Saturday, February 11, 2023

[Herpetology • 2023] Tropidophis leonae • A Remarkable New Snake of the Genus Tropidophis (Serpentes: Tropidophiidae) from southern Hispaniola

Tropidophis leonae 
 Landestoy. 2023

A new species of Tropidophis is described from the dry forest of the Barahona Peninsula, southwestern Dominican Republic, on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola. There, the new species is parapatric with T. haetianus, the only previously known Tropidophis on Hispaniola, but exhibits striking differences in scalation (much higher number of ventral scales), in other structural morphological traits (head and body proportions), and in dorsal and ventral coloration and pattern (e.g., fewer spot rows, and a patternless head and venter, etc.). The locality of this new species lies within an area where other vertebrate species have been recently discovered, underscoring the growing appreciation of the Barahona Peninsula as a diversity hotspot. Yet, this region also remains poorly studied and it is also highly imperiled due to ongoing anthropogenic change, justifying more conservation efforts.

Keywords: Caribbean Islands; dwarf boas; Barahona Entrapment.

Lateral view of the head of A) Tropidophis leonae sp. nov. (MNHNSD 23.3951) showing the nearly uniformly colored head, and B) that of T. haetianus (MNHNSD 23.3967) with a distinctive dark cap, and a dark mask or facial horizontal stripe across the eye.

 Ventral views of A) Tropidophis leonae sp. nov. (MNHNSD 23.3951), and B) T. haetianus (MNHNSD 23.3967). Note the lack of pattern in A, whereas large discrete dark spots are present in B.

 Dorsal and lateral partial views of Tropidophis leonae sp. nov. (A, B, respectively) and T. haetianus (C, D) in life, showing coloration and pattern. Numbers in B and D point out the number of spot rows on one side only.

Tropidophis leonae sp. nov.
Jaragua Golden Trope

Diagnosis. A medium-sized (SVL 362–389 mm) species of Tropidophis of slender habitus (body somewhat laterally compressed), a distinctive neck and long snout, small eyes, high ventral scale count, a pale dorsal coloration of yellow-tan to light tan-brown with a dorsal pattern of only four brown spot rows, the middorsal blotches at times in contact or fused, and the lateral spot row much smaller and fainter; a pale yellow venter, and lacking a ventral and head pattern. 

Etymology. The epithet honors Dominican biologist and friend Yolanda (a.k.a “Yoli”) M. León, a tireless advocate of conservation efforts in the Dominican Republic and whose support also contributed to this work. 

  Dorsal view of the full body of Tropidophis leonae sp. nov.
 A) Holotype; B) typical substrate at the habitat floor in the type locality. The matching pattern provides good camouflage.

Tropidophis leonae sp. nov. (holotype) submerged in a water hole in the limestone floor. Note the arrows pointing at some toad (Peltophryne armata) metamorphs and tadpoles. The snake was observed feeding on the tadpoles and also striking at the toadlets.
Habitat at the type locality of Tropidophis leonae sp. nov. The blue arrow in the photo at the right points out the water hole where the holotype was found (in Fig. 2).

Miguel A. Landestoy T. 2023. A Remarkable New Snake of the Genus Tropidophis (Squamata: Tropidophiidae) from southern Hispaniola [Una notable nueva serpiente del género Tropidophis (Squamata: Tropidophiidae) del sur de la Hispaniola]. Novitates Caribaea. (21), 1–17. DOI: 10.33800/nc.vi21.323