Xenochrophis sanctijohannis

Published, First, 2012, 3473, Zootaxa 3473, pp. 1-60: 45-50

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Xenochrophis sanctijohannis


X. sanctijohannis   ” morph of X. piscator  

Within the species X. piscator   as defined in this study, two distinct morphs deserve a separate discussion. The first is based on the nominal taxon “ sanctijohannis   ” ( Fig. 43–44), which is here synonymized with X. piscator   . In this morph, the ground colour is glossy silver-grey or dark olive-grey. Some adults have a zigzag pattern or a few dark scales scattered in between olive-yellow scales. The undersides of body and tail are glossy white or yellowishwhite ( Whitaker & Captain 2004; our data).

Most specimens that we identified as “ X. sanctijohannis   ” were either males or juveniles. Thus we recorded a ratio smaller than that for the maximum length females / males of 0.74. Scale counts for these specimens are given in Table 3.

Material examined (134 specimens). Pakistan. Sind Province. MNHN 1962.0199 View Materials , Pir Patho, Thatta District   ; MNHN 1962.0194 View Materials ,   MNHN 1962.0196 View Materials , “Mir Pur Sakro”, now Mirpur Sakro, Thatta District   ; MNHN 1962.0201 View Materials , Thatta, Thatta District   ; BMNH, “ Sabzilkos , Sindh ”, an unidentified locality   . BMNH, near Karachi   . — Nepal. Western Region. MHNG 1377.26–29, “Nepal 83°28' / 27°30', 150 m ”, within 10 km around an airfield at the Indian-Nepalese border, near Bhairahawa, Rupandehi District   , Lumbini Zone. — India. State of   Himachal Pradesh. BMNH, “ Mandi , Kulu, Himalaya”, now Kulu   , Mandi District. State of Karnataka. BMNH 1901.3.8.7, Mysore   ; PSGV, Specimen alive, released, Agumbe, Western Ghats , Shimoga District   ; FMNH 178501 View Materials   , Mysore. State of Kerala. BMNH   , BMNH, “Piermerd, Travancore”   ; FMNH 217703–04 View Materials , “Ponmudi, Trivandrum District”, now Pon Mudi, Thiruvananthapuram District   ; BMNH 1904.10.18.1, “ Cannamore , Malabar”, now Kannur   , Kannur District. State of Madhya Pradesh. FMNH 134927 View Materials , Balaghat District   ; FMNH 152342 View Materials , Mandla District   ; MNHN 1916.0103 View Materials (1–3), “Lampta Bajaura”, now Lamta, Balaghat District   ; ZMH R04817 View Materials , no locality. State of   Maharashtra. BMNH–78, “Bombay”, now Mumbai   ; BMNH, “ Chanda ”, now Chandrapur   ; BMNH, Sharigh, near Harnai ( Sibi District ), now Harnai, Raytnagiri District   ; BMNH 1956.1.12.61, “Khandala, Western Ghats”, Khandala, Raigarh District   ; MNHN 1948.0292 View Materials , Kurduvadi   ZMA 12550 View Materials –51 View Materials , “Kurla, Chunabhatti, Bombay”, Mumbai District   ; ZMH R04849 View Materials , Alibag   , Raigarh District. State of Meghalaya. BMNH   , BMNH 1907.12.16.5, Shillong, Khasi Hills, 4,900 ft. State of   Sikkim. BMNH, “ Sikkim ”. State of   Tamil Nadu. BMNH   , BMNH, “ Anamallay ”, now the Anaimalai Hills   ; BMNH RR 1963.971 73, “ Madras ”, now   Chennai. State of Rajasthan. FMNH 154594 View Materials   . Bharatpur. State of Uttar Pradesh. BMNH–26, BMNH, “Benares”, now Varanasi   ; BMNH 1977.9.1.10, Dehra Dun (is now in Uttarkhand State)   ; IRSNB 6746–47 View Materials , Meerut, Meerut District   ; ZMB 14288 View Materials , Dehra