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We analyze an important new opus on the snakes of West and Central Africa co-authored by Jean-Philippe Chippaux and Kate Jackson. We correct the identification of some of the illustrated snakes of the genera Dipsadoboa, Grayia, Limaformosa and Philothamnus. We provide more detailed localities for more than 30 photographs of snakes of the genera Atractaspis, Bitis, Boaedon, Bothrophthalmus, Causus, Dasypeltis, Dendrolycus, Eryx, Gonionotophis, Grayia, Hydraethiops, Leptotyphlops, Limaformosa, Mehelya, Myriopholis, Natriciteres, Philothamnus, Polemon, Python, Thelotornis, Tricheilostoma and Xenocalamus, from Botswana, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Republic of the Congo and Tanzania. An interval of four years between the submission of the manuscript of the book and its publication explains the inaccuracy of many distribution maps, and the fact that recent taxonomic changes and numerous recently described species and genera were not included.
Herpetological Review 51(1), 2020
Herpetological Review, 2020, 51(1), 161–164.
© 2020 by Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles
Snakes of Central and Western Africa
Jean-Philippe Chippaux and Kate Jackson. 2019. Johns Hopkins
University Press, Baltimore, Maryland ( x +
429 pp. Hardcover. US $84.95. ISBN: 978-1-4214-2719-5.
Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences
Rue Vautier 29, 1000 Brussels, Belgium
Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences
Rue Vautier 29, 1000 Brussels, Belgium
and Royal Museum for Central Africa
Leuvensesteenweg 13, 3080 Tervuren, Belgium
The first edition of Jean-Philippe Chip-
paux’s Les serpents d’Afrique occidentale et
centrale was published two decades ago
in 1999, and was followed by two later edi-
tions, each bringing many additions and improvements, in 2001
and 2006, respectively (Akani 2002; Pauwels and Branch 2003). To
all herpetologists and field biologists dealing with snakes of West
and Central Africa, the ‘Chippaux’ was no longer just a technical
snake identification guide, it really became an ‘institution.’ Given
the numerous publications on the systematics and distribution
of African snakes during the last decade, it was definitely time
for a new, revised edition. The main surprise element for the new
‘Chippaux’ is, besides the shift to English, the addition of a second
author, although the general scope of the book stays the same.
The binding of the book is solid and the paper is of good qual-
ity. Although not a pocket guide, its size and weight (more than
one kg) allow bringing it in the field. The cover is nicely illustrated
by a photograph of a Dipsadoboa viridis, a welcome change from
the usual cobras or vipers on the cover of so many snake guides.
The first chapter of the book is dedicated to snake identification
(pp. 1–27) and presents the important diagnostic characters in
detail with the help of numerous photographs and drawings, as
well as keys to alethinophidian genera. It is followed by a chapter
on snake evolution (pp. 28–39) and chapters on the biogeography
of African snakes (pp. 40–48) and snakebite in sub-Saharan Africa
(pp. 49–52). Some of the introductory chapters would have ben-
efitted from more development, such as the chapter on snakebite,
because Chippaux is a leading authority in this domain. Of course,
field guides impose length constraints, and the authors provide
numerous references to publications for readers desiring to know
more (note, however, that there are several unused pages at the
beginning of the book and seven blank pages at the end of the
The fifth chapter introduces the scolecophidians within just
a few pages (pp. 53–59). Similar to the former Chippauxs, scole-
cophidians receive a poor treatment relative to other snakes. The
authors state ‘We will deal with them [Scolecophidia] in less detail
than we devote to the alethinophidian snakes’ without justifica-
tion. The authors provide a key to the families and genera, a very
brief introduction to each genus, and a list of species with an im-
precisely written description of their distribution. They indicate
in their introduction on p. 53 that the scolecophidians are repre-
sented in the region by 49 species, but a few pages later they list 52
species, representing thus about 17% of the regional snake diver-
sity. Only five species are illustrated by a color photograph, one of
them not identified to the specific level. Knowing that this group
includes many species still to be described, we regret this decision
which helps to maintain a poor level of knowledge and popularity
of these fascinating, ecologically specialized snakes.
The next chapters present the Boidae and Pythonidae (pp.
