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Higher TaxaColubridae (Dipsadinae), Colubroidea, Caenophidia, Alethinophidia, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes)
Common NamesE: Tricolor Snailsucker
S: Caracolera tricolor 
DistributionMexico (Guerrero)

Type locality: 1.5 km east of Río Verde, Municipio de Atoyac de Álvarez, (17.3131°, -100.1969°, datum=WGS84, 971 m a.s.l.), Guerrero, Mexico (Fig. 3A)  
TypesHolotype. INIRENA 2800 (original field num- ber CIG 1837). Juvenile male, collected on August 14th, 2020 by Mi- guel A. Peñaloza-Montaño, Jason M. Jones and Jacobo Reyes-Velasco (Fig. 1 in Grünwald et al. 2021).
Paratypes. (2) (Figs. 2C–D) INIRENA 2799 (original field number CIG 1596). Adult of unknown sex, DOR, collected at 26 km N of Putla Villa de Guerrero, on Putla Villa de Guerrero - Oaxaca Hwy., Municipality of Putla de Guerrero (17.1494°, -97.8709°, datum=WGS84, 1785 m a.s.l.), Oaxaca, Mexico, on September 4th, 2019 by Chris- toph I. Grünwald, Christopher M. Rodriguez and Carmen Mendoza-Portilla; INIRENA 2798 (original field number CIG 1863). Adult female, DOR, collected at 4.5 km NW of Mixtecapa, on the road to Malinaltepec, Municipio de Malinaltepec, (17.2539°, -98.6406°, datum=WGS84, 1815 m a.s.l.), Guerrero, Mexico on October 21st, 2020 by Tziuhtécatl Sánchez-Luna. 
DiagnosisDiagnosis. “Tropidodipsas tricolor sp. nov. is placed in the genus Tropidodipsas based on phylogenetic evidence (Fig. 6). It belongs to the Tropidodipsas fasciata group as defined by Kofron (1987) based on possessing a laterally compressed body, head distinctly wider than neck, protruding eyes of moderate to large diameter, vertebral and paravertebral scales not wider than other dorsal scales, 17 maxillary teeth, 18 dentary teeth, postmental scale absent. The species differs from all described species of Tropidodipsas based on the following combination of characters: (1) 15/15/15 rows of smooth dorsal scales with no enlarged vertebral row; (2) prefrontal broader than long, entering the orbit; (3) loreal square, equally long as high, not entering the orbit; (4) 183 ventral scales in males, 183 in females; (5) 78–79 divided subcaudals in males and 79 in females; (6) 19–22 reddish orange, light-edged bands on body, most with dark brown or black medial stippling, giving the snake a “tricolor” effect; 8 pale bands on tail; (7) ground color black or nearly so; (8) iris chocolate brown; (9) TL/SVL 0.31 in one male specimen, and 0.30 in one female specimen.” (Grünwald et al. 2021: 238)

