. (52): 1-77
  • Wilson,L.D. & McCranie,J.R. 1999. The systematic status of Honduran populations of the Tantilla taeniata group (Serpentes: Colubridae), with notes on other populations. Amphibia-Reptilia 20 (3): 326-329 - get paper here
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