60–71), viperids (pp. 72–103), elapids (pp. 104–135), lamprophiids
(pp. 136–287) and colubrids (pp. 288–384). Each of the 247 alethi-
nophidian species treated in the book is presented through a spe-
cific account. Species accounts generally follow an introduction to
the genus providing useful information and a key to the species.
The species accounts include a clear and informative text with a
general description of the geographic distribution, a morphologi-
cal description with emphasis on diagnostic characters, and occa-
sional taxonomic and other relevant comments. Maps are specific
or combine the distributions of several species. The authors chose
to use dotted maps, which would be very good if they included
at least all reliable published localities. Unfortunately, this is not
the case; in particular many recently published localities were not
included. For example, the map for Atheris hirsuta shows a single
dot in agreement with the species account that mentions that the
species is endemic to the Taï Forest in Ivory Coast, but in fact it
is more widely distributed (Penner et al. 2013). The map for Bitis
arietans on p. 83 shows no dot for Ghana, but the species is illus-
trated by a photograph of an individual taken in Ghana; the same
happens for Atractaspis aterrima on p. 143 and for Limaformosa
crossi (cited under Gonionotophis crossi) on pp. 211–212 (see Table
1). The map for Natriciteres variegata on p. 301 shows no dot for
Liberia, but the species is illustrated by a photograph taken in that
country; the only site in Liberia where the author of the photo-
graph, the late Bill Branch, worked is the Liberian part of Mount
Nimba (Rödel, pers. comm.). The map for Polemon bocourti on p.
176 shows a single dot for the Republic of Congo in the northern
part of the country, although the species is illustrated by a pho-
tograph taken in a coastal locality of that country (Table 1). Di-
etary observations made by Pauwels et al. (2004) on Psammophis
cf. phillipsii in Loango National Park, Gabon, were erroneously
included in the account and as a dot on the map for P. sibilans,
while the latter species does not occur in Gabon; the Gabonese
population actually belongs to P. mossambicus (Trape et al. 2019).
Additional localities for species of the northwestern part of the re-
gion covered by the book can be found in Trape and Mané (2006).
Another issue with the maps is their large size, about half a page
Herpetological Review 51(1), 2020
each, and the fact that the geographic area covered by the book
represents less than half of the surface of each map. Reducing the
size of the maps and centering them on the region concerned by
the book would have saved many pages and enabled the photo-
graphs of snakes, generally much smaller than the maps, to be
In addition to the numerous excellent drawings illustrating the
diagnostic morphological characters in the general introduction
and in the introductions to various families, one finds 124 remark-
ably accurate snake head scalation drawings (each time a lateral,
dorsal and ventral view), nearly all performed by the talented hand
of Tuhin Giri who is to be congratulated. Each drawing caption
specifies the museum collection number of the specimen used,
which is precious information. It is therefore a pity that about 50
of these beautiful drawings were improperly typeset, thus cutting
off the bottom part of the illustration (e.g., Figs. 9.74, 10.21, 11.42).
The photographs are generally of good quality, although
sometimes too dark and too small. In total, 94 of the species (50
of them alethinophidians) and six of the genera treated were not
represented by at least one photograph or drawing. More than 80
of the photos were taken outside the region covered by the book or
show captive individuals of unknown origin. The photos of live in-
dividuals mention only the country where they were taken, with-
out more geographical precision, a real pity for all cases where
more detailed locality information was available, especially for
the rarely illustrated species. In order to not lose this important
information, we provide detailed localities for selected photos,
obtained directly from their respective authors (Table 1).