Comparisons. “Tropidodipsas tricolor sp. nov. is most similar to T. philippii, T. fasciata, T. guerreroensis and the new species described below. It is the only species of snail-sucker in Mexico with a tricolor pattern, although similar patterns exist in Central American (e.g., Sibon anthracops) and South American (e.g., Dipsas bobridgelyi) snail-suckers. It is distinguished from other Mexican snail-suckers such as the Geophis chalybeus species group, the Geophis omiltemanus species group, G. sartorii new comb., G. annuliferus new comb., Tropidodipsas fischeri (Fig. 9C,D), S. carri, G. sanniolus new comb. and S. linearis by the laterally compressed body shape and the tri-colored pattern. Further, it differs from other snail-sucker species (character states in parenthesis) as follows: It differs from S. anthracops by possessing 15 scale rows at midbody (vs. 13), possessing a prefrontal that enters the orbit (vs. prefrontal does not enter orbit), loreal not entering the orbit (vs. loreal enters orbit). It may be distinguished from S. dimidiatus by its noticeably different tricolor banded dorsal coloration (vs. brown snake with dark blotches, spots or an undulating stripe) and by lacking a post-mental scale (vs. usually one or two post-mental scales present) and by possessing less than 80 subcaudals in males (vs. 96–144). It is distinguished from Sibon nebulatus (Fig. 9A,B) by possessing tricolor body bands (vs. a nebulated black, grey and white pattern with no red outlines in the pale bands), and by vertebral scales not enlarged (vs. row of vertebral scales 1.25–1.35 times larger than other dorsal scales).
This species differs from Dipsas gaigeae by having 15 dorsal scale rows at mid-body (vs. 13), possessing more than 180 ventral scales (vs. 155–169) and a loreal that does not enter orbit (vs. loreal entering orbit). Distinct from D. brevifacies by possessing more than 180 ventrals (vs. 162–180), always possessing the prefrontal in contact with orbit (vs. usually not), never possessing a loreal in contact with orbit (vs. usually in contact), usually possessing 1+2 temporals (vs. usually 2+3), and usually possessing one pair of infralabials in contact after the mental (vs. usually two pairs of infralabials in contact after the mental).
Within Tropidodipsas, T. tricolor sp. nov. differs from T. fasciata and T. guerreroensis by possessing 15 smooth dorsal scale rows (vs. 17 keeled scale rows) and by prefrontal entering orbit (vs. not entering orbit). It differs from the new species described below (Tropidodipsas papavericola sp. nov.; see below) by tricolor outline in pale dorsal bands (vs. unicolor pales body bands), 19–22 reddish orange body bands (vs. 25–33 pale body bands), by possessing a prefrontal which enters the orbit (vs. prefrontal not entering orbit), by possessing 78–79 subcaudal scales in males (vs. 69–76), by possessing one preocular (vs. two), by possessing 2–3 postoculars (vs. 1–2), 7–8 supralabials (vs. 5–7), 8–9 infralabials (vs. 6–7), eye–head length ratio 25% (vs. 17–21%), by pale throat coloration with black stippling concentrated toward anterior portion and a black mental (vs. pale throat coloration with random dark spots not concentrated in any specific region and a black and white mental), and a narrower head with less protruding eyes (vs. head noticeably wider than neck and eyes strongly protruberant). It differs from T. philippii (Fig. 8C,D) by presenting one preocular (vs. 2–3), prefrontal entering orbit (vs. not entering orbit), supralabials 7–8 (vs. 6–7), 3 gular scales (vs. 5), a longer tail which is 30–31% of SVL in males (vs. 25–29% in males), consistently 19–21 pale body bands (vs. highly variable, from 9–44 according to Kofron (1980, 1987) but usually 11–21, according to our data (n=13), and eye– head length ratio of 25% (vs. 15–23%).
Genetic divergence in a 1,072-bp fragment of mitochondrial cytb gene between T. tricolor sp. nov. and T. papavericola sp. nov. is 13–14%; between T. tricolor sp. nov. and geographically proximate T. fasciata, 14–15%; between T. tricolor sp. nov. and T. guerreroensis, 14– 16%; and between T. tricolor sp. nov. and geographically proximate T. philippii, 15–16%.” Grünwald et al. 2021: 239)

Description of holotype: Grünwald et al. 2021: 239

Coloration in life of the holotype: ”Dorsal coloration of head, body and tail black with 19 reddish orange, light-edged bands on body (not counting nuchal band) and 9 bands on tail; red-orange color faded on four anteriormost bands. Nuchal band cream and involving latter fifth portion of the parietals and the anterior two and part of the third dorsal scale rows. Body bands 9–19 and all tail bands exhibit scattered dark stippling. The entire snake has a “tricolor” appearance. Pale bands on body and tail 2–4 scale rows long (mean = 3) and wider on the lateral surfaces due to the increased scale size. Head coloration predominately black on dorsal surface and pale cream ventrally. The pale nuchal coloration extends forward onto posterior part of the parietals, and beneath the temporals onto the supralabials. Anterior supralabial black, the others bicolor, posterior supralabial predominately cream on both sides but with black flecking in the middle. Dark body color almost complete ventrally, occasionally interrupted mid-ventrally by a pale line. Light dorsal bands are complete ventrally but with dark flecking towards posterior part of body. Reddish orange coloration of dorsal bands does not continue onto the venter. Anal plate bicolored, black on the margins and pale cream in the middle. First dark band on tail interrupted mid-ventrally by pale cream coloration, the other dark and pale bands on tail complete ventrally. Tail tip black above, pale orange below. Pupil pale gray, iris chocolate brown in life.” ((Fig. 1A, Grünwald et al. 2021: 242)

Variation. “Meristic variation of the three available specimens is given in Table 3. One paratype (INIRENA 2798) possesses a tiny second preocular above the large lower preocular on both sides. This small scale does not prevent the prefrontal from entering the orbit as in the other specimens and may be a division of the lower preocular.
Two individuals were photographed by Peter Heimes in Guerrero in 2007. While these individuals were not collected or examined in detail, they are likely of this species. As we lack photos of variation of this new species in life, we have included photos of these two individuals which most probably belong to this species.” (Fig. 2A,B, Grünwald et al. 2021: 242) 
CommentDistribution: See Grünwald et al. 2021: 252 (Fig. 10) for a map. 
EtymologyNamed after the tricolor pattern of the black dorsal coloration interspersed by light dorsal bands of cream and reddish orange. 
  • Grünwald CI, Toribio-Jiménez S, Montaño-Ruvalcaba C, Franz-Chávez H, Peñaloza-Montaño MA, Barrera-Nava EY, Jones JM, Rodriguez CM, Hughes IM, Strickland JL, Reyes-Velasco J 2021. Two new species of snail-eating snakes of the genus Tropidodipsas (Serpentes, Dipsadidae) from southern Mexico, with notes on related species. Herpetozoa 34: 233-257 - get paper here
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