Wednesday, September 20, 2017

[Herpetology • 2017] Worms in the Sand: Systematic Revision of the Australian Blindsnake Anilios leptosoma (Robb, 1972) Species Complex (Squamata: Scolecophidia: Typhlopidae) from the Geraldton Sandplain, with Description of Two New Species

 Anilios obtusifrons Ellis & Doughty,
  in Ellis, Doughty, Donnellan, Marin & Vidal, 2017 


The blindsnake genus Anilios (formerly Ramphotyphlops) is the largest and most diverse genus of snakes in Australia with 45 currently recognized species. Recent molecular genetic studies of the genus have identified high levels of cryptic diversity within many taxa, suggesting true species diversity is greatly underestimated. Anilios leptosoma is a slender blindsnake endemic to the mid-west of Western Australia. Although morphological variation has been identified within the species in the past, the systematics and true diversity remained unstudied. Here we use recent molecular data to guide a reappraisal of morphology in order to provide a taxonomic revision of the A. leptosoma species complex. We redescribe Aleptosoma and describe two new species that occur to the south of most of true A. leptosoma’s distribution: A. systenos sp. nov. and Aobtusifrons sp. nov. Anilios systenos sp. nov. is known from the Geraldton region with the furthest record only 100 km to the north-east, a very small range for a species of snake. Anilios obtusifrons sp. nov. has an even smaller distribution, as it is only known from a small coastal area south of Kalbarri and may represent a range-restricted taxa. All species are genetically divergent from each other and can be distinguished by consistent morphological characteristics, including the shape of the snout, the termination point of the rostral cleft and number of mid-body scale rows and ventral scales.

Keywords:  Reptilia, taxonomy, morphology, mtDNA, nDNA, cryptic species, cryptic diversity, Ramphotyphlops leptosomaAnilios systenos sp. nov., Anilios obtusifrons sp. nov., Western Australia

Typhlopidae Merrem, 1820
Anilios Gray, 1845

Type species. Anilios australis Gray, 1845, by subsequent designation by Stejneger (1904) [p. 683].

Etymology. Masculine noun formed from the Greek words annot and heliossun (without sun) in reference to the fossorial or below ground habits of these species (Savage & Boundy 2012; Hedges et al. 2014).  

Anilios leptosoma (Robb, 1972) 
Murchison Blindsnakes

Etymology. Derived from the Greek words leptos meaning fine or thin and soma meaning body in reference to the thin thread-like appearance of the species. The amendment to the specific epithet to A. ‘leptosomus’ by McDiarmid et al. (1999) and subsequently accepted by other authors (Hedges et al. 2014; Pyron & Wallach 2014; Wallach et al. 2014) is not warranted (Shea 2015). As Robb (1972) did not state explicitly the use of the word ‘soma’ as a noun or adjective, it is to be treated as a noun and does not change from A. leptosoma with the resurrection of Anilios by Hedges et al. (2014).

Anilios systenos sp. nov. Ellis & Doughty
Sharp-snouted Blindsnakes

Etymology. Derived from the Greek word systenos, meaning ‘tapering to a point’ in reference to the tapering appearance of the head and snout to a rounded point when viewed dorsally.

FIGURE 6. Anilios obtusifrons sp. nov. (WAM R129778) in life (photograph—B. Maryan).

Anilios obtusifrons sp. nov. Ellis & Doughty
Blunt-snouted Blindsnakes

Etymology. From a combination of the Latin words obtusus meaning ‘blunt or dull’ and frons meaning ‘front’ in reference to the rounded or blunt appearance of the snout in dorsal and lateral view.  

Ryan J. Ellis, Paul Doughty, Stephen C. Donnellan, Julie Marin and Nicolas Vidal. 2017. 
Worms in the Sand: Systematic Revision of the Australian Blindsnake Anilios leptosoma (Robb, 1972) Species Complex (Squamata: Scolecophidia: Typhlopidae) from the Geraldton Sandplain, with Description of Two New Species.   Zootaxa. 4323(1); 1–24.  DOI:  10.11646/zootaxa.4323.1.1