The separation of the keys to genera and to species is very
handy. We tried the identification keys with fresh material from
Gabon and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The first speci-
men we used, an Aparallactus modestus, did not fit anywhere in
the key to the genus, as it shows, similar to the individual illus-
trated on p. 165, a single supralabial (the 6th) in contact with the
parietal, while the key gave only two options: ‘5th and 6th supralabi-
als both in contact with parietal,’ or ‘the 5th but not 6th supralabial
in contact with parietal.’ We used other snakes, for which the keys
led to the right species and proved to be easy and practical. We
note that in the key to the genus Atheris on p. 74, A. hirsuta is said
to be distinguishable from A. hispida by its possession of only one
row of scales between the eye and the nasal, while in reality it has
two rows, as can be seen in the original description of A. hirsuta
and on the photos provided by Penner et al. (2013) and by Chip-
paux and Jackson themselves. In the same key, A. broadleyi is said
to be distinguishable from A. squamigera by the presence in the
former of a black stripe along the side of the head. Rather than a
black stripe (not visible indeed on Fig. 7.2), it is a ‘darker triangle’
as correctly mentioned in the species account for A. broadleyi, of-
ten poorly contrasted. In the key to Bitis species on p. 82, A group
of several narrow, pointed scales between the two nostrils’ leads
to B. nasicornis, while ‘A single scale between the nostrils’ leads
to B. rhinoceros or B. gabonica, although it is impossible that the
nostrils are separated by a single scale. This means that a reader
with a poor knowledge of these snakes won’t identify a viper as
any of the latter two species. There are discrepancies between the
key and the species accounts for Polemon (p. 173). In the key, P.
notatus is said to have a ‘dark band across neck’ while in the spe-
cies account it is said to show ‘a broad pale band across the nape’;
in the key, P. gabonensis is said to have ‘no nuchal band’ but its
species account says it has ‘a pale band across the nape.’ Among
other discrepancies, it should be mentioned that in the key to Dip-
sadoboa, the character ‘subcaudals divided’ leads among others to
D. duchesnii, while its species account erroneously mentions that
it has single subcaudals. In the key to Telescopus on p. 362, ‘2 upper
labials in contact with the eye’ (versus 3) leads among others to T.
variegatus, while this species is illustrated by a drawing showing
three supralabials in contact with the eye. The last couplet of this
key gives an alternative between ‘19 dorsal scale rows’ for T. semi-
annulatus, whereas the species account says ‘19 (occasionally 17
or 21) oblique rows.’ For T. obtusus, the key says there are ‘21 dorsal
scale rows,’ whereas the species account says ‘23 (occasionally 21)
oblique rows.
The individual shown on p. 217 to depict Gonionotophis poen-
sis was already used by Broadley et al. (2018) to illustrate the ge-
nus Limaformosa (Greenbaum, pers. comm., August 2019), thus
excluding an identification as Mehelya poensis; it rather seems
to fit with Limaformosa savorgnani, as it was initially tentatively
identified by Greenbaum (pers. comm.; Table 1). In the light of
the recent revision by Trape et al. (2019), the two individuals of
Psammophis phillipsii’ shown on Figs. 11.36 and 11.37 should be
re-identified as P. mossambicus, and the P. sibilans’ on Fig. 11.46
as P. afroccidentalis. The ‘Philothamnus carinatus’ individual il-
lustrated by a photograph on p. 347 (see Table 1) was used in the
phylogenetic study of Engelbrecht et al. (2019) where it came out
as a P. heterodermus. Dipsadoboa underwoodi is illustrated by a
photograph taken in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The
species account does not include this country in this species’ dis-
tribution, nor does the map. Based on the characters visible on
the photograph, in particular two supralabials in contact with the
orbit, and the color of the underside of the tail contrasting with the
lighter color of the belly, we believe this individual to be a Dipsa-
doboa weileri, a species well known from the Democratic Republic
of the Congo. The photograph of a juvenile ‘Grayia ornata’ shown
on pp. 8 and 382 actually represents a juvenile G. smithii, recog-
nizable by its laterodorsal pattern made of yellowish pyramids on
a dark brown background and its elongate posterior (7th) supra-
labial. This individual was sequenced and its identification as G.
smithii has been confirmed (Greenbaum, pers. comm.).
The chapters presenting the snake families are followed by a
bibliography (pp. 385–409) and an index (411–429), closing the
opus. The literature cited includes 614 references, among them
most of the original descriptions of the snakes of the region and
many other important historic references, which is very valuable.
