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A new adder (Bitis; Viperidae) from the Western Cape Province, South Africa

Authors:

Abstract

A new species of small, terrestrial Bitis is described from the Western Cape Province, South Africa. It occurs in sympatry with Bitis comuta and Bitis atropos on the upper slopes and summit of the Cedarberg, and with the latter on the Swartberg. Features of scalation, colour and body form distinguish the new species from all other southern African Bitis. Its range extends in an arc from the northern Cape Fold Mountains, southwards into the western regions of the Little Karoo, with a possibly isolated population on the Roggeveldberg and Komsberg of the inland escarpment.
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S. Ali. J. Zool. 1997, i2(2)
Rll7i0 (CDNEC 11807), Anysberg Nature Reserr'e,
Vaughanville, Wesrern Cape Provincei 33'2753"S,
20035 29"8: l320BC; 3 May 1995t J. Vaughan. PEM R12301
(CDNEC 11806), Tou\,lsfontein Nature Reserve, Western
Cape Prcvince; 3l'3:l'10"S, 20'30'33"9j 3320DAr 25 March
1995. PEM R3671, Die Brug, canks Mountain Nature
Resef',e, Ladismith District, Westem Cape Province;
33"43'48"S,21'50'43'E; 3321DB;18 Atrgust 1980, P. W. de
Kock. PEM Rl1261, Near Fafln Karcebosdam, Liltle Karoo,
Westem Cape Province; 33'3640"5, 21"03'57"8, 302 n;
332lCAi 12 Februar) 1995; W.R. Branch. PEM R4347,
Swartberg Slate Forcst, Paardevlei. Western Cape Province;
33'20'59"S,22'02'00"8, alr. 1300 m; 3320AB;22 September
1976, W. Pieraaf. TM 56634, Waterkloof, Swarlberg Moun-
tains, Westem Cape Province; i3'27'S,21'17'Ei 3i2lAD; 7
August 1977; R.C. Boycott. TM 566i5. same localiry and
collector as TM 56634; 6 August 1983.
Diagnosis
Bitis rubi.ld is characlerized bl lacking, or having greatly-
reduced, elongate scales ('homs') in the supraorbital region.
and by having a drab. usually .oddish, dorsal colouration. Ir
can be distinguished fiom other small Atli.! by various scuiel-
lation features. It differs ftom ,. jr€r'opdgd in having fewer
ASR than MSR (ASR equal to or greater in number than
MSR in B relopdgd; Haacke 1975), and lower venrral scale
counts in both sexes (3. :refopdga - males 147-15,1. mean
151.5; females lil I55. mean 152.4; Haacke 1975). Ii dif-
ters fiom B. atoPrs in having a mised supraorbital ridge. Ii
differs fron synpatric and southem populations of3irs.or
,r/d in having lower venhal s€ale counts in both sexes, fewef
circumorbitals, and usually 29 MSR. Bilrs colrrla usually
has 27 MSR and a slighily higher number ofdorsal blotches.
lr dl.o dilfer. ho'r, B tut,da I alq.).l-a\ing pfominenl
supraorbital 'horns' and usually a contrasting colour pattern
of grey, wbite and black (.eddisl in a population near Lang
Hoogte, 35 km east Kleinsee). ,irri,"rlida does not occn. in
sympairy wirh B. dtropoides, which is reslricted to coasral
regions ofthe souih-westem Cape The latter has nuch lower
ventral scale counts (115 128). slighlly lower subcaudal
counts and rjctals, usually 27 MSR, and a higher number of
circumorbjials. B atrapoides also usually has obvious
supraorbital 'horns' (alihough these are less well developed
than LlB. col,u/a), as lvell as a grey'black white colouratron
(that is less Nell defined thar that ofr. co llta). Bitis inar
n.lta and B. albanicd are testricted to the Eastern Cape Prov-
lnce and are well isolated fiom the western taxa, including B
r,rrra. The two eastem species are disringuished by having
shorttails in males, in which the hemipenes reach only the 6
7th subcaudal (9 I 0 subcaudal in the other raxa). Supraocrlar
'horns' arc greally reduced or abseni in B. olbani.d.\\l11ch
also has a bold, corlrasting, grey-black-white colour patiem,
with fbwer dorsal b lotch es than in the western taxa. Birtu irrl
,ald complelel)' Iacks suplaorbital 'homs'. and has a very
drab yellowish-brown colouration. in which the dorsal
blotches are greatly reduced or absent. The eastem iaxa are
allopatric and separaied liom ore anothcr by 150 km.
