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Zamenis longissimus (LAURENTI, 1768)

IUCN Red List - Zamenis longissimus - Least Concern, LC

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Higher TaxaColubridae, Colubrinae, Colubroidea, Caenophidia, Alethinophidia, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes)
Common NamesE: Aesculapean Snake
G: Äskulapnatter
Croatian: bjelica
Russian: Эскулапов полоз
Italian: saettone comune 
SynonymNatrix longissima LAURENTI 1768: 74
Coluber aesculapi LACEPEDE 1789
Elaphis Aesculapii — DUMÉRIL, BIBRON & DUMÉRIL 1854: 278
Coluber esculapii — BOETTGER 1889: 271
Coluber esculapii — SCLATER 1891: 33
Coluber longissimus — BOULENGER 1894: 52
Coluber Aesculapii — ZANG 1905
Coluber longissimus — BOULENGER 1913
Elaphe longissima — ENGELMANN et al 1993
Elaphe longissima — SCHULZ 1996
Elaphe longissima — STOEV 2000
Zamenis longissimus — UTIGER et al. 2002
Zamenis longissimus — SCHLÜTER 2006
Zamenis longissima — VENCHI & SINDACO 2006
Zamenis longissimus — KWET 2007
Zamenis longissimus — WALLACH et al. 2014: 808 
DistributionNW Spain, France, Italy, S Switzerland, Andorra,
Germany (Taunus, Neckar river, Passau, Salzach-river, Berchtesgaden), SE Poland,
S Austria (except Tirol and Vorarlberg),
Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, N Turkey, Greece (incl. Corfu = Corfou),
Croatia (including some Adriatic islands), Slovenia, Bosnia, Hercegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia, Serbia, S Slovakia,
Albania, S Czech Republic, Republic of Georgia, NW Iran,
S Russia: south to Kuban river, SW Ukraine, S Moldova, Azerbaijan

Introduced to the United Kingdom (Wales) [fide]

Type locality: Austria (Laurenti, 1768); Austria, Vienna (Mertens & Müller, 1928)  
TypesType: nondesignated, present location unknown (fide V. Wallach, pers. comm.) 
DiagnosisDescription: “Eyes quite large, pupils round, very obvious against the yellowish-grey to orange-brown (never red) iris. Dorsal scales are smooth and shiny, arranged in 23 (rarely 21) rows at mid-body, 1 large, high preocular plate, 2 postoculars, the upper larger than the lower, 8 (sometimes 9) supra labials on each side. Many ventral plates (211-250) with a slight keel on each side (the snake uses these to climb), a divided anal plate, subcordals divided and arranged in pairs (Geniez 2018: 166).

Coloration: Back is bright yellow-brown, olive, grey-brown or sometimes blackish-grey. A good number of the back and flank scales have a fine pure-white border, forming a pattern of interrupted small longitudinal lines, characteristic of the Aesculapian Snake.There are sometimes 4 dark indistinct longitudinal lines on the back and flanks. In adults, the head is often yellower than the rest of the body, which has no markings, except for a wide temporal band, sometimes ill-defined, from the eye to the back of the temple.This dark band is crossed at the back by a yellow half-collar that becomes less and less distinct with age. The labials and belly are pale yellow, sometimes greenish-yellow. Juveniles are very differently coloured, with a more contrasting pattern: the head has a dark brown top with a dark ill-defined transverse band between the eyes,and a large black band from the eye to just behind the temple that is unconnected with the black marking at the back of the mandibles. The labial plates are pale yellow, with a small black spot below the eye; a yellow half-collar forms 2 triangles that continue onto the nape without joining; this half-collar is at the origin of the confusion with the Grass Snake, Natrix natrix, which is not, however, otherwise very similar.There is a large double black and mahogany marking on the nape in a U or V shape, open at the back; the back has 4 series of quite large brown markings that are close to each other and separated by numerous white or pale yellow streaks (Geniez 2018: 166).

Ontogenetic change: Juveniles have a much more pronounced pattern while adults are almost uniform with only a faint dorsal stripe and whitish speckles at the edges of scales. See description for details. 
CommentElaphe longissima romana has been elevated to species status by Lenk & Wüster 1999 and is now called E. lineata.

Type species: Coluber aesculapi LACEPEDE 1789 is the type species of the genus Zamenis WAGLER 1830 (fide WILLIAMS & WALLACH 1989: 161).

Synonymy: Kaiser et al. 2013 considered the generic name Richardwellsus Hoser 2012 invalid and rejected its use instead of Zamenis.

Habitat: partly arboreal (Harrington et al. 2018).

Distribution: Not in Poland fide Geniez 2018, Salvi et al. 2018, but recorded from isolated localities there fide Kurek et al. 2017. For a map see Sindaco et al. 2013. 
EtymologyNamed after the length of this species which is unusually large for European snakes.

The genus was named after the Greek “za” = great, and “menos” = strength. 
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