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Uropeltis rajendrani GANESH & ACHYUTHAN, 2020

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Higher TaxaUropeltidae, Henophidia, Alethinophidia, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes)
Common NamesE: Rajendran’s Shieldtail snake 
SynonymUropeltis rajendrani GANESH & ACHYUTHAN 2020
Uropeltis cf. ceylanica – GANESH & ARUMUGAM 2016 (nec Cuvier, 1829) 
DistributionIndia (Tamil Nadu)

Type locality: Bodhamalai Hills near Salem and Namakkal District border, overlooking Panamarathupatti Town (11.535 ̊N 78.221 ̊E; 1,070m), Tamil Nadu State, peninsular India  
TypesHolotype: BNHS 3559 an adult male, August 2019, a relatively undamaged specimen found dead on a road, coll. N.S. Achyuthan & N.V. Srikanthan.
Paratypes: BNHS 3560 and BNHS 3561, trampled adults, found dead on a road. Same data as of holotype. 
DiagnosisDiagnosis: A species of Uropeltis from the Kolli Hill complex, characterized by having the following combination of characters: (1) caudal shield truncate, with a distinct thickened circumscribed concave disc; (2) part of rostral visible from above not distinctly longer than its distance from frontal; (3) rostral scale partially separating nasal scales; (4) snout obtusely rounded; (5) eye diameter 3/4th that of ocular shield; (6) dorsal scale rows 16–17:16–17:15–16; (7) ventral scales 145–158; (8) subcaudal scales 8–11 pairs; (9) dorsum deep brown, unpatterned, anteriorly with a few yellow speckles; (10) venter yellow, each scale edged with brown.

Comparisons and Differential diagnosis: The new species is here compared with all 24 recognized species of Uropeltis (see Pyron et al. 2016; Jins et al. 2018). By having a thickened, circumscribed, concave caudal disc Uropeltis rajendrani sp. nov. clearly differs from the following 14 species: U. bhupathyi, U. ellioti, U. nitida, U. grandis, U. aculate, U. dindigalensis, U. beddomei, U. macroryncha, U. woodmasoni, U. broughami, U. aculate, U. petersi, U. liura, and U. pulneyensis. Further, Uropeltis rajendrani sp. nov. also differs from the remaining congeners (after Gower et al. 2008; Ganesh et al. 2014) with a thickened, circumscribed, caudal shield categorized under Smith’s (1943) Group II A & B as follows (only opposing suite of character states listed): U. arcticeps (southern Western Ghats): dorsal scales lacking a clearly defined yellow scale border; ventral scale counts much lower (127–128); U. bicatenata (northern Western Ghats): yellowish scalloping chain-like pattern across both sides of the body; U. broughami (southern Western Ghats): 19 midbody scale rows; rostral scale much produced and ridged with a dorsal keel; dorsum brown with distinct small, yellow-black-edged transverse ocelli; ventral scale counts higher (181–230); U. ceylanica s. auct. (Western Ghats): anterior dorsum without distinct yellow spots; venter lacking a clearly defined brownish scale border; ventral scale counts much lower (119–146; 130 in holotype – Gower et al. 2008); U. macrolepis complex (northern Western Ghats): 15 midbody scale rows; lower ventral scale counts (128–140); dorsum blackish-brown with yellow broken spots forming zig-zag crossbars or annuli or a pair of distinct, thick, yellowish- orange paravertebral stripes extending across most of the body except near neck, where there are two large orange spots; U. madurensis (southern Western Ghats): dorsal scales with a clearly defined yellow scale border; U. myhendrae (southern Western Ghats): dorsum with brownish-black body, each scale with yellowish posterior border forming more or less complete band or annuli; part of rostral visible from above distinctly longer than its distance from frontal; ventral scales comparatively lower (139–156); U. phipsoni (northern Western Ghats): a pair of yellowish lateral streaks along both sides of the body; part of rostral visible from above distinctly longer than its distance from the frontal; ventral scales comparatively lower (138–157); U. rubromaculata (southern Western Ghats): presence of two large red caudal spots; much higher ventral counts (127–136); U. rubrolineata (southern Western Ghats): presence of two ventrolateral red stripes; much higher ventral counts (165–172); U. shorttii (southern Eastern Ghats, allopatric): dorsal body brownish or bluish-black, with distinct yellowish annuli or crossbars; ventral counts comparatively lower (141–156). 
CommentSympatry: Rhinophis goweri 
EtymologyNamed in honour of Dr. Maria Viswasam Rajendran (2 Nov 1916–6 Aug 1993), ‘MVR’ for short, for his exhaustive studies on shieldtail snakes in Tamil Nadu, next only to Richard Henry Beddome and Frank Wall. Not only was he a professor of zoology at the St. Joseph’s College Palayamkottai (Tirunelveli, Tamil Nadu) but also the director of the Madras (now Chennai) Snake Park (Chennai, Tamil Nadu) during the early 1980s. 
  • Ganesh, S. R.; M. Arumugam 2016. Species Richness of Montane Herpetofauna of Southern Eastern Ghats, India: A Historical Resume and a Descriptive Checklist. Russ. J. Herpetol. 23 (1): 7-24 - get paper here
  • Ganesh, S.R. & N.S. Achyuthan 2020. A new species of shieldtail snake (Reptilia: Squamata: Uropeltidae) from Kolli Hill complex, southern Eastern Ghats, peninsular India. Journal of Threatened Taxa 12(4): 15436–15442 - get paper here
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