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Full text of "Review of the Colubrid snake genus Spalerosophis"

FIELDIANA • ZOOLOGY 

Published by 
CHICAGO NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM 

Volume 39 May 22, 1959 No. 30 

Review of the Colubrid Snake Genus 
Spalerosophis 

Hymen Marx 

Assistant, Division of Reptiles 

This report is a study of populations of a group of snakes having 
a very large range, from northwestern Africa into northern India. 
The relationships of these populations become evident with the avail- 
ability of representative samples. 

I wish to thank Mr. Charles M. Bogert, American Museum of 
Natural History (AMNH), Mr. Arthur Loveridge, Museum of Com- 
parative Zoology (MCZ), and Dr. Doris Cochran, United States 
National Museum (USNM), for the loan of material in their respec- 
tive institutions. Also I wish to express my gratitude to Dr. Charles 
Domergue, Service Geologique, Tunis, for donating to Chicago Nat- 
ural History Museum a topotype of Coluber choumowitchi and photo- 
graphs of the Tunisian form. The large sample of Egyptian material 
collected by Mr. Harry Hoogstraal, United States Naval Medical 
Research Unit No. 3, Cairo, Egypt, was most useful in this study of 
Spalerosophis. Unless otherwise designated, the specimens examined 
are in the collection of Chicago Natural History Museum. The dis- 
tribution map contains localities of the material examined and local- 
ities mentioned in the literature. 

Spalerosophis Jan 

Chilolepis Fitzinger, 1843, Syst. Rept., p. 26. 
Spalerosophis Jan, 1865, in De Filippi, Viagg. Pers., p. 356. 

Type species. — Spalerosophis microlepis Jan, 1865. 

The three species of Spalerosophis have the following characters 
in common: 

1. Orbit completely surrounded by oculars, excluding the upper 
labials from the orbit (fig. 59, A). 

Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 59-12515 
No. 874 347 

FIELD MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY 
:o<.,rvELT ROAD AND UAKC£ SHORE DRIVE 



348 FIELDIANA: ZOOLOGY, VOLUME 39 

2. Prefrontals and loreals broken up into small scales (fig. 59, A). 

3. High number of temporal scales (fig. 59, A). 

4. Anal plate entire. I have examined only two specimens from 
Egypt and two from India with the anal plate divided. One other 
specimen from Egypt has a partly divided anal plate. 

I therefore agree with Schmidt (1930) in maintaining this genus 
as valid. 

The spelling of the generic name has been in question. In the 
original description of the genus (Jan, 1865) the name is given as 
Spalerosophis, but in the following description of the type species the 
generic name is spelled Sphalerosophis. The first spelling, Spalero- 
sophis, is here retained, due to page priority; this spelling is most 
familiar in the literature. 

Unfortunately an older name preoccupies Spalerosophis Jan, 1865, 
i.e., Chilolepis Fitzinger, 1843. I retain Jan's name for the following 
reasons: (1) Fitzinger did not give a diagnosis of Chilolepis but used 
this name in his list of species. (2) Chilolepis has not been used to 
refer to any species in this genus since 1843. The name was used last 
by Cope (1886) in a generic key. Boulenger (1893) placed Chilolepis 
in the synonymy of Zamenis. (3) Since Schmidt (1930) resurrected 
Spalerosophis this name has been used in many papers. In the in- 
terest of stability and to retain a name familiar in the literature, I 
reject the name Chilolepis in favor of Spalerosophis. This is a case 
in which application should be made to the International Commis- 
sion on Nomenclature for the suspension of the rules in favor of the 
latter name. For a statement of the principles governing the choice 
of a later name see the discussion by de la Torre and Starrett (1959). 

