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Thamnophis elegans (BAIRD & GIRARD, 1853)

IUCN Red List - Thamnophis elegans - Least Concern, LC

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Higher TaxaColubridae (Natricinae), Colubroidea, Caenophidia, Alethinophidia, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes)
SubspeciesThamnophis elegans elegans (BAIRD & GIRARD 1853)
Thamnophis elegans vagrans (BAIRD & GIRARD 1853)
Thamnophis elegans hueyi VAN DENBURGH & SLEVIN 1923
Thamnophis elegans terrestris FOX 1951 
Common NamesE: Western Terrestrial Garter Snake
arizonae: Arizona Garter Snake
elegans: Mountain Garter Snake
errans: Mexican Wandering Garter Snake
terrestris: Coast Garter Snake
vagrans: Wandering Garter Snake
vascotanneri: Upper Basin Garter Snake
hueyi: San-Pedro-Martir Garter Snake
G: Bergstrumpfbandnatter
S: Jarretera Terrestre Occidental 
SynonymEutainia [sic] elegans BAIRD & GIRARD 1853: 34
Tropidonotus trivittatus HALLOWELL 1853
Eutaenia biscutata COPE 1883: 21
Eutaenia elegans lineolata COPE 1892
Eutaenia elegans brunnea COPE 1892
Thamnophis ordinoides elegans — VAN DENBURGH & SLEVIN 1921
Thamnophis ordinoides elegans — FITCH 1936
Thamnophis elegans — SMITH & SMITH 1976
Thamnophis elegans — STEBBINS 1985: 201
Thamnophis elegans — LINER 1994
Thamnophis elegans — CROTHER et al. 2012
Thamnophis elegans — WALLACH et al. 2014: 721

Thamnophis elegans elegans (BAIRD & GIRARD 1853)
Thamnophis elegans elegans — CROTHER 2000
Thamnophis elegans elegans — CROTHER et al. 2012
Thamnophis elegans elegans — HALLAS et al. 2021

Thamnophis elegans hueyi VAN DENBURGH & SLEVIN 1923
Thamnophis ordinoides hueyi VAN DENBURGH & SLEVIN 1923: 2
Thamnophis ordinoides hueyi — SMITH & TAYLOR 1945
Thamnophis elegans hueyi — LINER 1994
Thamnophis elegans hueyi — ROSSMAN et al. 1996

Thamnophis elegans terrestris FOX 1951
Thamnophis elegans terrestris — STEBBINS 1985: 206 (listed under “couchii”)
Thamnophis elegans terrestris — COLLINS 1997
Thamnophis elegans terrestris — CROTHER 2000
Thamnophis elegans terrestris — BOL 2007
Thamnophis elegans terrestris — CROTHER et al. 2012
Thamnophis elegans terrestris — HALLAS et al. 2021

Thamnophis elegans vagrans (BAIRD & GIRARD 1853)
Eutainia [sic] vagrans BAIRD & GIRARD 1853:35
Eutaenia vagrans plutonia YARROW 1883
Eutaenia henshawi YARROW 1883
Tropidonotus vagrans — BOULENGER 1893: 202
Thamnophis vagrans — STEJNEGER 1893: 213
Thamnophis ordinoides vagrans — VAN DENBURGH & SLEVIN 1921
Thamnophis elegans nigrescens JOHNSON 1947
Thamnophis elegans vagrans — CONANT & COLLINS 1991: 170
Thamnophis elegans arizonae TANNER & LOWE 1989
Thamnophis elegans vascotanneri TANNER & LOWE 1989
Thamnophis elegans vagrans — LINER 1994
Thamnophis elegans arizonae — ROSSMAN et al. 1996
Thamnophis elegans vascotanneri — ROSSMAN et al. 1996
Thamnophis elegans vagrans — BRUCHMANN 1997
Thamnophis elegans vargans — HALLMEN 2000 (in error)
Thamnophis elegans vagrans — CROTHER 2000
Thamnophis elegans arizonae — CROTHER 2000
Thamnophis elegans vascotanneri — CROTHER 2000
Thamnophis elegans vagrans — TENNANT & BARTLETT 2000: 103
Thamnophis elegans vagrans — SCHMIDT 2012
Thamnophis elegans vagrans — CROTHER et al. 2012
Thamnophis elegans vagrans — HALLAS et al. 2021 
DistributionW USA (Washington, Oregon, Montana, Nebraska, Colorado), SW Canada,
Mexico (Baja California Norte)

Has been found in 3990 m elevation.

arizonae (invalid): USA (E Arizona, W New Mexico); Type locality: “marsh approx. 2 miles east of Joseph City, Navajo Co., Arizona”

elegans: USA (C California, SW Oregon)

hueyi: Mexico (N Baja California); Type locality: Arroyo Encantado between La Grulla and La Encantada, Sierra San Pedro Martir, northern Baja California.

terrestris: USA (California); Type locality: Strawberry Canyon, Berkeley, Alameda County, California.

