Telescopus tripolitanus ( Werner, 1909 )

Crochet, Pierre-André, Rasmussen, Jens B., Wilms, Thomas, Geniez, Philippe, Trape, Jean-François & Böhme, Wolfgang, 2008, Systematic status and correct nomen of the western North African cat snake: Telescopus tripolitanus (Werner, 1909) (Serpentes: Colubridae), with comments on the other taxa in the dhara-obtusus group, Zootaxa 1703 (1), pp. 25-46 : 35-37

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Telescopus tripolitanus ( Werner, 1909 )


Telescopus tripolitanus ( Werner, 1909)

Leptodira tripolitana Werner, 1909 , Zoologische Jahrbücher. Abteilung für Systematik, Geographie und Biologie des Tiere 27: 619. Name-bearing type(s): a single male obtained by W. Schlüter from R. Storch; holotype by monotypy; type lost. Type locality: North Africa, most probably in north-western Libya or southern Tunisia (see below).

Remarks on name-bearing type(s) and type locality. The original description is clearly based on a single male specimen received by F. Werner from R. Storch (apparently a snake dealer established in Tripoli) which is thus the holotype by monotypy. To our knowledge, this specimen has not been located previously. We made ourselves various enquiries in museums where Werner material could still be deposited and were unable to locate it. We thus regard the holotype as lost. As discussed by Werner (1909) himself, the place of collection of his specimen is uncertain. It is nevertheless likely that the snake was obtained not too far from Tripoli, rather than having been brought from south of the Sahara, and based on the distribution of specimens in collection (see Fig. 2 View FIGURE 2 ), probably originated from southern Tunisia or north-western Libya.

Junior synonyms

Tarbophis guidimakaensis Chabanaud, 1916 , Bulletin du Muséum national d’Histoire Naturelle de Paris 1916: 77. Name-bearing type(s): Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle, Paris, MNHN 1912.0445 View Materials , holotype by monotypy. A male collected by M. Audan, received in Paris in August 1912. Type locality: Guidimaka region, Mauritania.

Pseudotarbophis gabesi Domergue, 1955 , Bulletin de la Société des Sciences Naturelles de Tunisie 7: 123. Name-bearing type(s): an adult of undetermined sex, killed by soldiers in June 1952 near Gabès ( Tunisia), collected by Lieutenant Combette and preserved by Dr. Desplanches; holotype by monotypy. This specimen was destroyed by Domergue himself to prepare the skeleton ( Domergue, 1955). We could not locate any remaining part of this specimen which is thus now apparently lost. Type locality: Téboulbou (= Tabulbu), a small coastal oasis 5 km S of Gabès [approx. 33.84°N / 10.13°W], Tunisia GoogleMaps .

Pseudotarbophis gabesiensis Domergue, 1959 ”, Archives de l’Institut Pasteur de Tunis 36: 159. Not available (incorrect subsequent spelling). This nomen does not fulfil the requirements of the Art. 33.2.1 of the Code. It is thus an incorrect subsequent spelling and consequently not an available nomen (Art. 33.3 of the Code, see also Art. 33.5).

Diagnosis. A North-African form of Telescopus with the following characters combination: head broad, black above and partly below in juveniles and subadults and dark grey in adults (as dark as, or darker than, the dark elements of the body coloration), body pale brown to yellowish, pinkish or orange in juveniles, grey-brown in adults, with 28-50 dark blotches separated by 1–3 scale rows (often at least 2 at mid-body); these blotches are sometimes poorly marked, with indistinct edges, and disappear with increasing age (when upperparts can become uniformly dark); belly uniformly pale except sometimes a grey band under the tail. Usually 9 supralabials with 4–5 in contact with the eye. Mid-body scale rows 21 (occasionally 23); ventral scales 207–248; caudal scales 55–83, double. Maxillary teeth 7–9.

The combination of ventral scale number and only two supralabials touching the eye distinguish tripolitanus from all forms of Telescopus dhara . Contrastingly dark head diagnostic when present. Head shape and coloration and body coloration also differs from all forms of T. dhara : head short with rounded snout in tripolitanus versus head more elongated with squarer snout in all forms of T. dhara (less so in somalicus); no dark longitudinal line along the side of the head (compare with obtusus ); supralabials either paler than head side, bicoloured, with darker upper and sometimes posterior edges or dark, as head, with pale lower edge (variable and sometimes similar in obtusus but darker posterior edge only on dhara , apparently all pale in somalicus); body either uniformly pale (in life greyish to pinkish, rarely showing the strongly orange coloration shown by dhara and some obtusus ) or with a darker pattern usually present as rounded or slightly hexagonal widely separated spots (in dhara and obtusus , square or quadrangular blotches or dark dorsum with fine pale transversal lines) although a few tripolitanus show a pattern not dissimilar to dhara or obtusus but with a dark brown tone never seen in these taxa, old tripolitanus specimens sometimes completely dark above (then similar to somalicus?). Dark spots when present usually less numerous than in dhara or obtusus . From separation for T. gezirae , see comments below on the section for that species.

