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Saphenophis boursieri (NCN). Habitat, Reproduction and Diet.

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Saphenophis boursieri (NCN). Habitat, Reproduction and Diet.

Abstract

SAPHENOPHIS BOURSIERI (NCN). HABITAT, REPRODUCTION and DIET. Saphenophis boursieri is a neotropical snake known from the western slopes of the Andes (elev. 1100–1890 m) in Ecuador and southern Colombia, with disjunct records on the Amazonian lowlands of eastern Ecuador (Myers 1973. Amer. Mus. Novitates 2522). The genus Saphenophis is poorly represented in scientific collections (Myers, op. cit.; pers. obs.), and almost nothing is known of the natural history of any species of this genus. Myers (1969. Amer. Mus. Novitates 2385; op. cit.) reported “at least four large oviductal eggs, one (revealed by dissection) measuring 9 by 23 mm” in the paratype of Saphenophis sneiderni (394 mm SVL), and “large eggs in the oviducts” in the holotype of Saphenophis antioquensis (ca. 506 mm SVL). A specimen of Saphenophis tristriatus found “between 11 and 12 A.M… was lying in the sun on a wood bridge.” Unfortunately, none of the specimens had collection dates. Herein I provide novel data on habitat, reproduction and diet for S. boursieri. Two female S. boursieri (DFCH-USFQ 701-702) were collected from the “Río Guajalito” protected forest (78°49’W, 0°14’S, elev. 1900 m), at the beginning of the dry season in June 2001 at 1400 h. This private reserve is located 59 km W of Quito among montane cloud forest on the northwestern slope of the Andes in Pichincha Province, Ecuador. One of the snakes (DFCH-USFQ 701) was found lying motionless upon sunlit leaf litter in the bottom of a dry ditch, ca. 5 m from the river and 25 m from human habitations. The other specimen (DFCH-USFQ 702) was found on the forest floor near a small trail, ca. 40 m from the river and 100 m from human habitations. Both females were gravid. Dissection revealed that DFCH-USFQ 701 (467 mm SVL, mass without eggs of 43.3 g) had five soft-shelled eggs that had a mean length of 30.4 mm (range 28.0–31.8 mm), mean width of 11.9 mm (range 10.1–13.0 mm), mean mass of 2.6 g (range 2.3–3.3 g, total clutch mass = 12.9 g), and a mean volume of 2.3 cm3 (range 1.7–2.8 cm3). The second female (DFCH-USFQ 702; 410 mm SVL) contained five immature ovarian eggs, the largest was 16.2 mm in length. Another female (FHGO-USFQ 003; 610 mm SVL) collected in April 1996 at San Antonio, Imbabura Province (near Ibarra, 78°09’W, 00°20’S, elev. 2500 m) contained seven unshelled oviductal eggs. Eggs had a mean length of 24.2 mm (range 15.7–29.6 mm). The stomach of one specimen (DFCH-USFQ 701) contained a larval hymenopteran and an orthopteran nymph (volume of both items = 0.2 cm3). The other specimen (DFCH-USFQ 702) contained a partially digested gymnophthalmid lizard, Proctoporus cf. unicolor (volume = 0.6 cm3). These observations of S. boursieri support Myers’ hypothesis (1973. op. cit.) that snakes of the genus Saphenophis are principally diurnal. Moreover, Saphenophis seem to be essentially terrestrial and feed on a variety of prey from invertebrates to lizards.The three females and eggs are deposited at the Laboratorio de Anfibios y Reptiles, Universidad San Francisco de Quito.
Herpetological Review 36(1): 71; 2005
© 2005 by Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles
SAPHENOPHIS BOURSIERI (NCN). HABITAT, REPRO-
DUCTION and DIET. Saphenophis boursieri is a neotropical
snake known from the western slopes of the Andes (elev. 1100–
