Friday, 23 October 2015

Acanthophis cryptamydros: A new species of Death Adder from the Kimberly Region of Western Australia and the Northern Territory.

Death Adders, Acanthophis spp., are Australian Snakes closely resembling the Old World Vipers, though they are Elapid Snakes more closely related to Cobras and Sea Snakes. The taxonomy of the group is poorly understood, with the genus currently divided into several widely distributed and highly variable species, a classification system thought unlikely to be accurate by Herpetologists (scientists that study Amphibians and Reptiles) specializing in the group.

In a paper published in the journal Zootaxa on 28 August 2015, Simon Maddock of the Department of Life Sciences at The Natural History Museum, the Research Department of Genetics, Evolution & Environment at University College London and the Molecular Ecology and Fisheries Genetics Laboratory at Bangor University, Ryan Ellis, Paul Doughty and Lawrence Smith of the Department of Terrestrial Zoology at the Western Australian Museum and Wolfgang Wüster, also of the Molecular Ecology and Fisheries Genetics Laboratory at Bangor University describe a new species of Death Adder from the Kimberly Region of Western Australia and the Northern Territory.

The new species is named Acanthophis cryptamydros, meaning hidden and indistinct. The species is described from a population previously assigned to the Northern Death Adder, Acanthophis praelongus, but shown by a genetic survey to be a distinct species more closely related to the Desert Death Adder Acanthophis pyrrhus.

Acanthophis cryptamydros in life. Ryan Ellis in Maddock et al. (2015).

Acanthophis Pyrrhus is an orange brown Snake with darker bands averaging 503 mm in length for males and 549 mm in length for females. It was found living on the Kimberly region of Western Australia and the Northern Territory, between Wotjulum to the west and Kununurra in the east, as well as some offshore islands including Koolan, Bigge, Boongaree, Wulalam, and an unnamed island in Talbot Bay. It was found dwelling on or close to sandstone outcrops in open savannah woodland, and appears to eat a range of small vertebrates including Lizards, Frogs, Birds and Mammals. Other species of Death Adder have been shown to be susceptible to toxins produced by the introduced Cane Toad, Rhinella marina, and this species is presumed to also be at risk as the Toads continue to move west across the Kimberly region.

Habitat of Acanthophis cryptamydros at Theda Station in the Kimberley Region of Western Australia. Ryan Ellis in Maddock et al. (2015).

See also…

Burmese Pythons, Python molurus bivittatus or Python bivittatus, are large predatory Snakes from Southeast Asia. They are thought to have been introduced to the Florida Everglades some decades...

Many small tropical and subtropical islands are thought to have impoverished faunas, due to extinctions of local animals caused by human activity, notably habitat modification and the introduction of exotic...

Blunt-headed Vine Snakes (Imantodes) are medium sized (roughly meter length) Colubrid Snakes found from Mexico to Argentina. They are immediately recognizable due to their long thin bodies...

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