vagrans: W USA (Washington, Oregon, Nevada, NW New Mexico), W Canada (British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Alberta)

vascotanneri (invalid): USA (E Utah); Type locality: “junction of Boulger Creek and Huntington River, Emery Co., Utah”.  
Reproductionovoviviparous. There is evidence that vagrans is facultatively parthenogenetic (Schuett et al. 1997). 
TypesHolotype: USNM 882
Holotype: CAS 56855 [hueyi]
yntypes: (2) ANSP 10748-49; Oregon, south and west central lakes [biscutata]
Holotype: BYU 13358 [arizonae]
Holotype: BYU 10245 [vascotanneri]
Holotype: MVZ 48197 (adult female) [terrestris]
Syntypes: USNM 907 (2) [vagrans]
Syntypes: USNM 10840-10847, 10811, 8580, 8587, 9565, 11805, 12564 [Eutaenia elegans lineolata]
Syntype: USNM 10849 [Eutaenia elegans brunnea]
Holotype: USNM 8171 [Eutaenia vagrans plutonia]
Holotype: USNM 10912 [Eutaenia henshawi] 
DiagnosisDEFINITION (species). “Adult length S-V usually 290 to 740 mm, dorsal scales keeled (except in lowermost row) in 21-23-19-17,21-19-17 or 19-21-19-17 (rarely 19-17) rows, with reduction from maximum of 23 by loss, successively, of fifth, sixth, and fourth rows (counting upward from lowest row on each side); 8 supralabials, 4th and 5th bordering orbit; 6th and 7th supralabials relatively
high with suture between them nearly vertical; one or less frequently two pairs of preoculars; usually 3 pairs of postoculars; posterior genials little if any longer than anterior; internasals broader than long, truncate anteriorly; 146-185 ventrals; 67-101 subcaudals; vertebral stripe bright yellow, orange-yellow or tan, 1-3 scales wide, its edges irregular; dorsal ground color pale tan to velvety black, revealing, when pale, 2 superimposed rows of alternating black spots on each side; lateral stripe dull yellow or tan on 3rd and 4th scale row; pale, creamy, yellow or green flecks mainly confined to skin between scales in dorsolateral areas, contrasting with dark spots; ventral surface dull white, yellow or gray, with pink suffusion posteriorly and on tail, heavily marked with black in some populations; in situ hemipenis extending to about level of 14th subcaudal. Males average about 83% of female S-V length, and 59% of female weight, have tails averaging a little more than 26% of total length (vs. about 24% in females), average more ventrals than females (often by about 5) and more subcaudals (often by about 11 pairs depending on the population); teeth number about 17 maxillaries, 10 palatines, and 19 pterygoids, but counts average slightly higher in males than females and higher in biscutatus and vagrans than in elegans, hueyi and terrestris.” (Fitch 1983)

DEFINITION (subspecies). “Vertebral stripe bright yellow, covering vertebral scale row and adjacent half of each paravertebral row; dorsolateral area velvety black with yellow flecks; lateral stripes distinct, dull yellow; ventral surface pale, immaculate or nearly so; head short and broad, with enlarged posterior supralabials; internasals short and broadly truncate anteriorly; scale rows usually 21, of which the 5th on each side is confined to forebody, extending usually from 1/10 to 1/5 of total distance from snout to vent; 4th row also lacking on posterior part of body as it usually extends from 1/2 to 2/3 of total distance from snout to vent; ventrals number 151-184, subcaudals 72-101.” (Fitch 1983)

DEFINITION (hueyi). “Vertebral stripe bright yellow; dorsolateral area
dark olive or dark gray with superimposed dark spots discernible; head short and broad with enlarged posterior supralabials and short, broadly truncate internasals; scale rows on forebody 21, ventrals 149-161, subcaudals 67-82.” (Fitch 1983)

DEFINITION (nigrescens). “Dorsal stripe yellow, sometimes broader and brighter than in vagrans, less so than in other subspecies but almost suppressed in certain melanistic specimens; dorsolateral area dark brown to black with 2 alternating rows of black spots which are small, finely divided, and closely spaced; head short and narrow with a blunt snout; ventral surface heavily marked with black; preoculars usually divided; 21 scale rows on forebody, ventrals 155-174, subcaudals 67-91.” (Fitch 1983).

DEFINITION (terrestris). “Dorsal stripe bright yellow, extending onto half of each paravertebral row; dorsolateral area reddish brown or olive to black, with two alternating rows of black spots, and often with red spots or reddish suffusion of skin areas between scales; lateral stripes dull olive yellow with varying amounts of red; body relatively stout; head narrow with snout short and blunt; usually 21 scale rows (maximum) on forebody, 5th row short, centering at point 1/3 of distance from snout to vent; ventrals 149-178, subcaudals 61-90.” (Fitch 1983)

DEFINITION (vagrans). “Dorsal stripe dull yellow, nearly confined to vertebral scale row; lateral stripes dull yellow; dorsolateral area light brown with two alternating rows of small, well separated black spots, uppermost invading vertebral stripe; venter often marked with extensive black areas; head short and broad, with internasals moderately short and truncated anteriorly; posterior supralabials somewhat enlarged; scale rows 21 on forebody; ventrals 149-184, subcaudals 68-98.” (Fitch 1983) 
CommentSubspecies: Hammerson (1999) presented substantial evidence that the races Thamnophis elegans arizonae Tanner & Lowe 1989, and Thamnophis elegans vascotanneri Tanner & Lowe 1989, did not deserve recognition. Similarly, Bronikowski and Arnold (2001) using DNA data, concluded that recognition of the race, Thamnophis elegans terrestris Fox 1951, was unsupported. However, Crother et al. 2012 and others maintained it as valid. Thamnophis elegans errans SMITH 1942 has been elevated to full species status. Hallas et al. 2021 found that vagrans is distinct from elegans and terrestris but refrained from elevating it to species status.

Synonymy: partly after Rossman et al. 1996. Eutaenia biscutata COPE 1883 and Eutaenia elegans brunnea COPE 1892 appear to be intergrades (hybrids) between elegans and vagrans.

Distribution: see Hallas et al. 2021 (Fig. 1) for an upndated map of the subspecies elegans, terrestris and vagrans.

Genome: The T. elegans genome has been sequenced by Vicoso et al. (2013). 
EtymologyNamed after Latin for elegant; biscutatus is Latin for two-scaled, referring to the horizontally divided preo-cular; hueyi is for L. M. Huey; nigrescens is Latin for blackened; terrestris is Latin for “of the earth, terrestrial”; vagrans is Latin for wandering. 
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