Lepidosis. Loreal 1 (occasionally 2); preocular 1 (2 in type); postoculars usually 2 (1–4), followed by a some additional small scales in four specimens from Gabès, Tunisia; anterior temporals 2–3, posterior temporals 2–4, the most frequent combination 2+3; supralabials 8–10, usually 9 with 4–5 in contact with eye (clearly 3-4- 5 in one specimen: MNHN 1989.3159 View Materials from Gabès); infralabials 11–15, usually 12–13, the first three or four on each side in contact with the anterior chin-shields. Anterior pair of chin-shields large, posterior pair not discrete, preventrals 1–5. Dorsal scales smooth with single apical pits, midbody scale rows 21 (58.5%), 22 (24.4%) or 23 (17.1%) (n = 41). Ventral scales rounded, 207–248 (x = 221.8, sd = 9.28, N = 35); anal divided; caudal scales double (except for an occasional odd single scale), 55–83 (x = 68.1, sd = 8.5, N = 37) .

Dentition. Maxillary teeth 7-9 + II (x = 8.1, N = 18).

Size. Largest specimen 820 mm body length and 125+ mm (tail length, damaged tail tip) (MNHN 1989.3157, female). Smallest specimen 225 mm total length ( Roman, 1977).

Hemipenes. In everted condition the hemipenes are simple, subcylindrical stout organs. Sulcus simple. The entire organ is covered by small spines, which decrease in size distally. In situ the organs extend to caudal scale number 14–15.

Colouration. See also diagnosis above. Colouration still inadequately known, due to the scarcities of documentation for live coloration. Adults yellowish, rust-coloured, greyish, grey-brown or dark olive brown above, either uniform or with more or less distinct, ochreous, rounded or slightly hexagonal, blotches becoming indistinct with increasing size. The ground colour of the head is more or less like the one of the dark elements of the body. Juveniles and subadults are greyish-brown, pinkish or yellowish to orange, with variously prominent blotches and often a very contrasting black head. At all ages, the lower edges of the supralabials and the underside of the body are white, whitish or flesh-coloured ( Böhme et al., 1989; Vesely et al., 1995; Bons and Geniez, 1996; Schleich et al., 1996; Geniez et al., 2004).

Distribution and ecology. Telescopus tripolitanus has an almost circum-Saharan distribution from Libya westward through Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco and West Sahara then eastward through Mauritania, Senegal, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Central African Republic to Sudan ( Fig. 1 View FIGURE 1 ). In addition to this distribution based on the specimens that we have seen, the species is cited from northern Burkina Faso by Roman (1977, 1980).

It lives in rocky semiarid regions with bushes or solitary trees and margins of oases at the edge of Sahara, often near human settlements (Bons and Geniez, 1996; Geniez et al., 2004). It probably preys on small vertebrates, however, only a gecko has been scored in this study (a Tarentola sp. found inside specimen MNHN 1935.0206 from Goundam, Mali). Like other species of African Telescopus , it probably lays eggs.

Specimens examined and additional localities

This list is based only on records for which documentation (voucher specimen, pictures or description) has been examined by at least one of the authors. Numbers correspond to locality numbers as on Figure 2 View FIGURE 2 .