Descfiption
Holotype PEM R12582; 309 r.35 = 344 mmi Lail into body
39
8.83 times. Venfal scales 129, wilh i pre\,entrals;anrlentire;
subcaudals 27 - spine. all divided except flrsr three beh;nd
analj ASR 25, MSR 27. PSR 20. Nostril snnounded by three
scalesr the supranasalvery 1afge. rnised. selni-lunar and ibmr
ing a well developed supranasal sacr t{o idianasals. posie,
rjor nuch larger than anlerior. Supranasals separared
transverscly fiom one anoiher: antcriorl) from rostral by a
fow of three scales (all contacting rhc rostral), in the middlc
by two largc. mgose scales, ard poslernrly by a rorv ofrhfee
scales. Seven scalcs. jncluding fint upper labial on each side.
bordering lhe rosL.al: l2 scales. including circumorbitals.
between tbe eyes at the irnleriof edge ofthe o$it: I I ght. 12
left circumorbiralst two scale rows separating cncurnorbitals
from upper labials on each sidei ll upper l.tbials or cacr sroe,
t2 lower labials on each side, llrsl elongate and in contact
behind mental, first three pans in contact wii! a pair ol'
cnlarged chin shields; 8 rictals on each side benveen corner ol'
mouth and prevenlrals.
Head subtriangular with a roundcd snout, sx,ollen supraor,
bital region thal bears a snall group of elongate scates. and
covered above with firely keeled scales which are largest
between the eyes Neck distjnct and much Darro\aer than
width of head. Dorsal scales elongarc. imbricate. wjth a
rounded liee end and a noder:rtcll developed keel noi
extending beyond rhe iip. OuDr fow of laleml scales border-
ing ventrals more or less as widc as long aDd bluntly rounded,
keeled tlroughout lengLh with kccl tiking slightly down-
rvards. Vefirals and subcatrdals smoolh. $,ith the first three
subcaudals undivided.
Eveted left henipenis divided anns subequal to of longer
than shaft; onramentation spinose $iLh a large nude region in
ihe croich beh\'een the swollen anns that extcnds onto the
asulcalsuditce, rlhich bears scafiered minute spnrulcs. Sulcus
spennalicus divides distal to largesi lateral spincs. the
branches running seini cenniftgally ro rhe rips of thc amrs.
Pfoxnnal region ofarms spinose. disnl quarLcr trearmg large,
smooth-walled calyces; no tern]inal awn Lateral surface of
anns and undivided shaft bearing,l 5 tuws ofenlarged, ossi-
fied spincs that are largesr on the lides. slightly proximal ro
the sulcaldivision.
ln presenation (notes on live coloufation nolcd in brack-
ets) the dorsxm is lighi brorvn (reddish) \,!iih laguc da*cf
palches (dafk ochre) along the dorsolateral region. An inegu-
lar meshwork olpalcr scales (feddish-taD covers drc flanks.
Top oflread uniforrn lighl brown (reddirl, ertcnding onto the
ienrporal rcgion and upper labials. No ob!rcus dafker bdnds
radiate from the eye to the lip. alrlough the.lth upper labiaL
on borh sides is pale. Lining ofmoxth pinkish tJpper surlace
oftail with seven vague dark (dark ochre) X shaped hands: a
series ofsnrall, pale-edged ocellion sidcs oftail. Ihloalliqht
crmm (yello'!ish), 'vith dark bro\yn (reddlsh-lrrown) iDfu-
sions on lo'ver labials. Ihe beLly is srey (dirqr crerm) hea!il)-
intlsed wilh dark patches (grey-brown) particularl) along thc
lateral borders ofthc lcntruls. getting more extensive or the
rear part ofthe bodr_.
