Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A New Desert Viper From Tunisia

Three species and two subspecies currently make up the arid land viperid genus Cerastes Laurenti,1768. Cerastes is known from Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. All Cerastes are adapted for xeric environments and they range in maximum body size from the 80 cm Cerastes cerastes to the less than 50 cm Cerastes vipera. The third species is Cerastes gasperettii of the the Arabian Peninsula and Middle East.  Philip Wagner and Thomas M. Wilms have now described a fourth species of Cerastes from Tunisia, Cerastes boehmei a species closely related to Cerastes vipera but quite distinct from it. C. vipera has horn-like supraocular scales above its eyes, while C. boehmei has tufts of erected supraocular scales forming crown-like structures above the eyes. The crown-like tufts contain several vertically erect, blunt scales, unlike the supraocular horn-like scales of C. cerastes or C. gasperettii that consist of one long, pointed scale. The description of C. boehmei is based on a single specimen, but additional specimens were seen but subsequently lost by private terrarium keepers. The new species is believed to be endemic to Tunisia and is probably widespread in the area of Bani Kheddache. It is named in honor of Wolfgang B√∂hme, of the Zoologisches Forschungsmuseum Alexander Koenig in Bonn, for his contributions to African herpetology. The authors also comment on the status of the name “Cerastes cerastes karlhartli” and it is considered to be nomen nudum. And, they attribute the authorship of “Cerastes cornutus” to Boulenger. Follow the link below to the full text.


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