A new species of Dendrelaphis, Dendrelaphis sinharajensis sp. nov. is described, the sixth species of the genus known from Sri Lanka. The new species is readily distinguished from all other congeners by its colour pattern and scalation. The species is a canopy-dweller known only from the Sinharaja World Heritage Site and its vicinity, in the lowland wet zone of Sri Lanka.
Keywords: Reptilia, Forest Reserve, snake, systematics, taxonomy, wet zone
Discovery of an amazing canopy-dwelling tree snake.
Diagnosis. I assign the new species tentatively to the genus Dendrelaphis because it possesses the following characteristics: slender body; rounded pupil; enlarged vertebral scales; head distinct from body; diurnal; predominantly arboreal. Within the genus, Dendrelaphis sinharajensis has a unique colour pattern of prominent cross bars in black and white and a red neck; black bars are paired, and create the margins of the white cross bars from neck to tail; vertebral stripe, postocular stripe, and ventrolateral stripe absent; prominent white patch on lateral head over eye region and neck, upper margin outlined by a black zigzag line; parietal stripe present; throat white with black blotches; venter off-white with irregular black spots all over. It further differs from all other species of this genus in the combination of the red neck and the conspicuous red/white cross bars. In addition to its
colouration, the species can be readily distinguished from its congeners by the following combination of characteristics: loreal scales absent; prefrontals large, contacting 2nd and 3rd supralabials; postoculars three, central scale smallest; anterior temporal large, contacts all three postaculars; posterior temporals three, central one largest, larger than anterior temporal, dorsally contacts parietal and ventrally contacts 8th supralabial; dorsal scale rows 13 at midbody, a small apical pit on each
Etymology. The species epithet sinharajensis is derived from “Sinharaja”, referring to the forest where the species was discovered. The specific name is an adjective from the geographical name.
Suggested vernacular names. The vernacular names recommended for the species are Sinharaja haldanda, Sinharaja komberi muken, and Sinharaja tree snake in the languages Sinhala (native), Tamil, and English respectively.
L. J. Mendis Wickramasinghe. 2016. A New Canopy-dwelling Species of Dendrelaphis (Serpentes: Colubridae) from Sinharaja, World Heritage Site, Sri Lanka. Zootaxa. 4162(3); 504–518. DOI: 10.11646/zootaxa.4162.3.5