1890 m) in Ecuador and southern Colombia, with disjunct records
on the Amazonian lowlands of eastern Ecuador (Myers 1973. Amer.
Mus. Novitates 2522). The genus Saphenophis is poorly repre-
sented in scientific collections (Myers, op. cit.; pers. obs.), and
almost nothing is known of the natural history of any species of
this genus. Myers (1969. Amer. Mus. Novitates 2385; op. cit.)
reported “at least four large oviductal eggs, one (revealed by dis-
section) measuring 9 by 23 mm” in the paratype of Saphenophis
sneiderni (394 mm SVL), and “large eggs in the oviducts” in the
holotype of Saphenophis antioquensis (ca. 506 mm SVL). A speci-
men of Saphenophis tristriatus found “between 11 and 12 A.M…
was lying in the sun on a wood bridge.” Unfortunately, none of
the specimens had collection dates. Herein I provide novel data
on habitat, reproduction and diet for S. boursieri.
Two female S. boursieri (DFCH-USFQ 701-702) were collected
from the “Río Guajalito” protected forest (78°49’W, 0°14’S, elev.
1900 m), at the beginning of the dry season in June 2001 at 1400
h. This private reserve is located 59 km W of Quito among mon-
tane cloud forest on the northwestern slope of the Andes in
Pichincha Province, Ecuador. One of the snakes (DFCH-USFQ
701) was found lying motionless upon sunlit leaf litter in the bot-
tom of a dry ditch, ca. 5 m from the river and 25 m from human
habitations. The other specimen (DFCH-USFQ 702) was found
on the forest floor near a small trail, ca. 40 m from the river and
100 m from human habitations. Both females were gravid. Dis-
section revealed that DFCH-USFQ 701 (467 mm SVL, mass with-
out eggs of 43.3 g) had five soft-shelled eggs that had a mean
length of 30.4 mm (range 28.0–31.8 mm), mean width of 11.9
mm (range 10.1–13.0 mm), mean mass of 2.6 g (range 2.3–3.3 g,
total clutch mass = 12.9 g), and a mean volume of 2.3 cm3 (range
1.7–2.8 cm3). The second female (DFCH-USFQ 702; 410 mm
SVL) contained five immature ovarian eggs, the largest was 16.2
mm in length. Another female (FHGO-USFQ 003; 610 mm SVL)
collected in April 1996 at San Antonio, Imbabura Province (near
Ibarra, 78°09’W, 00°20’S, elev. 2500 m) contained seven unshelled
oviductal eggs. Eggs had a mean length of 24.2 mm (range 15.7–
29.6 mm). The stomach of one specimen (DFCH-USFQ 701) con-
tained a larval hymenopteran and an orthopteran nymph (volume of
both items = 0.2 cm3). The other specimen (DFCH-USFQ 702)
contained a partially digested gymnophthalmid lizard, Proctoporus
cf. unicolor (volume = 0.6 cm3). These observations of S. boursieri
support Myers’ hypothesis (1973. op. cit.) that snakes of the ge-
nus Saphenophis are principally diurnal. Moreover, Saphenophis
seem to be essentially terrestrial and feed on a variety of prey
from invertebrates to lizards.The three females and eggs are de-
posited at the Laboratorio de Anfibios y Reptiles, Universidad San
Francisco de Quito.
I am grateful to Andres Leon, Kelly Swing, Maria Elena Heredia,
Laura Heredia, and Vlastimil Zak for assistance, access to study
sites, and financial support. This is contribution 4 of the
Laboratorio de Anfibios & Reptiles FHGO-USFQ, Universidad
San Francisco de Quito.
Submitted by DIEGO F. CISNEROS-HEREDIA, Laboratorio
de Anfibios & Reptiles, Universidad San Francisco de Quito,
Avenida Interoceanica y calle Diego de Robles, Campus Cumbaya,
Edificio Maxwell. P.O. Box 17-12-841, Quito, Ecuado; e-mail:
diegofrancisco_cisneros@yahoo.com.
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