The incompleteness of some maps is explainable for the same
reason for which recent revisions and species descriptions are not
included—while the book was published in 2019, the manuscript
was submitted for publication four years earlier, on 27 May 2015
(Chippaux, pers. comm.). After that only some publications could
be integrated (only six references published after 2015 are listed
in the literature cited). It is a pity that the revision of the Naja
melanoleuca complex by Wüster et al. (2018) leading to the rec-
ognition at species level of N. subfulva and to the description of N.
guineensis and N. savannula, all occurring in the area covered by
the book, could not be taken into account, as well as the descrip-
tion a year before of Naja peroescobari from São Tomé (Ceríaco et
al. 2017). The revision of Gonionotophis by Broadley et al. (2018)
led among other results to the description of two new genera
found in the area covered by the book, the revalidation of Mehelya,
and the confirmation of the validity of Limaformosa savorgnani
as a separate species. Limaformosa chanleri, known among other
countries from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda
and Burundi (Wallach et al. 2014), has been omitted in the book.
Another major work that could not be included was the revision
of Boaedon by Trape and Mediannikov (2016) that led to the de-
Herpetological Review 51(1), 2020
table 1. Localities for selected photographs presented by Chippaux and Jackson (2019), provided by the respective photographers (pers. comm. to
OSGP, 2019). Dept. = Department; DRC = Democratic Republic of the Congo; Prov. = Province; RC = Republic of the Congo.
Species Fig. numbers and Locality
Leptotyphlops scutifrons 1.27 & 5.4, S. Spawls Otse, South-East District, Botswana
Myriopholis macrorhyncha 5.5, S. Spawls Resort on the Awash River, Sodere, Ethiopia
Tricheilostoma bicolor 5.6, S. Spawls Wa, Upper West Region, Ghana
Eryx colubrinus 6.6, S. Spawls Northern Tanzania
Python natalensis 6.11, S. Spawls Otse, South-East District, Botswana
Bitis arietans 7.15, M.-O. Rödel Comoé National Park, north-eastern Ivory Coast
Causus maculatus 7.30, S. Spawls Wa, Upper West Region, Ghana
Atractaspis dahomeyensis 9.19, M.-O. Rödel Ananda, eastern-central Ivory Coast
Polemon bocourti 9.61, M. Burger 2.5 km E of Lombo, about 9 km E of Hinda, Kouilou Dept., RC
Polemon collaris 9.66, M. Burger About 24 km SE of Tsinguidi, Niari Dept., RC
Polemon notatus 9.781, M. Burger 1 km SE of Tchitobo, Kouilou Dept., RC
Xenocalamus michelli 9.87, E. Greenbaum Near Manono airport (7°16’39.8”S, 27°23’23.2”E; alt. 627 m asl), Tanganyika
Prov., DRC (field nr ELI355)
Boaedon radfordi 10.9, E. Greenbaum Shatuma-Abis village (2°00’47.3”N, 30°50’26.4”E; alt. 2000 m asl), Lendu
Plateau, Ituri Prov., DRC (paratype UTEP 20996)
Bothrophthalmus brunneus2 10.17, M. Burger Near Banjoko village, about 3 km SSW of Mayoko Poste, Niari Dept., RC
Bothrophthalmus lineatus 10.18, M.-O. Rödel Forêt Classée de la Haute Dodo, south-western Ivory Coast
Bothrophthalmus brunneus2 10.19, M.-O. Rödel Near Dja Faunal Reserve, south-eastern Cameroon
Dendrolycus elapoides 10.26, K. Mebert Uma (0°32’4.75”N, 25°54’3.36”E), Tshopo Prov., DRC (individual registered as
RBINS 18729)
Gonionotophis brussauxi 10.30, M. Burger 3.4 km SSW of village Bandjoko, 8.5 km SSW of Mayoko Poste, Niari Dept., RC
Limaformosa crossi3 10.35, S. Spawls Wa, Upper West Region, Ghana
Limaformosa cf. savorgnani4 10.43, E. Greenbaum Mayimbili (1°23’48.8”N 28°35’09.2”E; alt. 742 m asl), Ituri Prov., DRC (field nr
EBG 2637)
Mehelya stenophthalmus3 10.44, M. Burger 2 km SE of Chiboula village, about 10 km NW of Mandingo-Kayes, Kouilou
Dept., RC
Hydraethiops melanogaster 12.12, E. Greenbaum Near Epulu River (1°23’49.0”N 28°35’09.1”E; alt. 753 m asl), Ituri Prov., DRC
