Psammophis occidentalis

Sinced the definition of Psammophis afroccidentalis by Trape e.a. 2019 this species has been omitted.

Comment "Whilst P. occidentalis is clearly a variant of P. phillipsi its preponderance within the Cameroon to Uganda area encourages us to give it formal recognition and so that data appertaining to it will not be attributed to P. philllipsi, we would prefer to give it specific status." Hughes and Wade, 2004)
Recognition What is the difference between P. phillipsi and P. occidentalis?
  1. Divided cloacal scale (P.o.) vs. undivided (P.p.)
  2. Obvious dorsolateral light coloured stripe on body scales 4/5
  3. "Obfuscation of the venter with grey occurs occasionally in Liberia (MNHN 1986.1807, MRAC 29424), Côte d'Ivoire (MNHN 1993.3497) but commonly and consistently in "P. phillipsi" from Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad and northern Democratic Republic of the Congo (ie. "Zaire" until recently)." (Hughes and Wade 2004)

What is the difference between P. occidentalis and P. sibilans?

  • Nine labials ( 10 on left of type) with the first four in contact with the anterior chin shield, unlike the common pattern of sibilans, 10/11(5)


Common Names Olive Grass Racer
Synonym Psammophis phillipsi occidentalis WERNER 1919
Psammophis sibilans occidentalis WERNER 1919
Psammophis phillipsi occidentalis — HUGHES & WADE 2004
Psammophis occidentalis — CHIRIO & LEBRETON 2007 
Distribution Cameroon to Uganda.

"Snakes of the genus Psammophis are widespread in diverse habitats of west Africa, from dry savannas to moist rainforests. In southern Nigeria, P. phillipsi occurs with two 'forms', one with a divided cloacal shield (CSD) and one with an entire cloacal shield (CSE). These 'forms' were suggested to be possibly distinct species in a recent review by Hughes (1999). However, as no data are available on the variation in natural history, if any, between these two supposed species, we collected data on local distribution and natural history traits of these 'forms' in several localities of southern Nigeria. Out of 32 localities examined, sympatric CSD and CSE specimens occurred in 28.1% of the localities, CSD specimens alone occurred in 68.8%, and CSE specimens alone occurred in 3.1%. At five additional localities, where a higher number of specimens was examined (range 21-41 specimens), CSD specimens were clearly dominant over CSE specimens (on average 88.8% of specimens in each population), independently of the habitat types, and there was no apparent effect of longitude on the frequency of occurrence of CSD specimens. Both 'forms' proved to be habitat generalists (often inhabiting deforested areas and suburbs), and very similar in terms of type of prey eaten (mainly Agama lizards and Mabuya skinks, but also small mammals), and apparently also in terms of micro-habitats used for foraging (clearings into forested zones). Overall, there was no evident difference between these 'forms' in terms of the main ecological traits examined here." (Luiselli et al., 2004)

Types see Hughes and Wade, 2004.
Comment Closely related to P. sibilans and both may represent the same species. P. p. occidentalis may include specimens some have identified as P. subtaeniatus sudanensis and others would include in P. rukwae.

Psammophis sibilans var. mossambica PETERS 1882: 122 has been elevated to full species status.

Nigerian specimens are consistent with descriptions of P. phillipsi by Hallowell (1844), Villiers (1975), Hughes and Barry (1969), and Broadley (1977) in all features (e.g., plain colouration, shape of the snout) except for the presence of a divided cloacal scale in several specimens (see Hughes, 1999; Hughes and Wade, 2004). Although the condition of the cloacal scale has been considered a diagnostic feature between phillipsi (cloacal scale entire) and sibilans (or rukwae, following Brandstätter, 1995; cloacal scale divided; see also Chippaux, 1999), some authors named all specimens (including those with divided cloacal scale) as ‘phillipsi’ (e.g., Akani et al., 2002a, 2002b, 2003).

Hughes (1999) found that cloacal-scale-entire (CSE) specimens dominate in his collections of phillipsi from West Africa (Liberia to Ghana), and cloacal-scale-divided (CSD) specimens dominate in Nigeria, Cameroon, and central African forests. He also concluded that “the West African, unpatterned specimens which Luiselli et al. have in the past identified as “P. phillipsi” (e.g. Hughes and Barry, 1968) comprises two forms which are likely to be distinct species: P. phillipsi is the name for the specimens from forest clearings with CSE condition; and those from savannah and sympatric with “P. sibilans”, are what Brandstätter treats as a new subspecies (“forest margin”)”, with mostly a CSD condition. 
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Hughes and Wade 2004
BARRY HUGHES & EDUARDO WADE. Is Psammophis sibilans occidentalis WERNER, 1919 a junior synonym of R phillipsi (HALLOWELL, 1844)? HERPETOZOA 16 (3/4): 127-132. Wien, 2004