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Tropidophis fuscus HEDGES & GARRIDO, 1992

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Higher TaxaTropidophiidae, Henophidia, Alethinophidia, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes)
SynonymTropidophis fuscus HEDGES & GARRIDO 1992: 820
Tropidophis fuscus — MCDIARMID, CAMPBELL & TOURÉ 1999: 218
Tropidophis fuscus — RODRIGUEZ-SCHETTINO et al. 2013
Tropidophis fuscus — WALLACH et al. 2014: 753 
DistributionCuba (Holguin, Guantánamo)

Type locality: "Minas Amores (21.7 kin NW, 7.7 kin SE Baracoa, by road), Guantánamo Province, Cuba, [elevation] 76 m"  
TypesHolotype: MNHNCU 2705 
DiagnosisDiagnosis. A species of Tropidophis distinguished from all others by its very dark brown dorsal coloration, with darker brown or black spotting. Its elongate body, with distinct head, narrow neck, and protrusive eyes (protruding beyond edge of head when viewed from above), further distinguishes it from adults of most other Tropidophis (Figs. 2-3), especially when these traits are considered together. It differs from species in the semicinctus group (T. feicki, T. semicinctus, and T. wrighti, with which it shares the gracile habitus, in having fewer ventrals (160-185 versus 195-225), fewer subcaudals (32versus 33-45), more (and smaller) dorsal body blotches (43-46 versus 18-29), and a dark rather than light ground color. Although occasional specimens of other species of Tropidophis have either large eyes or a relatively narrow neck (Fig. 2), none have the combined overall gracile habitus of T. fuscus, which includes a laterally compressed body as in species of the semicinctus group (see diagram in Stejneger, 1917). In addition to these traits, T. fuscus can be readily distinguished from T. caymanensis Battersby, T. greenwayi Barbour and Shreve, T. maculatus Bibron, T. melanurus Schlegel, T. pilsbryi galacelidus Schwartz and Garrido, and all T. haetianus Cope (including populations of these species on Cuba, Hispaniola, and Jamaica) by its low number of dorsal scale rows at midbody (23 versus 25 or more). From T. canus Cope, which has 23 midbody scale rows, it can be distinguished by its smaller size [220/304 mm SVL (M/ F) versus 408/373 mm SVL in T. canus], lack of anterior (lateral) body stripes. narrower snout, larger frontal and narrower supraocular scales, and presence of occipital spots. Detailed comparison is needed only for three Cuban species: T. pardalis Gundlach , T. pilsbryi Bailey, and T. nigriventris Bailey. From T. pardalis, which has 23 midbody scale rows, T. fuscus can be distinguished by its eight rows of blotches (versus six, or rarely eight), weakly keeled dorsal scales (versus smooth), and higher number of paramedian body blotches (43-46 versus 25-42), Also, T. pardalis is a stockier snake with a prominently spotted dorsum, smaller eyes, and a different head shape (Fig. 3). From T. nigriventris (also with 23 midbody scale rows), it can be distinguished by its weakly keeled dorsal scales (versus smooth, or rarely weakly keeled), three postoculars (versus two, or sometimes three in nigriventris), presence of occipital spots (versus absent), smaller body size [220/ 304 mm SVL (M/ F) versus 351/355 mm maximum SVL in T. nigriventris], and a more distinct head (Fig. 2). Additionally, the nominate subspecies of T. nigriventris, which is geographically closer to T. fuscus than the other subspecies (T. n. hardyi Schwartz and Garrido), has fewer ventrals (144-150 versus 160 and 185 in T. fuscus) . Although ventral counts of T. fuscus and T. n. hardyi ( 153-172) overlap, the latter taxon has six (rarely eight) rows of blotches versus eight rows in both specimens of T. fuscus, one preocular [2 / 2 (L/ R) and 1/ 2 in T. fuscus ], and an unpatterned venter (large dark brown blotches on venter in T. fuscus). All T. pilsbryi galacelidus and most T. p. pilsbryi can be distinguished from T. fuscus by their 25 or more midbody scale rows and 10 rows of blotches, but some specimens of T. p. pilsbryi have 23 scale rows and eight rows of blotches as in T. fuscus. From these specimens, T. fuscus can be distinguished by its gracile (not stocky) body shape, large and protruding eyes, distinct head (Fig. 3), and coloration (nearly uniform dark brown versus the prominent dorsal spotting, white occipital band, and yellow tail of T. p. pilsbryi) (from Hedges & Garrido 1992). 
EtymologyNamed after Latin “fuscus”, meaning dark or dusky, in allusion to the dark dorsal coloration of this species. 
  • Díaz, L. M. y Cádiz, A. 2020. A new species of Tropidophis (Squamata: Tropidophiidae) and molecular phylogeny of the Cuban radiation of the genus. Novitates Caribaea (16): 1-19; doi: 10.33800/nc.vi16.222 - get paper here
  • Hedges, S. B. and O. H. Garrido. 1992. A new species of Tropidophis from Cuba (Serpentes: Tropidophiidae). Copeia 1992 (4): 820-825 - get paper here
  • Hedges, S.B. 2002. Morphological variation and the definition of species in the snake genus Tropidophis (Serpentes, Tropidophiidae). Bull. nat. Hist. Mus. London (Zool.) 68 (2): 83-90 - get paper here
  • Iturriaga, Manuel and Marco A. Olcha. 2015. Geographic Distribution: Tropidophis fuscus. Herpetological Review 46 (3): 387 - get paper here
  • McDiarmid, R.W.; Campbell, J.A. & Touré,T.A. 1999. Snake species of the world. Vol. 1. [type catalogue] Herpetologists’ League, 511 pp.
  • Rodríguez Schettino, Lourdes, Carlos A. Mancina & Vilma Rivalta González 2013. REPTILES OF CUBA: CHECKLIST AND GEOGRAPHIC DISTRIBUTIONS. Smithsonian Herp. Inf. Serv. (144): 1-96 - get paper here
  • Wallach, Van; Kenneth L. Williams , Jeff Boundy 2014. Snakes of the World: A Catalogue of Living and Extinct Species. [type catalogue] Taylor and Francis, CRC Press, 1237 pp.
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