(field nr EBG 2612)
Dasypeltis palmarum 13.19, M. Burger 6 km W of Hinda, Kouilou Dept., RC
Philothamnus heterodermus5 13.64, M. Burger 5 km NE of Mengo, about 16 km SW of Hinda, Kouilou Dept., RC
Philothamnus dorsalis 13.66, M. Burger 1 km E of Carriere Mambanziba, 14 km E of Hinda, Kouilou Dept., RC
Thelotornis kirtlandii 13.95, M.-O. Rödel Forêt Classée de la Haute Dodo, south-western Ivory Coast
Grayia ornata 13.113, M. Burger About 5 km NE of Tchiboula village, Kouilou Dept., RC
Grayia ornata 13.114, M. Burger Vemba River, 1 km SW of Youbi village, Kouilou Dept., RC
Grayia smithii6 13.115, E. Greenbaum Vicinity of Epulu (1°24’05.0”N 28°34’12.0”E; alt. 747 m asl), Ituri Prov., DRC
(field nr EBG 2634)
Grayia smithii 13.117, M. Burger 2.8 km E of Hinda, Kouilou Dept., RC
1 The captions for figures 9.78 and 9.79 are inadvertently switched in the book. 2 Treated as ‘B. lineatus, unicolored form’ by Chippaux and Jackson. 3 Included in Goni-
onotophis by Chippaux and Jackson. 4 Erroneously identified as Gonionotophis poensis. 5 Erroneously identified as P. carinatus. 6 Erroneously identified as G. ornata.
Herpetological Review 51(1), 2020
scription of five species occurring in the area under consideration:
B. littoralis, B. longilineatus, B. paralineatus, B. perisilvestris and
B. subflavus. Snakes described in 2018 but not integrated in the
book also include Letheobia akagerae Dehling et al. (Typhlopidae)
from Rwanda, and Echis romani Trape (Viperidae) from Nigeria to
the Central African Republic. Inevitably, several snakes described
in 2019 could not be included: Myriopholis occipitalis Trape and
Chirio from the Central African Republic and Chad, Tricheilosto-
ma kongoensis Trape from the Democratic Republic of the Congo,
Afrotyphlops chirioi Trape from the Central African Republic, A.
rouxestevae Trape from Cameroon, Letheobia logonensis Trape
from Chad, Atractaspis branchi Rödel et al. from Guinea and Li-
beria, Polemon ater Portillo et al. from the Democratic Republic
of Congo, and Psammophis afroccidentalis Trape et al. from West
Africa. This renders the Naja, Boaedon, Psammophis and Goni-
onotophis sections of the book already obsolete.
French is an official language in 17 of the 23 countries covered
by the book. Some researchers will find the use of English chal-
lenging, but this new book will be a most useful tool for the nu-
merous non-French speaking persons interested in the snakes of
the region. The price of the book is much beyond what most re-
searchers from the area covered by the book (and beyond) can af-
ford. However, thanks to the useful identification keys, the numer-
ous photographs and high-quality drawings, the information-rich
text, and the abundant and pertinent literature cited, it remains an
excellent guide, and we strongly encourage local and internation-
al scientific libraries and all naturalists and herpetologists working
on African snakes to purchase this important new tool.
Acknowledgments.—We thank Jean-Philippe Chippaux for use-
ful discussions, and Marius Burger, Eli Greenbaum, Konrad Mebert,
Mark-Oliver Rödel, and Steve Spawls for information on photographs
they took.
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© 2020 by Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles
The Field Herping Guide: Finding Amphibians
and Reptiles in the Wild
Mike Pingleton and Joshua Holbrook. 2019. University of Georgia
Press, Athens ( 253 pp. Softcover. US $26.95.
Department of Biology
Grand Valley State University
3300a Kindschi Hall of Science
Allendale, Michigan 49401, USA
For many of us, our first forays into
nature involved picking up and admiring
a salamander, snake, or frog, and staring
in wonder at its bright yellow spots,
feeling the roughness of its keeled scales,
or smelling the pungent twinge of musk.
