Thursday, February 1, 2018

[Herpetology • 2018] Calliophis salitan • A New Species of Long-glanded Coralsnake of the Genus Calliophis (Squamata: Elapidae) from Dinagat Island, Philippines, with Notes on the Biogeography and Species Diversity of Philippine Calliophis and Hemibungarus

Calliophis salitan
Brown, Smart, Leviton & Smith, 2018

We describe a new species of coralsnake from northern Dinagat Island, southeastern Philippines. The discovery of this new species comes as a surprise because it is phenotypically distinct from all other Philippine coralsnakes and has a close phylogenetic affinity to the blue coralsnakes of the Sunda Shelf. The new species is distinguished from all Philippine and other Southeast Asian taxa by its large body size and ventral scale counts; its black head and neck; an alternating, broadly banded color pattern of black and off-white; and a bright orange tail. We use DNA sequence data to investigate the phylogenetic placement of the new species and that of several other populations of Philippine coralsnakes with respect to other Southeast Asian and Australasian elapids. Our results corroborate the uniqueness of the new species with respect to all other Philippine and Sundaic taxa, including the species most closely related to it: Calliophis bivirgatus, C. bilineatus, C. philippinus, and C. suluensis. We summarize phylogenetic, biogeographic, and phenotypic character data that substantiate the elevation of Philippine species of Calliophis (formerly considered subspecies of C. intestinalis: C. bilineatus, C. philippinus, and C. suluensis) and Hemibungarus (formerly subspecies of H. calligaster: H. calligaster, H. gemianulis, and H. mcclungi) to the level of full species. The allopatric distributions of these taxa emphasize the systematic and biogeographical significance of the newly discovered taxon: a poorly understood and independent colonization of the Philippine Archipelago by elapid snakes.

Keywords: Calliophis salitan, Caraga Region, Mindanao PAIC, new species, false coralsnakes

 Calliophis salitan adult male holotype (PNM 9844, formerly KU 310164; 997 mm total length [TL]), illustrated by E.F. Jones. 

Calliophis salitan sp. nov.

Etymology.— The specific epithet is a noun in apposition and is derived from the Tagalog (Filipino) term salitan, meaning‘‘alternating,’’in reference to the distinctive, alternating black and off-white banded color pattern characteristic of the new species.
Suggested English common name: Dinagat Island Banded Coralsnakes.

Habitat, distribution, and natural history.— The only known locality for Calliophis salitan is the low foothill of Mt. Cambinlia, Barangay Santiago, Municipality Loreto, Dinagat Island (Fig. 8), Philippines, where it was collected from an elevation of 195 m. This locality, dominated by selectively logged, regenerating second-growth forest, is situated at the northern end of the island, and has a tropical climate, with a mean annual precipitation of 3580 mm (recorded at Loreto town proper,,1 km from the type locality; higher precipitation values are possible at higher elevations on Mount Cambinlia). Precipitation is highest during December (~539 mm) and lowest in August (averaging 143 mm),and the mean annual temperature is 278C. The type specimen was collected between 1900 and 2200 h, and was actively crawling along a stream bed with reduced water flow between intermittent pools. The specimen was obtained at the end of July, toward the end of the dry season.

Rafe M. Brown, Utpal Smart, Alan E. Leviton, and Eric N. Smith. 2018. A New Species of Long-glanded Coralsnake of the Genus Calliophis (Squamata: Elapidae) from Dinagat Island, with Notes on the Biogeography and Species Diversity of Philippine Calliophis and HemibungarusHerpetologica. In-Press. DOI: 10.1655/Herpetologica-D-17-00008