Key to Forms of Spalerosophis 

1. Mid-body scale rows 41 or more microlepis 

Mid-body scale rows 35 or less 2 

2. Rostral very long, wedged between but not completely separating internasals. 

arenarius 
Rostral not greatly enlarged 3 

3. Narrow dorsal markings on back with irregular margins (fig. 58) 4 

Dorsal markings on back with large, uniformly margined oval spots (fig. 59, B). 

diadema dolicJwspila 

4. Subcaudals 80 or more 5 

Subcaudals less than 80 diadema cliffordi 

5. Subcaudals usually less than 100 diadema schiraziana 

Subcaudals usually 100 or more diadema diadema 




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350 FIELDIANA: ZOOLOGY, VOLUME 39 

Spalerosophis microlepis Jan 

Sphalcrosophis iriicrolepis Jan, 1865, in De Filippi, Viagg. Pers., p. 356— 

Laristan, Iran (restricted by Schmidt, 1939). 
Loxodon microlepis Jan, 1867, Icon. Gen., 20, pi. iii. 
Zamenis microlepis Boulenger, 1891, Proc. Zool. Soc. London, 1891: 633. 

Spalerosophis microlepis is by far the most highly speciahzed of 
the three species of Spalerosophis. This species has a greater number 
of mid-body scale rows (41-45, compared to 25-31), more temporals 
(anterior, 6-7, compared to 3-6; posterior, 7-8, compared to 3-6), 
more upper and lower labials, more scales in the ocular ring (12-15, 
mean 13.3, compared to 7-14), and more dorsal markings on the body. 

Werner (1895) recorded a specimen (without locality and unsexed) 
having 43 mid-body scale rows, 248 ventrals, anal entire, and 101 sub- 
caudals. Wall (1908) recorded two specimens from Maidan Mihaftan, 
southwestern Iran. These two specimens (also unsexed) have mid- 
body scale rows 41-45, ventrals 244-258, anal entire, subcaudals 97- 
109, and 16-17 upper labials. 

This rare and distinct form appears to be known only from seven 
specimens. In the following description the data from the two speci- 
mens I have examined are combined with the data available in the 
literature. Sex data are not available for the specimens listed in the 
literature. 

Mid-body scale rows 41-45; ventrals 240-263; anal entire; sub- 
caudals 97-109; upper labials 13-17; lower labials 14-16; scales in 
ocular ring 12-15; anterior temporals 6-7; posterior temporals 7-8. 

Range. — Apparently restricted to the mountains of southwest- 
ern Iran. 

Recorded localities. — Iran: Laristan (type locality); Shiraz; Per- 
sepolis; Maidan Mihaftan, 30 miles east of Shustar. 

Material examined. —Iran: Persepolis (20923, 20929). 

Spalerosophis diadema cliff ordi (Schlegel). Figure 58. 

Coluber versicolor Wagler, 1830 (preoccupied by Coluber versicolor Razoumow- 

sky, 1789), Syst. Amph., p. 189. 
Coluber cliffordi Schlegel, 1837, Physion. Serp., 2: 163— type locality Tripoli, 

Libya. 
Chilolepis cliffordi Fitzinger, 1843, Syst. Rept., p. 26. 
Periops parallelus Dumeril and Bibron, 1854, Erp. Gen., 7: 678. 
Zamenis cliffordi Gunther, 1858, Cat. Snakes Brit. Mus., p. 104. 
Zamenis {Periops) versicolor Boettger, 1885, Kobelt, Reisen Alg. Tunis, p. 458. 



MARX: REVIEW OF SNAKE GENUS SPALEROSOPHIS 



351 



Spalerosophis cliffordi Schmidt, 1939, Field Mus. Nat. Hist., Zool. Ser., 24: 77. 
Spalerosophis diadema cliffordi Mertens, 1956, Senck. biol., 37: 225. 

With the acquisition of a large series of cliffordi from Egypt, col- 
lected by the United States Naval Medical Research Unit No. 3, at 




Fig. 58. Dorsal color pattern of Spalerosophis diadema cliffordi; CNHM 82671. 
Photograph by H. Marx. 

Cairo, Egypt, it has become possible to evaluate the variation of this 
form and to clarify its relationship with other populations. 

