Friday, November 30, 2012

[Herpetology • 2006] Trimeresurus (Popeia) buniana • A new species of pitviper of the genus Popeia (Squamata: Viperidae) from Pulau Tioman, Pahang, West Malaysia

FIGURE 2. Upper: Holotype of Popeia buniana, ZRC 2.6176, adult male from the Tekek-Juara Trail. Lower: Adult female: LSUDPC 1135 from Gua Tengkok Air. Collected, released, and photographed by P. Hein.
Fairy Pitviper
Trimeresurus (Popeia) buniana
(Grismer, Grismer & McGuire 2006)

We describe a new species of pitviper Popeia buniana from Pulau Tioman, Pahang State, West Malaysia based on it having unique aspects of scalation, body proportions, and color pattern. Its long, thin body is in contrast with the shorter, more robust bodies of other arboreal pitvipers, suggesting it may be an active forager rather than an ambush feeder.  Its close relationship to P. barati and P. sabahi of Sumatra and Borneo, respectively, rather than with species of the adjacent Malay Peninsula is in accord with biogeographic patterns of other flora and fauna endemic to the islands of the Outer Arc of the Seribuat Archipelago. 

Key words: Arboreal,  Popeia,  P. buniana,  P. barati,  P. fucata,  P. nebularis,  P. popeiorum, Malaysia, Morphometrics, New species, Pulau Tioman, Seribuat Archipelago

Etymology. The specific epithet is derived from the Malay word bunian, which is a small, feminine, mischievous, elf or fairy-like spirit believed to inhabit the forests. Our respected friend and guide Mr. Muhamad Ishak Mat Sohor, indicated that the bunian of Pulau Tioman lived in the Tengkok Air Cave near the summit of Gunung Kajang, one of our campsites and collecting localities for this new pitviper. We were cautioned to show respect to the bunian so she would not become angry with our taking of specimens from
"her" forest. Therefore, in deference to this belief, we honor the bunian with the feminine patronym buniana, a noun in apposition meaning “Fairy Pitviper”.

Distribution. Popeia buniana is only known from Pulau Tioman (Fig. 3), a small island located 38 km off the southeast coast of Pahang State, West Malaysia.  The addition of P.  buniana to the herpetofauna of Pulau Tioman raises the number of endemic species of reptiles and amphibians on Pulau Tioman to 12 (Grismer 2006).

Grismer L. L., Grismer J. L. & McGuire J. A., 2006. A new species of pitviper of the genus Popeia (Squamata: Viperidae) from Pulau Tioman, Pahang, West Malaysia. Zootaxa. 1305: 1-19.