Tuesday, February 28, 2012

[Herpetology • 2012] Hydrophis donaldi | Rough-scaled Sea Snake • a highly distinctive new species of sea snake (Elapidae, Hydrophiinae) from Gulf of Carpentaria, northern Australia

Rough-scaled Sea Snake | Hydrophis donaldi Ukuwela, Sanders & Fry, 2012

A new species of viviparous sea snake, Hydrophis donaldi sp. nov. (Hydrophiinae), is described from the Gulf of Carpentaria, northern Australia. Molecular analyses reveal this species as a deeply divergent lineage within the Hydrophis subgroup, and separate it from all other sampled taxa by fixed nucleotide substitutions at three independent mitochondrial and nuclear loci. The new species is assigned to Hydrophis based on the current morphological diagnosis of this large but paraphyletic genus, and is distinguished from all other Hydrophis species and closely allied genera by a combination of morphological characters relating to scalation, colour pattern and osteology. Using current keys for sea snakes, H. donaldi sp. nov. might be mistaken for H. coggeri, H. sibauensis or H. torquatus diadema but it is readily distinguished from these 
species by a higher number of bands on the body and tail, lower ventral count, strongly spinous body scales, and a wider, more rounded head. Sea snakes have been sampled intensively in the Gulf of Carpentaria due to their vulnerability to bycatch in the region’s commercial prawn-trawl fisheries. That this highly distinctive new species has evaded discovery in the region until now is surprising, but might be explained by its habitat preferences. All known specimens of H. donaldi sp. nov. were found in estuarine habitats that are relatively poorly surveyed and are not targeted by commercial fisheries. 

Key words: Estuary, Gulf of Carpentaria, Hydrophis, phylogenetics, taxonomy

Bryan Fry (the third author) with Hydrophis donaldi

Top: Bryan Fry (the third author) with Hydrophis donaldi
Bottom: Olive sea snake, Aipysurus laevis

‘rough-scaled sea snake’ : http://www.sci-news.com/biology/article00191.html

Spiny, Venomous New Sea Snake Discovered — http://on.natgeo.com/A7u5WL 

Hydrophis donaldi (Elapidae, Hydrophiinae), a highly distinctive new species of sea snake from northern Australia: http://mapress.com/zootaxa/2012/f/z03201p057f.pdf