Amphibians and reptiles appeal to young
... Typesetting and quality issues will exist in almost any 429-page book that covers such an immense diversity of species, and I refer readers to the review by Pauwels and Brecko (2020) for a detailed description of those and other inconsistencies that occur in this book. For example, some of the hand-drawn images are cut-off, and a handful of the livesnake pictures are inconsistent in quality and highly variable in size (mostly too small). ...
... For example, some of the hand-drawn images are cut-off, and a handful of the livesnake pictures are inconsistent in quality and highly variable in size (mostly too small). Photographic descriptions do not go beyond the country level, which masks the potential geographical variation in these species, many of which were rectified by Pauwels and Brecko (2020). The text describing each species is heavy on diagnostic characters and scale counts at the expense of other information. ...
... Those up to date with African snake systematics may be disappointed, as almost none of the changes published during the last five years were included in the book (see Pauwels and Brecko 2020), but almost everyone else will not even notice. The book has many other great features not described above, including dichotomous keys and a dense literature-cited section. ...
... Typesetting and quality issues will exist in almost any 429-page book that covers such an immense diversity of species, and I refer readers to the review by Pauwels and Brecko (2020) for a detailed description of those and other inconsistencies that occur in this book. For example, some of the hand-drawn images are cut-off, and a handful of the livesnake pictures are inconsistent in quality and highly variable in size (mostly too small). ...
... For example, some of the hand-drawn images are cut-off, and a handful of the livesnake pictures are inconsistent in quality and highly variable in size (mostly too small). Photographic descriptions do not go beyond the country level, which masks the potential geographical variation in these species, many of which were rectified by Pauwels and Brecko (2020). The text describing each species is heavy on diagnostic characters and scale counts at the expense of other information. ...
... Those up to date with African snake systematics may be disappointed, as almost none of the changes published during the last five years were included in the book (see Pauwels and Brecko 2020), but almost everyone else will not even notice. The book has many other great features not described above, including dichotomous keys and a dense literature-cited section. ...
... This is the southeasternmost record of the genus Bothrophthalmus in Gabon and, like all other Gabonese records, it is not a lineated individual. Bothrophthalmus lineatus Peters, 1863, although mentioned several times by various authors from Gabon, is unvouchered from the country and should not be treated as a synonym of the uniformly brown form B. brunneus (Pauwels and Vande weghe, 2008;Pauwels and Brecko, 2020). ...
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We present new Gabonese locality records, ecological or morphological data for Pelusios castaneus (Pelomedusidae), Kinixys erosa (Testudinidae), Osteolaemus tetraspis (Crocodylidae), Agama agama (Agamidae), Monopeltis galeata (Amphisbaenidae), Feylinia currori, Trachylepis polytropis (Scincidae), Varanus ornatus (Varanidae), Philothamnus hughesi, Rhamnophis batesii, Toxicodryas adamantea and T. blandingii (Colubridae), Dendroaspis jamesoni jamesoni (Elapidae), Bothrophthalmus brunneus, Limaformosa guirali and L. savorgnani (Lamprophiidae), Atheris squamigera and Bitis nasicornis (Viperidae). One snake species each is newly recorded from Pongara National Park and Nyanga Province, and two each from Batéké Plateau National Park and Haut-Ogooué Province. We refer all records of Toxicodryas pulverulenta from Gabon to T. adamantea. We discuss the use of camera traps for monitoring reptiles in Gabon based on the results of extensive camera trap surveys. We provide geographic coordinates for selected localities mentioned in MHG III–VI.
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The Cobra-Preta (black snake in Portuguese) of Sao Tomé Island in the Gulf of Guinea has historically been referred to as Naja (Boulengerina) melanoleuca (Squamata: Elapidae). Its presence on the island has been traditionally explained as an introduction from the mainland by Portuguese settlers, supposedly to control the rat population. This explanation has been widely accepted by local authorities and even international conservation agencies. The taxonomic identity of this snake has remained undisputed by all taxonomists who have published about it, with the exception of L. Capocaccia in 1961. Arguments supporting the human introduction hypothesis are weak and are contradicted by historical, morphological and molecular data. Further, the biogeographic history of the Gulf of Guinea oceanic islands and recent insights on the taxonomic identity and evolutionary history of other taxonomic groups occurring there suggest that the Cobra-Preta, in fact, represents a distinct lineage of the melanoleuca group, endemic to São Tomé. We here describe the Cobra Preta as a new species. The new species differs from N. (B.) melanoleuca, its sister species, by a distinct coloration ventral pattern and the type of contact of the sublingual scales. Data on the toxicology, distribution, ecology, folklore and conservation status of the new species are presented.