Although S. d. cliffordi is distributed from coastal northwestern 
Africa eastward into the Tigris-Euphrates Valley, its local popula- 
tions do not difier appreciably (see Table 1). Tunisian, Sudanese, 
Arabian, Iraqi, and extreme western Iranian material all fall into the 
range of variation of characters of the material from Egypt. The 
material from the Tigris-Euphrates Valley is indistinguishable from 
the material from Egypt. This valley extends into a small portion 
of extreme western Iran. 

The relationship of cliffordi to diadema from India has long been 
in question. Its subspecific relationship is now evident with the pres- 
ence of a geographically intermediate and morphologically interme- 
diate population (schiraziana) in Iran, Afghanistan, and western India 
(see Table 1). 



352 FIELDIANA: ZOOLOGY, VOLUME 39 

Angel (1933) recorded a specimen from Goundam, French vSudan, 
as diadema. Dr. Jean Guibe of the Paris Museum was kind enough 
to examine this specimen for me. The data are as follows (Paris Mus. 
no. 32-15): loreals and prefrontals divided into many scales; dorsals 
26; ventrals 210; anal entire; subcaudals 79; tail mutilated; female; 
upper labials 10 on right side and 11 on left side; lower labials 11; 
many temporals; scales in ocular ring 11; dorsal spots 51, more or 
less quadrangular transversely, not rounded. This animal belongs in 
the genus Spalerosophis and its characters agree with the range of 
variation and color pattern of S. diadema diffordi except that the 
number of ventrals is slightly low for females. 

One specimen of diffordi from Wadi Natroum, Egypt (75982), has 
an aberrant color pattern. This animal has longitudinal stripes along 
the entire length of the body. In no other character does it differ 
from typical diffordi. This female has 31 mid-body scale rows, 239 
ventrals, anal plate partly divided, 77 subcaudals, 10 supralabials, 
12 infralabials, 10-11 scales in ocular ring, temporals 4-3, total length 
894 mm., and tail 0.17 of total length. I interpret this specimen as 
a mutation. 

Range. — North Africa from Morocco and French West Africa (ex- 
cluding mountains) eastward along the coast of North Africa into 
Asia, where it extends into the Tigris-Euphrates Valley of Iraq and 
extreme wastern Iran. 

MATERIAL EXAMINED 

Tunisia: Tunis (AMNH 21793). 

Libya: Tripolitania; Wadi Talah (82964); Tripolitania, no other data (83056). 

Anglo-Egyptian Sudan: No other data (22931, 35421). 

Egypt: No other data (63134). 

Sudan Government Administrative Area: 2 miles north of Bir Kansisrob (73539). 

Beni Suef Province: Beni Suef (63982-83, 63985-88, 73984). 

Faiyum Province: No other data (73241, 75244-45); Kom-0-Shim and Bait 
el Asfar (58487). 

Giza Province: Abu Rawash (63133-36, 63989-90, 65928); Sakkara (63132-33, 
63993, 63995); near Giza Pyramid (63130-31); Imbaba, Minshat el Bakkari (75243); 
Abu Sir (69257). 

Cairo: Abassia (72087). 

Western Desert Governorate: Mariut, Burg el Arab (67248, 75242, 75249); 
Mariut, El Amiriya (68821); Mersa Matruh (68822-23, 75246); Wadi Natrun 
(63991-92, 63994, 75982); 5 miles east of Wadi Natrun (79147); Siwa Oasis, Siwa 
(65924-27). 

Beheria Province: El Amiriya (63126-29). 



MARX: REVIEW OF SNAKE GENUS SPALEROSOPHIS 353 

Minufiya Province: Quweisna (69258). 

Canal Zone: 4 miles west of Ismailia (72084-85). 

Sharqiya Province: Zagazig, Tell Basta (75247-48); Tell el Kabir (69259-60). 

Sinai Peninsula: Feiran Oasis (72086); St. Catherine's Monastery (USNM 
133644). 

Arabia: Hulaifa (31650); Jidda (31651). 

Palestine: Near Gaza (48505). 

