A catalogue and systematic overview of the shield-tailed snakes (Serpentes Uropeltidae)

Robert Alexander Pyron, Sumaithangi Rajagopalan Ganesh, Amit Sayyed, Vivek Sharma, Van Wallach, Ruchira Somaweera

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


We present a catalogue and systematic overview of Uropeltidae Muller, 1832 based on both new and previously published molecular and morphological data, and a new molecular phylogenetic analysis. We support the monophyly and distinctiveness of Brachyophidium Wall, 1921, Melanophidium Gunther, 1864, Platyplectrurus Gunther, 1868, Pseudoplectrurus Boulenger, 1890, and Teretrurus Beddome, 1886. We move Uropeltis melanogaster (Gray, 1858), U. phillipsi (Nicholls, 1929), and Pseudotyphlops Schlegel, 1839 to Rhinophis Hemprich, 1820, and re-name Pseudotyphlops philippinus (Muller, 1832) as R. saffragamus (Kelaart, 1853), and U. smithi Gans, 1966 as U. grandis (Beddome, 1867). Thanks to these changes, the taxonomy of all these genera is based on monophyletic entities. Diagnoses based on meristic and mensural characters for external and internal anatomy are provided for the family and all genera, and accounts are given for all currently recognized species, summarizing known morphological variation. We note several taxa that continue to be of uncertain phylogenetic affinity, and outline necessary future studies of variation in systematically valuable characters such as rostral and tail morphology. Cryptic variation is likely present in many species, and additional collection of specimens and DNA-sequence data will likely be needed to provide conclusive resolution for remaining taxonomic issues. Numerous questions remain for the systematics of Uropeltidae, and we hope that this study will provide a platform for ongoing research into the group, including the description of cryptic species, clarifying the phylogenetic placement of some remaining taxa, and quantifying the range of intra-and inter-specific variation in crucial morphological characters.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)453-506
Number of pages54
JournalMuseum National d'Histoire Naturelle: Zoosystema
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2016
Externally publishedYes


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