Serpens Garsault, 1764

Dubois, Alain & Bour, Roger, 2010, The nomenclatural status of the nomina of amphibians and reptiles created by Garsault (1764), with a parsimonious solution to an old nomenclatural problem regarding the genus Bufo (Amphibia, Anura), comments on the taxonomy of this genus, and comments on some nomina created by Laurenti (1768), Zootaxa 2447, pp. 1-52 : 30

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Serpens Garsault, 1764


Serpens Garsault, 1764  

The figure of the plate 667 shows a snake named Serpens   or “Serpent à collier”, which is beyond any doubt a specimen of the species currently known as Natrix natrix ( Linnaeus, 1758)   , the “grass snake” (family COLUBRIDAE Oppel, 1811   a).

The genus Natrix   was established by Laurenti (1768: 73) with 22 prenucleospecies. Stejneger (1936: 139) stated that the nominal species Coluber natrix Linnaeus, 1758   was the “type-species” of Natrix Laurenti, 1768   , “both” by absolute tautonymy, because Natrix vulgaris Laurenti, 1768   was its synonym, and by subsequent designation of Fleming (1822). Just like for the genus Bufo   discussed above, this statement is incorrect, as Coluber natrix   was not a prenucleospecies of this nominal genus. As for the subsequent designation by Fleming (1822: 29 [sic]) evoked by Stejneger (1936: 139), it is also wrong. Actually Fleming (1822: 291) mentioned only one species, Coluber torquatus   , in the genus Natrix Laurenti, 1768   , but did not designate it as “ type ” as he did for some other genera, and at any rate this nominal species was not eligible for nucleospecies designation, not being one of the prenucleospecies of Natrix Laurenti, 1768   . The nomen Coluber torquatus   was first established by de la Cepède (1789: 100) in a work invalidated by the ICZN (Anonymous 1987), so that authorship of this nomen was then shifted to Bonnaterre (1790: 53). However, the species described by the latter author is different from that described by de la Cepède (1789: 100), a “detail” which has escaped the attention of the ICZN and of other recent authors, but this point needs not be discussed further here. Fitzinger (1843: 27) designated Tropidonotus quincunciatus Schlegel, 1837   as nucleospecies of Natrix   , but this designation is also invalid as this species was not among the prenucleospecies. The valid designation of a nucleospecies for Natrix Laurenti, 1768   was made by Mertens & Müller (1928: 49), who chose Natrix vulgaris Laurenti, 1768   .

The generic nomen Serpens Garsault, 1764   is therefore a senior doxisonym of Natrix Laurenti, 1768   . Serpens   having been ignored since its description, and Natrix   having been in general use (for a list of more than 25 recent references, see e.g. Kabisch 1999: 564–580), the prevailing usage must be maintained according to Art. 23.9. 1 of the Code. Therefore, Natrix Laurenti, 1768   remains the valid generic nomen for Coluber natrix Linnaeus, 1758   and its allies, i.e., three species only nowadays (see Rossman & Eberle 1977): Natrix maura ( Linnaeus, 1758)   , Natrix natrix ( Linnaeus, 1758)   and Natrix tessellata Laurenti, 1768   , and their subspecies. We follow Jandzík (2005), Kasparek (2005) and Venchi & Sindaco (2006), who recommended not to recognize Natrix megalocephala Orlov & Tuniyev, 1987   as a valid species.

According to its probable origin ( France), the snake depicted by Garsault (1764) belongs in the subspecies currently known as Natrix natrix helvetica (Bonnaterre, 1790)   , actually also first named by de la Cepède (1789: 100) in one of his publications suppressed by the ICZN (Anonymous 1987). This subspecies was based on the specimens from “Jorat” 4 described by Razoumowsky (1789: 121) under the nomen Coluber vulgaris Linnaeus, 1758   . For this reason, we hereby designate the nominal species Coluber helveticus Bonnaterre, 1790   (onymotope: “ parmi les buissons & dans les bois du Jorat ”) as nucleospecies of the genus Serpens Garsault, 1764   , invalid senior doxisonym of Natrix Laurenti, 1768   .

4. Wooded upland in the county of Vaud, north of Lausanne ( Switzerland).