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Article
Published: 2020-11-18

A new Indian species of Rhinophis Hemprich, 1820 closely related to R. sanguineus Beddome, 1863 (Serpentes: Uropeltidae)

Department of Life Sciences, The Natural History Museum, London SW7 5BD, UK Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment, University College London, London WC1E 6BT, UK
Wayanad Wild, Lakkidi, Vythiri, Wayanad, Kerala, India
IISER-TVM Centre for Research and Education in Ecology and Evolution (ICREEE) and School of Biology, Indian Institute of Science Education and Research Thiruvananthapuram, Maruthamala P.O. Vithura, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala 695551, India
Centre for Applied Genetics, Department of Zoology, Bangalore University, Bengaluru, Karnataka, 560056, India
Department of Life Sciences, The Natural History Museum, London SW7 5BD, UK
identification key Rhinophis microlepis shieldtail snakes Wayanad Western Ghats Reptilia

Abstract

A new species of the uropeltid (shieldtail snake) genus Rhinophis is described based on a type series of seven specimens from the Wayanad region of the Western Ghats of peninsular India. The holotype was collected before 1880 but had been misidentified as the phenotypically similar and parapatric (possibly partly sympatric) R. sanguineus. Rhinophis karinthandani sp. nov. is diagnosed by a combination of 15 dorsal scale rows at midbody, 4–8 pairs of subcaudal scales, colour pattern (uniformly dark above, whitish below with extensive dark mottling), and by its distinct mitochondrial DNA sequences (e.g. >7.6% uncorrected p-distance for nd4). Phylogenetic analysis of mitochondrial DNA sequence data indicates that the new species is most closely related to R. sanguineus among currently recognised species, with this pair most closely related to the partly sympatric R. melanoleucus. The new species description brings the number of currently recognised species in the genus to 24, six of which are endemic to India and 18 endemic to Sri Lanka. A new key to the identification of Indian species of Rhinophis is provided.

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