Iraq: No other data (19580); Baghdad (20857, 28314); Beled Sinjar (19596); 
Halfayah (19625); Kish (11066-67); Nasinyah (22718-19). 
Iran: Ahwaz (USNM 121592). 

Spalerosophis diadema dolichospila (Werner). Figure 59. 

Zamenis diadema Schlegel, var. dolichospila Werner, 1923, An. nat. Mus. Wien, 

36: 166. 
Coluber diadema dolichospila Werner, 1929, S.-B. Akad. Wien, math, nat., 138: 

7 — type locality, Ain Sefra, Algeria. 
Spalerosophis diadema dolichospila Schmidt, 1930, Field Mus. Nat. Hist., Zool. 

Ser., 17: 226. 
Coluber choumowitchi Domergue, 1954, Bull. Soc. Sci. Nat. Tunisie, 7: 37, 

figs. 1-15 — type locality, Redeyeff, Tunisia. 

Comparing a topotype of Coluber choumowitchi collected by Do- 
mergue with the specimen examined by Werner I find that they are 
identical. Mertens' (1956, p. 225) allocation of choumowitchi to dia- 
dema dolichospila is unquestionable. 

The unique color pattern (fig. 59, B) is the only character distin- 
guishing dolichospila from the populations to the north and east. 
S. d. dolichospila has large, smooth-edged dorsal spots, whereas all 
other forms of diadema have narrow, irregularly bordered transverse 
bands and spots. All specimens examined, together with those listed 
by Domergue (1954), show no variation in this color pattern. I also 
find no suggestion of this color pattern in the other populations of 
this species. The occurrence of specimens over a wide range and their 
agreement in the striking color pattern provide the attributes of a 
population. This southern mountain population, dolichospila, is here 
recognized as a distinct subspecies on the basis of its strikingly uni- 
form and different coloration and apparent isolation. 

Werner (1937) recorded a specimen of dolichospila from Ghar, in 
the Hoggar Mountains of southern Algeria. Angel and Lhote (1938) 
recorded from Tamanrasset, also in the Hoggar Mountains, a speci- 
men of diadema which is probably the same subspecies, dolichospila. 
They also recorded a specimen of diadema from the vicinity of Agadez, 
French Niger, a town at the foot of the Air Mountains; whether 



354 FIELDIANA: ZOOLOGY, VOLUME 39 

"vicinity" means lowlands or mountains is not stated. The exact 
altitude and the color pattern are needed to assign this animal either 
to diadema cliff ordi or diadema dolichospila (see Map). 

Range. — Atlas Mountains of Tunisia and Algeria and the Hoggar 
Mountains of southern Algeria. 

Material examined. — Algeria: Ain Sefra (MCZ 27495; this speci- 
men was used by Werner to establish type locality). Tunisia: Redeyeff 
(75963; topotype of choumowitchi). 

Spalerosophis diadema schiraziana Jan 

Periops parallelus var. schiraziana Jan, 1865, in De Filippi, Viagg. Pers., p. 356 

— type locality, Shiraz, Iran. 
Spalerosophis schirazianus Schmidt, 1939, Field Mus. Nat. Hist., Zool. Ser., 

24: 77. 
Spalerosophis maximus Clark and Inger, 1942, Copeia, 1942: 166. 
Spalerosophis diadema schirazianus Mertens, 1956, Jh. Ver. vaterl. Naturk. 

Wurttemberg, 111: 96. 

Jan (1865) did not give scale counts in the original description of 
schiraziana. Boulenger (1893) recorded a specimen from Deh Bid, 
Iran, which is near the type locality of schiraziana. Boulenger's scale 
counts are similar to the material examined ; therefore the name schi- 
raziana is applicable to the intermediate populations. 

S. d. schiraziana is morphologically intermediate between d. clif- 
Jordi to the west and d. diadema of Pakistan and India (see Table 1) 
in ventral and caudal counts of both sexes and the relative length of 
the male tails. It is also geographically intermediate; it forms a 
natural boundary in the west for it is found in the Zagros Mountains 
of western Iran eastward through southern Turkmen and Afghanistan 
into Pakistan and India, where it meets with d. diadema (see Map 
for distribution). 