Variation in the type sefes
Details and meristicr fof the ttpe series are summarized in
Table 1 Additional variation tu sculellation, etc., inclxding
that ofthe t_vpe series, is summarized in Table ?. Scale ro\\s
Table 'l N,rlerist c detai s for type serles of Bitls rubida
Scr SVI Tail TL SVL/rail
S. Afr. J. Zool. 1997,32(2)
Table 2 Variation ln scutellation in lhe Bitis comuta
complex N = number, Avg = l\,,lean, Ivlax = Maximum,
Ivlin = Minimum. STD = Standard Deviation, F =
females IVI= males (Coniinued)
STD
t:
109
291
275
722
259
120
38
2u
l6
26
)')
1.14
llt
3lt
250
295
lt 8l
l2I
8.i0
Table 2 Varation in scltelation in the Brtis cor'rula
complex. N = number, Avg = [,4ean, Max = Ivlaximum,
Ivlin = I\4in mum, STD = Standard Deviation F =
fema es NI= males
STD
PE]\IR12582
PET,IRI,157
IEM R5048
PtM Rl2i8l
PtM Rt:581
PEN'IR886]
s,^M46232
l\'1 5
M2
r3
800
8.50
9.ll
8 8:l
22.60
l0
l0
16
28
2:l
22
21
23
71
000
072
150
0.69
l0l
185
26.29 29 24 | 48
26t1 30 72 2t5
2100 24 24 000
L9 00 19 19 000
2000 22 t8 l6i
17 6i 21 tt 2.29
r09i 16.l:1 8.10 1.96
191 162 6.t5 iJ 70
9:16 9 92 9 t2 il 29
lal 786 7.t4 030
]t.t? t.l t4 9 08 | 6l
? 6:1 914 6.58 0It
10.12 11 t7 9.71 0.r2
8.99 10 55 6 82 t 22
ti) 7.1 lt40 l0 051
lll5 960 72t 078
r
I
I
Iv
t_
I]
22
9
6
2l
l5
6
Ii
t\1
I
Nl
r
!
I
5
5
l2
I
l
2A
6
t2
r7 82
t3t il2
t20tl
ll5 50
ri.170
E2|
t:12.:ll
1,109
2t 29
2ll5i)
17 2l
l 8.l
2,1 I0
29ll
23 tl
:5 8l
F,15
1:81
Bti
)i 1,1
12.61
i.2'l
i?0
t:t5
287
lzl
.r 0l
3.26
l7l
lt5
!12
221
2ll
1i8
221
205
085
!96
0.70
1,ll
133
128
125
l]8
ll7
l]8
t3l
t3l
126
12.1
l l,\
til
121
130
129
lzrl
28 15
35 21
26 2A
i0 27
]] 2-<
26 1l
t6 tl
29 )1
l,l i ll
1.15 ll i
15 5 l:l
165 ll5
u II
l,l I L
vary from: ASR.23 27 in nales (mean 25.9),25 27 in
females (mean 26); MSR, 25 29 in nales (mean 28.1),2? 29
in females (mean 28)j PSR, 20 25 ln males (nean 22.3), 21
25 in females (mean 22.5).
Colouraiion rs variable, bofi lvithin C€darberg snakes and
ftom adjacent popularions. Sone specimens (e.g. TM 53366,
Komsberg) show distinct, paired. palc-cenired blotches (that
become staggercd on thc rear ofthe body) along the dorsola-
teral surface. Each blotch is darkef along the backbone. light-
ening on rhe flanks Radiating slripes ftoln the eye lo the lip
are sometimes obvious (e.g IM 56634-35. Swartberg), and a
rounded black triangle, somelnnes pale-centred (e.g. TM
56632, Matjiesfonlein), may occur on the crown ofthe head.
Size
Females grow slightly lager than males; largest female (PEM
R6806, l-llerspoon).386 + 3l = 419 mmr largesr male (TM
57568, Sutherland).315 + 42:377 mm. Mean SVL offive
Iargest timales. 345 lnm; mean SVL of five large$ males,
315 mm.
S. Aft. J. Zool. 1997, 32(2)
Etymology
From the Latin forreddish. alludingto the general colouration
uf,pecirnen'. pdnicJlJrl\ Iror rhe Ceda.bcrg resion.
Distfbution (Figure 2)
Found inhabitlng generally higher altiiudes il] the northern
Cape Foid Mounlains and inland escarpment. Tlle type local-
ity 1n rhe Cedarberg lies in lhe noth westem extremity oftbe
mngc. From there it extends south along the Piketberg and
Skunveberg to ihe vicinity of Ceres. lnland it occurs on the
Roggeveldberg and Komsberg of the inland escarpmenr,
reaching iis nonhern limit near Middelpos. It is found ai
lower altitudes in the vicinity of An)rsberg, with isolated
records from tbe semi-aridplains ofthe LittleKaroo and lroln
higher rltitudes in the adjacent Swatberg.
