A revised taxonomy of the Australo-Papuan species of the colubrid genus Dendrelaphis (Serpentes: Colubridae)

Johan van Rooijen, Gernot Vogel, Ruchira Somaweera

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6 Citations (Scopus)


This study investigates the taxonomy of an Australo-Papuan species group within the colubrid snake genus Dendrelaphis, which is characterised by the combination of 13 dorsal scale rows at midbody and enlarged vertebral scales. Members of this group inhabit the southeastern Moluccas, Palau Islands, New Guinea, Solomon Islands, and the northern and eastern parts of Australia. The taxonomy of this group has been reviewed several times in the past, resulting in a sequence of completely different sets of species as well as groupings into higher-order taxa. The capricious succession of taxonomic interpretations can be attributed to a lack of objectivity in most previous studies. This study attempts to clarify the taxonomy of this group by applying multivariate techniques to a set of morphological data taken from 171 museum specimens covering the entire geographic range. In addition, all extant type specimens of this species group were examined. The results provide evidence for the validity of nine species: 1) D. calligaster (GUNTHER, 1867) which inhabits New Guinea and adjacent islands, the Solomon Islands as well as Australia (Cape York Peninsula); 2) D. gastrostictus (BOULENGER, 1894) from mainland New Guinea; 3) D. keiensis (MERTENS, 1926) from the Moluccan islands of Babar, Timor-Laut, and Kei-Dulah; 4) D. lineolatus (JAQUINOT & GUICHENOT, 1853) from mainland New Guinea and several adjacent islands; 5) D. lorentzii (VAN LIDTH DE JEUDE, 1911) from mainland New Guinea, Normanby Island, and Salawati Island; 6) D. macrops (GUNTHER, 1877) from mainland New Guinea, Daru Island, Numfoor Island, and Duke of York Island; 7) D. papuensis BOULENGER, 1895 from the Trobriand Islands; 8) D. punctulatus (Gray, 1826) from northern and eastern Australia as well as several of the Torres Strait Islands; and 9) D. striolatus (PETERS, 1867) from the Palau Islands. The presented taxonomy entails revalidating D. keiensis, D. lineolatus, and D. macrops, synonymysing D. salomonis with D. calligaster, and elevating to specific status D. punctulatus striolatus. Neotypes are designated for Dendrophis punctulatus var. atrostriata MEYER, 1874 and Dendrophis punctulatus var. fasciata MEYER, 1874, which are considered synonyms of D. lineolatus.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33-56
Number of pages24
JournalSalamandra: Zeitschrift fuer Herpetologie and Terrarienkunde
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 30 Apr 2015
Externally publishedYes


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