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Snakes of the World: A Catalogue of Living and Extinct Species-the first catalogue of its kind-covers all living and fossil snakes described between 1758 and 2012, comprising 3,509 living and 274 extinct species allocated to 539 living and 112 extinct genera. Also included are 54 genera and 302 species that are dubious or invalid, resulting in recognition of 705 genera and 4,085 species. Features: • Alphabetical listings by genus and species • Individual accounts for each genus and species • Detailed data on type specimens and type localities • All subspecies, synonyms, and proposed snake names • Distribution of species by country, province, and elevation • Distribution of fossils by country and geological periods • Major taxonomic references for each genus and species • Appendix with major references for each country • Complete bibliography of all references cited in text and appendix • Index of 12,500 primary snake names The data on type specimens includes museum and catalog number, length and sex, and collector and date. The listed type localities include restrictions and corrections. The bibliography provides complete citations of all references cited in the text and appendix, and taxonomic comments are given in the remarks sections. This standard reference supplies a scientific, academic, and professional treatment of snakes-appealing to conservationists and herpetologists as well as zoologists, naturalists, hobbyists, researchers, and teachers.
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The African bush vipers of the genus Atheris Cope, 1862 currently comprises 15 species, this includes A. barbouri Loveridge, 1930 (often assigned to the genus Adenorhinos ; but see Lenk et al. 2001). All species occur exclusively on the African continent with most species occurring in East and Central Africa. West Africa, defined as the eco-region including Nigeria and all countries westwards, excluding Cameroon (see Penner et al. 2011), currently harbours three species of Atheris . (i) Atheris squamigera (Hallowell, 1854) which has a wide range across Central Africa and can be found in south-eastern Nigeria (Spawls & Branch 1995; Luiselli et al. 2000). However, the taxonomy of central African Atheris is still under debate and several hidden species might be included (see Broadley 1998; Lawson 1999; Lawson & Ustach 2000; Lawson et al. 2001). Concerning distribution,we follow Chippaux (2006) and others in regarding all records of A. squamigera west of Nigeria as doubtful. A true West African species is (ii) Atheris chlorechis (Pel, 1851) which ranges from Guinea, through Sierra Leone, Liberia, Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana to Togo. Its occurrence in Nigeria is unclear. So far no records exist for Benin (Ullenbruch et al. 2010; Hughes 2013; C. Toudonou pers. comm.). The third species, (iii) Atheris hirsuta Ernst & Rodel, 2002, was described from a single specimen found near the ecological research station in the Tai National Park, Cote d’Ivoire. No further records existed until this study.
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We provide a preliminary list of the reptiles occurring in Loango National Park (= Ramsar site no. 352), Ogooue-Maritime Province, southwestern Gabon. The list includes 37 species (3 crocodilians, 8 chelonians, 14 lacertilians and 12 ophidians) distributed in 30 genera and 16 families, and is accompanied by our biological observations. Loango's herpetofauna is remarkable for its mixture of forest, bunchgrass prairie, mangrove and marine species, and for the high number of endangered and protected species, notably all three African crocodiles (Crocodylus cataphractus, C. niloticus, Osteolaemus tetraspis) and three locally nesting sea turtles (Chelonia mydas, Lepidochelys olivacea and Dermochelys coriacea).
