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Xenochrophis bellulus (STOLICZKA, 1871)

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Higher TaxaColubridae (Natricinae), Colubroidea, Caenophidia, Alethinophidia, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes)
Common NamesE: Burmese White-barred Keelback 
SynonymTropidonotus bellulus STOLICZKA 1871: 191
Tropidonotus bellulus STOLICZKA 1871: 432
Tropidonotus bellulus — BOULENGER 1890
Tropidonotus trianguligerus — BOULENGER 1893: 224 (in part)
Natrix bellula — SMITH 1943: 298
Sinonatrix bellula — ROSSMAN & EBERLE 1977
Xenochrophis bellula — MALNATE & UNDERWOOD 1988: 195
Sinonatrix bellula — MCDOWELL & JENNER 1988
Sinonatrix bellula — RAO & YANG 1998
Xenochrophis bellulus — PAUWELS et al. 2001
Xenochrophis bellula — WALLACH et al. 2014: 797
Xenochrophis bellulus — LEE et al. 2018 
DistributionMyanmar (= Burma)

Type locality: ‘‘Prome, near Pegu’’ (now Pyay, Bago Region, Myanmar). Neotyp[e locality: Moyingyi Wetland Wildlife Sanctuary, Bago Region, Myanmar (17°35’27.4’’ N, 96°34’24.5’’ E; 3 m. in elevation).  
TypesNeotype: USNM 587200, Adult female, designated by Leet al. 2018, collected on Jul 2003 by Sai Wunna Kyi and Thet Win. Original holotype: Lost, according to Smith (1943). 
DiagnosisDiagnosis: Including data from Stoliczka (1871) and Smith (1943). Xenochrophis bellulus is separated from all other Southeast Asian natricine snakes by the following set of characteristics: (1) dark olive-brown to jet black dorsal coloration with anterior transverse bars dissipating around midbody; (2) supralabials and infralabials light cream with black sutures; (3) a single light dot on each parietal scale and one occipital scale bordering the parietals; (4) nine (rarely 10) supralabials, with the 4th–6th in contact with the eye; (5) dorsal scales keeled, 19–19–17 rows; (6) 135–144 unkeeled ventrals; (7) 63–83 unkeeled paired subcaudals; (8) single anterior temporal scale; (9) tail length 27.0%–30.0% of the total length; (10) bilobed hemipenis with large basal hooks, elongate spines on the tip of each lobe and a shallowly forked sulcus spermaticus; and (11) short, slender asymmetrical hemipenial lobes slightly separated from the rest of the hemipenial body, with the left lobe shorter and smaller in size compared to the right lobe [Lee et al. 2018].

Comparisons. Xenochrophis bellulus is immediately distinguished from most Southeast Asian natricine snakes by its dorsal color pattern, which is black to dark olive–brown with slight checkering and anterior transverse crossbars. X. punctulatus (Gu ̈ nther, 1858) is superficially similar to X. bellulus by its black and white color scheme but can be distinguished by its larger body size (SVL range of 398–642 mm in both sexes); 17–17–13 dorsal scale rows; lack of anterior transverse bars; a continuous white lateral line extending from the anterior part of the neck terminating at the tail 1–2 dorsal scales rows wide; two anterior temporal scales; 134– 154 ventral scales; and a bilobate hemipenis with a nude area on the lobes (data from Pauwels et al. 2003 and Cadle 2011). In addition, the genus Sinonatrix differs from X. bellulus by having two anterior temporal scales; 0–2 supralabials (rarely 3) in contact with the eye; a weakly forked hemipenis with a simple sulcus spermaticus terminating on the left lobe and lack of basal hooks and elongate spines (Rossman & Eberle 1977, Malnate & Underwood 1988). 
CommentSynonymy: MALNATE & UNDERWOOD 1988 placed Tropidonotus bellulus in the genus Xenochrophis but noted that this assignment was made “with some insecurity”. Boulenger (1893) synonymized this species with Tropidonotus trianguligerus F. Boie, 1827 (= Xenochrophis trianguligerus) with some reservations (i.e. with a question mark). 
Etymology‘bellulus’’ is a diminutive of the word ‘‘bellus’’ which roughly means ‘‘pretty little one’’ or ‘‘beauty’’ in Latin. 
  • Boulenger, George A. 1890. The Fauna of British India, Including Ceylon and Burma. Reptilia and Batrachia. Taylor & Francis, London, xviii, 541 pp. - get paper here
  • Dowling, H.G., & Jenner, J.V. 1988. Snakes of Burma: checklist of reported species and bibliography. Smithsonian Herp. Inf. Serv. (76): 19 pp. - get paper here
  • Lee, Justin L.; Gernot Vogel, Aryeh H. Miller, and George R. Zug 2018. Rediscovery of Xenochrophis bellulus (Stoliczka, 1871) from Myanmar (Serpentes: Natricinae) with comments on its taxonomic status. Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 131(1):19-35 - get paper here
  • Malnate E V; Underwood G 1988. Australasian natricine snakes of the genus Tropidonophis. PROCEEDINGS OF THE ACADEMY OF NATURAL SCIENCES OF PHILADELPHIA 140 (1) : 59-201 - get paper here
  • Pauwels,O.S.G.; David, P., Nutphand, W. & Chimsunchart, C. 2001. First record of Xenochrophis punctulatus (GÜNTHER 1858) (Serpentes: Colubridae: Natricinae) from Thailand. Hamadryad 26 (2): 247-252 - get paper here
  • Rao, DING QI & D. T. YANG. 1998. A new species of Sinonatrix (Serpentes: Colubridae) of China with preliminary survey on Sinonatrix. Russ. J. Herpetol. 5 (1): 70-73. - get paper here
  • Smith, M.A. 1943. The Fauna of British India, Ceylon and Burma, Including the Whole of the Indo-Chinese Sub-Region. Reptilia and Amphibia. 3 (Serpentes). Taylor and Francis, London. 583 pp.
  • Stoliczka, F. 1871. Notes on some Indian and Burmese Ophidians. [abstract] J. asiat. Soc. Bengal, Calcutta, 40: 191-192 (main paper as 421-445) - get paper here
  • Stoliczka,F. 1871. Notes on some Indian and Burmese Ophidians. Proc. Asiat. Soc. Bengal 1871: 191-192 - 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.
  • Zug, G. R., J. H. Blackburn III, S. W. Kyi. 2006. Checkered keelbacks (Xenochrophis - Reptilia: Serpentes: Natricidae) at the Moyingyi Wetland Bird Sanctuary, Myanmar. Hamadryad 30 (1 & 2):157-166. - get paper here
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