Habitat
Eyerspoon specimens were collected in Karroid Broken Veld
vegetation among white quartzite pebbles on deep red soil
An Anysberg specimen (PEM R6883) was found in flat
4l
nesic ka(oid-fynbos transitional veld (with Plerrrld fica,a
and hiarephalu! sp.) with scaftcrcd sbnes. Another Anys-
berg specinen rvas found jn a dry dver valley with deep red
soi1, grass hummocks and scartered sandstone boulders. The
type series from the Ceda ,c.g and additionai specimcns
hom the Srvaftberg occur in nrountain fynbos. alihough pos-
sibly inhabiting more xeric nofhem slopes. Speci ens fronl
the inland escaryment iihabit boulder-she\vn siopes in
Mountain Renosterveld vegetalion. The species hrs an altitu-
dinal range fron 302 m in the vallc,ys ofthe Little Kafoo to
1380 m on ihe Cedarberg.
NaturaLhlsiory
Captive speclmens are actile, fenless cUmbers. thai never
scuflle into sand or altempt 1o s;dewind. Thel havc accepted
skinks (Mabiird .di,ensts, Anysberg), as n^s lAsana utta,
Cedarberg), lacertids (Pe.lioplani.t hurchelli, Cctlathery),
se.kos (Pdchyddat^lus nactlah$. Ar'-shetg Afroedurc kar
rot.a, Cedarberg), ! striped (leld ma$c (Rhabllotnls puritia,
Eyerspoort), and pink laboratortr mice (Cedarberg). A verv
larse fenale (PEM R6806i 387 + i2 nrm), collccted in Sep'
HEIGHT ABOVE SEA LEVEL
V/'a) o\et $oa n
i:f 900 - 15oo m
f300-900m
f] Unde. 300 'n
Figrre 2 DistribuLion ofrlrd rrrida n. sp. in the Western CaPe lrrovince Soulh Africa Slar= !!Fe localrb
12
tember 1988. gave biith to l0 babies on l-.2 February t9S9.
These measurcd t20-|]8 mnr TL and weished 1.7 2.9 gi
mostvoiuntarily fed on smal geckos (tgold.t,/as .a/ersis)
Acknowledgements
I thank S. Botha who brought rhc first spccimen ro my aren_
tion. and whosc subsequent discovery of sympary oerween
Biti,t rolhtutd and B. rerri, in the Cedarberg allowed resolu_
non oi a tong-standing &r-{ononic prcb1em. .taco van
Dcvenrer aiso made grear efforis ro find additionar specmens
ftom t|e type localjry. Alan Mafrin and Marius Btrrger cot_
lect€d rnany specimens iiom rhe Anysbcrg region, which
rverc instrunlental in allowing variation \ridrin rhe iaxon ro be
assessed. I thank Df E N. Arnold (Naturat Historl Museum,
London) fof allorving me to insped Andrew Smith,s rypes,
and Denise Dfinkrorv (South Aftican Museurn. Cape Town)
and Wulfllaacke (Transvaat Museum. pretoria) for a orving
ne to nrspect specimcns in their cafe.
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Ar account ofrhe reprites an.l a'nphibians collectcd oi an cxpedition to thc Cdpe provjrce, october to Decembcr
  • V F Nl
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Hon tpenial Molphologr ot'lfric;Ln Snakcs A La\ororric f.rie* parr I Scolccothjdiaand Uor
BRANCH. w R 1986. Hon tpenial Molphologr ot'lfric;Ln Snakcs A La\ororric f.rie* parr I Scolccothjdiaand Uor.lae J tter\tol ztt()) 2a: 299
Natural blbridization beLq€en rhe puffaddef and Caboon ripcr ijr Znhl.rnd D,rrdtr ,v,s I'o
  • D G Broadley
  • R Parker
BROADLEY. D. G. & PARKER, R.H 1976. Natural blbridization beLq€en rhe puffaddef and Caboon ripcr ijr Znhl.rnd D,rrdtr ,v,s I'o". It(3):77_81
Ceographical r)jsrribnrion. Viperdae,girt .a/r,ra
  • Nl Burcir
BURCIR, Nl. 1992 Ceographical r)jsrribnrion. Viperdae,girt .a/r,ra.onrpler J. Ik4EtoL Assoc AIt 4l:19
Dangerous snakes of Africa
  • S Branch
Hon tpenial Molphologr ot'lfric
  • Branch. W R
BRANCH. w R 1986. Hon tpenial Molphologr ot'lfric;
D (i l98l Jrirzsifrons Snakes of Solth*n A liica. De|lt Books. .rohamestrurg, ]76 p S. Afr
  • Rroaiiliy
RROAIILIY. D (i l98l Jrirzsifrons Snakes of Solth*n A liica. De|lt Books..rohamestrurg, ]76 p S. Afr. J. Zool. t997.32(2)