The African green and bush snakes of the genus Philothamnus currently comprises 21 species and three subspecies and occurs throughout sub-Saharan Africa. The genus has been the subject of previous taxonomic revisions based on traditional morphological characters and limited genetic assessment, and may not reflect their evolutionary history. Indeed, previous findings based on phylogenetics show discordant results of interspecific relationships and question the monophyly of the genus, although taxon sampling has been limited to date. We investigated phylogenetic affinities within Philothamnus with more inclusive genetic and geographical sampling, with the aim of better understanding their evolutionary history, so that future taxonomic revision of Philothamnus can be better informed. Species relationships were examined within a phylogenetic context and sampling included 133 ingroup samples from 16 taxa. Phylogenies were constructed in Bayesian and likelihood frameworks using three mitochondrial (16S, cyt b and ND4) and two nuclear (c-mos and RAG1) markers. Competing hypotheses relating to the monophyly of the genus were tested with a Shimodaira-Hasegawa test. To examine species boundaries, Bayesian General Mixed Yule-Coalescent Model and multi-rate Poisson Tree Processes analyses were conducted. In addition, a barcoding approach was used to further clarify species-level relationships by comparing frequency distributions between intra- and interspecific sequence divergence. The genus was recovered as monophyletic; however, species-delimitation results suggest that the current taxonomy does not reflect the evolutionary history of this group. For example, Philothamnus s. semivariegatus is paraphyletic, with at least four distinct clades. Philothamnus carinatus consists of two cryptic (sister) lineages from Central and West Africa that are deeply divergent, suggesting a long history of isolation between those regions. Furthermore, the subspecies P. n. natalensis and P. n. occidentalis show strong support for species-level divergence, which reflects their morphological and ecological differences. Accordingly, we elevate P. occidentalis nov. comb. to a full species. A fully informed taxonomic revision of these taxa will require additional morphological and ecological data for corroboration, but it seems that the morphological characters (e.g. scalation, dentition) used to describe these species to date are labile within and between species. This most likely has clouded our understanding of the species boundaries within the genus. Our phylogeny and species-delimitation analyses should provide a sounder framework for taxonomy, but may also prove useful toward understanding the morphological adaptations of these species to their respective habitats.
The sub-Saharan African file snake genus Gonionotophis is currently comprised of 15 species. However, the concept of this genus has been confounded by morphological and genetic differences between the constituent taxa. Due to the dearth of DNA samples, a taxonomic assessment has been impractical to date. We therefore sequenced two mitochondrial and one nuclear marker (16S, cyt b, and c-mos) from 45 samples representing ten species of Gonionotophis to construct a molecular phylogeny using Bayesian and likelihood approaches. Four divergent and well-supported clades were recovered, including: (1) grantii + brussauxi; (2) poensis + stenophthalmus; (3) nyassae; and (4) capensis, chanleri, crossi, guirali and savorgnani. Based on these results and morphological data, the genus Gonionotophis is restricted to the first clade, Mehelya is resurrected for the species in the second clade, and new genera are described for the remaining two clades. ZooBank—
A new species of blind snake in the genus Letheobia is described from Akagera National Park in eastern Rwanda. The new species is most similar to species of the L. gracilis complex, particularly L. gracilis and L. graueri. It differs from all other species of the genus by a unique combination of morphological characters, including the highest number of middorsal scale rows (834) and the most extreme elongation (total-length/midbody-width ratio 131) of all species in the genus and of any species of snake in the world; 22-22-22 longitudinal scale rows; snout in dorsal profile rounded, in lateral profile bluntly rounded with an angular horizontal edge ventrally; rostral broad, posteriorly rounded; eyes invisible; supralabial imbrication pattern T-0; tail short (1.3 percent of total length) with an apical spine; and a pink life colouration. The holotype of the new species was collected in gallery forest at a lake shore surrounded by savanna at 1300 m elevation. We produced scanning electron microscope images of the heads of the investigated specimens applying a liquid-substitution preparation procedure which does not require coating or drying and thus does not irreversibly damage the investigated samples. The obtained images allow an easy and more accurate examination of the scalation.
Les Serpents d'Afrique occidentale et centrale
akani, g. c. 2002. Book review. Chippaux, J-P. (1999), Les Serpents d'Afrique occidentale et centrale. Amphibia-Reptilia 23:389.
  • O S G Pauwels
  • W R Branch
Pauwels, o. s. g., and w. r. branch. 2003. Book review. Les Serpents d'Afrique Occidentale et Centrale, 2 nd ed., by Jean-Philippe Chippaux. Herpetol. Rev. 34:272-274.