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Psammophylax kellyi sp. nov. Conradie, Keates & Edwards 2018

This species was proposed by Keates e.a. 2019. The following is derives from their paper.

Common name Proposed common name: Tanzanian Grass Snake or Tanzanian Skaapsteker
Synonym Psammophylax multisquamis in part (Boulenger, 1896:140; Loveridge, 1923:882; Loveridge, 1932:84 (Mpwapwa paratypes); Broadley, 1977:30; Spawls et al., 2018, 2002).
Holotype PEM R23926 (CMRK 401, adult female) collected 17 July 2003, Arusha Region near Oldonyo Sambu, on the foothills of Mount Meru (3.17°S; 36.68°E, ~1,850 m a.s.l.), northern Tanzania. Collected by Christopher R. Kelly.
Etymology The specific epithet is a patronym in honor of Christopher M. R. Kelly for his considerable contribution to the sys‐tematics of the snake family Lamprophiidae.
Diagnosis Snout rounded (pointed in P. tritaeniatus), supralabials with dark (usually rust‐colored) spots (immaculate in P. tritaeniatus), no spots on the nape, sometimes forming longitudinal lines (present in P. rhombeatus and P. ocellatus), rostral broader than deep, never separating the internasals (in P. rhombeatus the rostral is usually as deep as wide and sometimes separating internasals), tail length/ total length ratio less than 21% (larger than 21% in P. rhombeatus), usually two anterior temporals with more than 163 subcaudals (usually one anterior temporal in P. variabilis with fewer than 163 subcaudals), ventrum light gray or white (dark gray in P. variabilis). Apparently indistinguishable from southern Kenya P. multisquamis (Figure 1g,h) in dorsal coloration — both populations exhibit the pattern illustrated in (Broadley (1977: fig 7a). Distinguished from Ethiopian P. multisquamis (Figure 1f), in which the vertebral line is often poorly defined or absent. Scalation and morphometrics (traditional and 2D morphology) appear to be unreliable diagnostic tools because of considerable overlap between Psammophylax species (Table 3). Psammophylax kellyi sp. nov. (Tanzania) and P. multisquamis (Kenya/Ethiopia) are allopatric, while the Ngorongoro population of P. kellyi sp. nov. is apparently sympatric with P. variabilis (see PEM R23970/CMRK 403). Average sequence divergence between P. kellyi sp. nov. and other Psammophylax species was 8.52 ± 1.43% and 8.23 ± 0.75% for cyt b and ND4, respectively.

Description of holotype: Body elongated, robust, tapering gradually to a short tail (tail length 19% of total length, but trun‐cated). Dorsal scales smooth with no apical pits and in 17–17–13 scale rows; 171 ventrals; anal divided; 60 + subcaudals (tail trun‐cated). Narrow pointed head indistinct from the neck and the rest of the body; snout rounded and about half as long as horizontal diameter of orbit (ED/SD= 0.55), rostral clearly visible from above and below, slightly broader than deep (3.5 x 2.6 mm); prenasals pointed anteriorly and postnasals as long as wide; prefrontals as long as wide, which are in broad contact laterally with loreal; fron‐tal pentagonal, longer than wide (6.9 x 3.1 mm), slightly inserting posteriorly between very large parietals; no supraocular; small nasal shield divided by pre‐ and postnasals, in contact with 1st and 2nd supralabials; loreal as long as wide, in contact with the postnasal, the 2nd and 3rd supralabial below and the prefrontal above, but excluded from orbit by the single preocular, which is well separated from the frontal; postoculars 2, the lower slightly longer than upper and in contact with 5th and 6th supralabials; temporal arrangement is 2 + 3 (on left side the upper 1st temporal is divided into two subequal smaller scales); supralabials 8/8, with the 4th and 5th entering the orbit; infralabials 11/11, the first 5 in contact with anterior sublinguals, 1st infralabials touching each other; two pairs of elongated sublinguals, equal in size; mental small and triangular. Eye medium in size, vertical diameter equal to the distance from orbit to upper lip, and with a round pupil. Size: 685 mm snout–vent length + 161 mm tail length (truncated) = 846 + mm total length.

Coloration Head is uniform brown above with a few black flecks, darkening posteriorly with the gradual emergence of a dark brown vertebral stripe. Lateral darker brown facial mask extends from nostril, through the eye onto the body; supralabials cream‐white with black dorsal edging, and faint gray blotches (rusty orange in life) beginning on the upper half of each scale and extending ventrally to the edge of the mouth. The lateral head patterning (dark brown mask and supralabial pattern) extends seamlessly backward onto the body. Dorsum striped, with stripes extending to the tail tip and pattern resembling the illustration in Broadley (1977: Fig 7a). Vertebral scales black with pale cream central vertebral line; paravertebral scale rows rus‐set‐brown with each scale black‐tipped and scales paler on their lateral edges (especially toward the tail). The vertebral and two paravertebral scale rows form a brown vertebral stripe that ex‐tends from the back of the head to the tail tip. The next two lat‐eral scale rows (becoming one on the tail) are beige‐tan, forming a pale dorsolateral stripe that extends on each side of the body from the back of the head to the tail tip. The next 3.5 scale rows (becoming 2.5 posteriorly and finally reducing further on the tail) form an extension of the dark brown facial mask that stretches to the tail tip as a brown dorsolateral stripe on each side of the body. The fourth scale row from the vertebral midline forms the dorsal (upper) boundary of this stripe; each scale is black, with a white dorsal edge (pale orange in life). Scales of the fifth and sixth rows are uniform brown, with slightly darker brown posterior edges. The upper half of the seventh scale row forms the lateral (lower) boundary of the dorsolateral stripe; scales in this row are divided linearly into a black upper half (dark brown at the base of each scale) and a white lower half. In life, a thin, diffuse pale orange boundary between black and white gives the effect of an orange lateral edging to the dorsolateral stripe. The eighth scale row (bor‐dering the ventrals) is white, with a gray streak along the midline of each scale (rusty orange in life) forming a gray (rusty orange) lateroventral line along body, just above “ground level.” Ventrum immaculate cream‐white colored with darker lateral blotches (rust‐colored to dull orange‐gray in life); throat cream (between infralabials and first ventral scale) with very faint gray speckling (dull orange‐gray in life).

 

Size Largest female (PEM R23924) 744 mm snout–vent length + 168 mm tail length = 912 mm total length; largest male (AMNH 50585) 480 + 121 = 601 mm
Distribution and habitat Known from only a few localities in northern Tanzania: Tindi (Bogert, 1940), Arusha (Loveridge, 1923), Mpwapwa (Boulenger, 1896), Oldonyo Sambu (Spawls et al., 2002; this study), and Ngorongoro Crater Highlands (this study). Spawls et al. (2002) listed some additional localities from the Serengeti in the west to Mt. Kilimanjaro in the east.

Found in open grassland in the highlands of northern Tanzania above 1,700 m.

Food Small mice, lizards, skinks etc.