Wednesday, December 2, 2015

A new snake: Synophis zaheri

Synophis is a genus of snakes belonging to the family Dipsadidae. Its species are distributed throughout Colombia and Ecuador and have not been found elsewhere. Little is know about these snakes. One of the species is known only through one male specimen found a while ago.

The newest member of the genus was found in the Andean cloud forests of south west Ecuador. It was named after the Brazilian herpetologist Hussam El-Dine Zaher, for his contributions to South American herpetology and snake systematics.

For the experts: Within Dipsadinae, some recent authors have recognized a tribe Nothopsini containing the genera Diaphorolepis, Emmochliophis, Nothopsis, Synophis, and Xenopholis, on the basis of a number of putative morphological synapomorphies. However, molecular results suggest that Nothopsis, Synophis, and Xenopholis do not form a monophyletic group, while the remaining taxa are unsampled in recent molecular phylogenies. Here, DNA-sequence data for some Diaphorolepis and Synophis species are provided for the first time, as well as additional new sequences for Nothopsis and some Synophis species. Including these and other existing data for nothopsine species, previous studies showing that Nothopsini is not a natural group are corroborated. Nothopsini Cope, 1871 is restricted to Nothopsis. Diaphorolepidini Jenner, 1981 is resurrected and re-delimited to include only Diaphorolepis, Emmochliophis, and Synophis. Finally, Xenopholis remains Dipsadinae incertae sedis. Known material of Diaphorolepidini is reviewed to generate revised and expanded descriptions and diagnoses at the tribe, genus, and species level. Numerous cryptic species are likely present in S. bicolor and S. lasallei. Finally, a new population from the low-elevation cloud forests of SW Ecuador is reported upon, which is genetically and morphologically distinct from all other species, that is here named Synophis zaheri sp. n.

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