Material examined.— Iran: Teheran (20894, 20959, 20969); Ray 
(20895, 20908, 20912-13, 20951, 20960-62, 20966). 

Spalerosophis diadema diadema (Schlegel) 

Russell, 1801, Ind. Serp., 2: 34, pi. 30. 

Coluber diadema Schlegel, 1837, Phys. Serp., 2: 148— type locality, near Bombay, 

India. 
Zamenis diadema Gunther, 1864, Rept. Brit. Ind., p. 252, pi. 21, fig. G. 

Fig. 59. Spalerosophis diadema dolichospila. A, lateral view of head; B, color 
pattern. Photographs by Ch. Domergue. 





B 

355 



356 FIELDIANA: ZOOLOGY, VOLUME 39 

Zamenis diadema var. atriceps Fischer, 1885, Jahrb. Hamburg Wiss. Anst., 2: 

102. 
Zomenis diadema mela)widesWsi\l, 1911, Jour. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc, 23: 211. 
Spalerosophis diadema Schmidt, 1930, Field Mus. Nat. Hist., Zool. Ser., 17: 226- 

This eastern form of diadema has the highest number of ventrals 
and subcaudals found in the species. It also tends to have a rela- 
tively longer tail compared to the other subspecies. 

Smith (1943) may be consulted for a discussion of this form and 
its color varieties. Wall (1914) has an excellent plate illustrating the 
color varieties of d. diadema. The material examined clearly proves 
that the strikingly different color variety "atriceps" is a synonym of 
d. diadema. The only difference besides color in the "atriceps" exam- 
ined, is that they are all more heavy-bodied and longer (see Table 1) 
than typical d. diadema. This size difference does not necessarily 
reflect age, for size may also reflect food supply, temperature, etc. 
I have examined both varieties from the same locality. 

The range of variation of male ventrals is 234-246. Boulenger 
(1893) records a male from Gilgit, India, with 278 ventrals. 

Range. — Pakistan and India. 

Material examined. — Pakistan: Baluchistan; Quetta (USNM 52142- 
43); 10 miles from Ambala (MCZ 3766, 9913); Karachi (USNM 
13490). India: United Province, Fatchgarb District, Farrakhabad 
(44980). "India": No other data (AMNH 31705, 36718, 44978). 

Spalerosophis arenarius (Boulenger) 

Zamenis arenarius Boulenger, 1890, Fauna Brit. India, p. 329 — type locality, 

Karachi and Sind (here restricted to Karachi). 
Coluber arenarius Smith, 1943, Fauna Brit. India, 3: 175. 
Spalerosophis arenarius Schmidt, 1930, Field Mus. Nat. Hist., Zool. Ser., 17: 

226. 

Spalerosophis arenarius is known only from the two heads and one 
complete specimen mentioned by Boulenger (1893). These specimens 
have 25-27 scale rows at mid-body, 10 supralabials, and 9-10 scales 
in ocular ring. Complete data are not available for the three speci- 
mens. Two specimens have 3 anterior temporals and one specimen 
has 3 posterior temporals. 

The only character said to separate arenarius from diadema is the 
extremely elongated rostral wedged far between the internasals but 
not entirely separating the nasals. The scale counts given by Bou- 
lenger (1893) do not differentiate this species from diadema when the 
entire range of diadema is considered, but arenarius does tend to differ 



MARX: REVIEW OF SNAKE GENUS SPALEROSOPHIS 357 

from Indian diadema that I have examined in the number of ventrals 
(arenarius, 227; diadema, 240-254), subcaudals {arenarius, 80; dia- 
dema, 101-109), and anterior temporals {arenarius, 3; diadema, 4-5). 
I therefore consider this population a distinct species. It has also 
been collected from the same locality as d. diadema. 

Recorded localities. — India: Rajpootana. Pakistan: Karachi and 
Sind. 



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360 



MARX: REVIEW OF SNAKE GENUS SPALEROSOPHIS 361 

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