LIBYA: 1: Badr, Nalut province [32.01°N / 11.50°E], MNHN 2004.0080, coll. A. Ibrahim, Ibrahim & Ineich (2005). TUNISIA: 2: Gabès & Ras el Oued palm grove near Gabès [33.89°N / 10.10°E], MNHN 1959.0029, coll. C. Domergue, 22/02/1959 & MNHN 1989.3156, coll. Dr. C. J. Marinkelle, 07/1958 & MNHN 1989.3157-63, coll. C. Domergue, 01-02/1959 & SMF 620407-08; Téboulbou (=Tabulbu) oasis, 5 km S of Gabès [33.85°N / 10.11°E], MHNG 1373-046, coll. C. Domergue, Domergue (1955, 1959a); 3: Bled Douarah, approx. 43 km W of Gafsa [34.41°N / 8.32°E], UCM 36442 View Materials , coll. P. Robinson, spring 1968. ALGE- RIA: 4: 49 miles NE of Tindouf [27.78°N / 8.05°W], CAS 123408, coll. T. J. Papenfuss, 28/09/1969. MOROCCO: 5: Agdz [30.70°N / 6.45°W], Bons & Geniez (1996); 6: 74 km past Igherm towards Tata = 5 km before Imitek on the road number 7085 [29.65°N / 8.31°W], Geniez et al. (2004); 7: Meski [31.85°N / 4.28°W], Böhme et al. (1989); 8: 3 km NW of Tazerine (= Tazzarine) [30.80°N / 5.56°W], USNM 196460, coll. L. Rob- bins and M. Hearst, 5/03/1970; 9: surroundings of Aouinet Torkoz [28.49°N / 9°59W], photo M. Aymerich on the internet; 10: Amerzgane (near Ouarzazate) [31.04°N / 7.21°W], photo A. Andreu in P. Geniez picture collection; 11: vicinity of Ouarzazate [30.92°N / 6.89°W], Vesely et al. (1995). WESTERN SAHARA: 12: Lâayoune (= El Aaiun) [27.16°N / 13.20°W], photo J. A. Valverde in Bons and Geniez (1996). MAURITANIA: 13: Guidimaka region [approx. 15.20°N / 12.10°W], MNHN 1912.0445, received from M. Audan in 08/1912, Chabanaud (1916); not mapped: Trarza County (unprecise locality), BMNH 1913.5.9.60, coll. Audan, Villiers (1950); SENEGAL: 14: Bakel [14.90°N / 12.45°W], USNM 161995, coll. D. Harvey, 17/04/1966; 15: 17 km NE of Diourbel [14.75°N / 16.10°W], USNM 161960-62, coll. D. Harvey, 09/11/1965; 16: 6 km NW of Tivaouane (in Thies province) (probably Tiaouane and interpreted as such) [15.36°N / 16.41°W], USNM 161969, coll. D. Harvey, 02/11/1965; 17: Sagata [15.28°N / 16.17°W], JFT 4865-66 & 5712 & BEV 9234 (formerly JFT 5713); 18: Mbakhana [16.08°N / 16.37°W], JFT 3316 & 3324 & 3328 & 7309; 19: Diohine [14.50°N / 16.50°W], JFT 3783; 20: Niakhar [14.48°N / 16.40°W], JFT 3412 & 3610; 21: Médina Djikoye [13.62°N / 16.28°W], JFT 6167; 22: Lougé Tiékodié [14.65°N / 13.97°W], JFT 5080; 23: Wakaldia [15.02°N / 14.68°W], JFT 6315 & 6319 & 6321; 24: Loumbol [15.32°N / 13.73°W], JFT 7238; 25: Mbaye [13.97°N / 15.58°W]. MALI: not mapped: Dioura (not located, two places with this name in Mali), BMNH 1933.11.17.62, coll. T. A. Glover; 26: 1 km S of Mourdiah [14.46°N / 7.47°W], HLMD 1925 & 1926; 27: Goundam [16.42°N / 3.67°W], MNHN 1935.0206; 28: Kidal [18.44°N / 1.40°E], GNHM 1770; 29: Toumboula [14.33°N / 7.80°W], JFT 1229M & 2788M & 2790M & 2791M & 2798M; 30: Kinani [15.02°N / 3.85°W], JFT 1551M & 1571M & 1578M. NIGER: 31: Agadez [16.97°N / 7.99°E], Villiers (1950); 32: Gorhset dune near Tabelot [17.57°N / 8.94°E], photo B. Delprat in P. Geniez pictures collection; 33: Maradi [13.50°N / 7.10°E], picture L. Chirio in Trape & Mané (2006); 34: Piliki [13.13°N / 1.95°E], JFT 332N & 350N & 708N; 35: Téla [12.13°N / 3.46°E], JFT 749N; 36: Aholé [13.55°N / 4.02°E], JFT 585N & 589N & 592N & 604N & 614N & 626N & 629N & 633N; 37: Tounga Yacouba [13.90°N / 5.43°E], JFT 32N & 493N & 521N & 538N & 540N & 634N; 38: Malbaza [13.95°N / 5.50°E], JFT 459N & 468N; 39: Tékhé [14.02°N / 6.02°E], JFT 778N & 779N & 788N & 791N & 794N & 804N &805N & 806N & 810N & 812N; 40: Karosofoua [13.62°N / 6.62°E], JFT 35N; 41: Saboulayi [13.50°N / 7.83°E], JFT 367N; 42: Baboul [13.70°N / 8.58°E], JFT 31N; 43: Kellé [14.27°N / 10.10°E], JFT 643N; 44: Tondi Farkia [14.03°N / 01.53°E], JFT 371N. NIGERIA: 45: Gadau [11.83°N / 10.17°E], BMNH 1937.12.4.49 & 1938.3.1.117-118, coll. J. H. Pasqual; 46: Sokoto [13.05°N / 5.23°E], BMNH 1911.11.30.6, coll. Dr. Dalziel; 47: Azare [10.45°N / 12.12°E], BMNH 1938.3.1.119, coll. J. H. Pasqual. CENTRAL AFRI- CAN REPUBLIC: 48: Birao [10.28°N / 22.78°E], MNHN 1996.6933-34, coll. L. Chirio ( Chirio & Ineich, 2006). SUDAN: 49: Umm Ruaba [12.90°N / 31.21°E], BMNH 1940.2.6.2, coll. J. Longe.

In addition, there are records from Ichargan ( Hasi et al., 1997; Geniez et al., 2004) and from the Adrar Souttouf (from the Estación Biológica de Doñana collection, J. A. Mateo, pers. com.), both in the Western Sahara, but there is no description or documentation to assess these reports.














Telescopus tripolitanus ( Werner, 1909 )

Crochet, Pierre-André, Rasmussen, Jens B., Wilms, Thomas, Geniez, Philippe, Trape, Jean-François & Böhme, Wolfgang 2008

Leptodira tripolitana

Werner 1909