Dun   ; ZMB 31131 View Materials , Taj Mahal, Agra, Agra District   ; ZMH R04791 View Materials –92 View Materials , no locality   ; ZMH R04794 View Materials –95 View Materials , Vamei River , 5 km south of   Nepal. State of West Bengal. BMNH, Darjeeling   ; FMNH 152348–52 View Materials ,   FMNH 152363 View Materials ,   FMNH 154592 View Materials , “Hooghly District, West Bengal ”, now Hugli District   ; FMNH 152393 View Materials , “Allipur, Calcutta, Bengal”, now Alipur, Kolkata, South Twenty-four Pargamas District   ; FMNH 161458 View Materials , “24 Pargamas, West Bengal ”, now North Twenty-four Parganas District or South Twenty-four Parganas District   ; USNM 129715 View Materials , “ Calcutta ”, now Kolkata   ; ZMB 35738 View Materials , “near Calcutta ”, now Kolkata   ; ZMH R04827 View Materials , Port Canning, South Twenty-four Pergamas District   ; ZMH R04828 View Materials , “Calcutta”, now Kolkata. No locality   . FMNH 8655–57 View Materials , “ Central Province ”   ; MNHN 3505 View Materials ,   MNHN 7323 View Materials ,   MNHN 1991.1627 View Materials 28 View Materials , “Bengale” (referring to either the Indian state of West Bengal, also eastern Bihar or Bangladesh)   , BMNH RR 1963.974, “Singapore”, most probably Madras (see above)   . — Bangladesh. BMNH 1988.173, Char Alexander , Ragoti, Noatkhali   , Barisal Division; BMNH 1988.174, “ Joloi , Modhupur”, now Modapur   , Barisal Division; FMNH 82901 View Materials , “ Eastern Pakistan ”, no locality   . — Myanmar. Ayeyarwady Division   . USNM 562772 View Materials ,   USNM 562779 View Materials , Le Kaing   ; USNM 562781–82 View Materials , Moyingye Wetland Bird Sanctuary , about 80 km northwest of   Yangon; USNM 562778 View Materials , Mwe Hauk   . Bago Division   . BMNH, “Toungoo District”, now Taungoo District   ; USNM 562771 View Materials   , Bago Yoma Range   . Kachin State. BMNH 1912.12.1.14, Loimon, Indawagyi Lake Myitkyina District   ; ZMB 11621 View Materials , Bhamo   ; BMNH 1940.6.4.48–56, “N’Changyang, 25°50’N: 97°48’E, Triangle, N. Burma ”, region near Putao GoogleMaps   ; BMNH 1974.896 98, “ N’Changyang , 25°50’N: 97°48’E, N. Burma, 1500 ft ”, region near Putao GoogleMaps   . Kayah State. MNHN 1893.0401 View Materials   , ZMH R06246 View Materials , “Mt. Karin”, Karen Mts   . Magwe Division   . USNM 562780 View Materials ,   USNM 562784 View Materials , Shwesettaw Wildlife Sanctuary, Minbu District   . Mandalay Division. USNM 562776–77 View Materials , Shwe-U-Daung Wildlife Sanctuary   . Yangon Division. ZMH R07937 View Materials , “ Rangoon ”, now   Yangon. — People’s Republic of China   . Guangxi Province. CIB 505160 View Materials , “ Guangxi ”   . Yunnan Province. CIB 625268 View Materials , Xishuangbanna   ; CIB 690004 View Materials , Jinggu District   . — Laos. Bolikhamxay Province. FMNH 254784 View Materials , no locality   . Luangphrabang Province. MNHN 1884.0568 View Materials   , Luang Prabang. Xayabuli Province. BMNH 1938.8.7.12, “ Pak Lai, Upper Mekong ”, now Paklai; CAS 127479, 15 km south-east of Xayabuli   . Vientiane Prefecture. MNHN 1962.0289 View Materials , banks of Mekong   , Vientiane. — Thailand   . Chiang Mai Province. FMNH 178627 View Materials   , Chiang Mai; MNHN 1998.8543 View Materials , Hong Dong   ; MNHN 1998.8551 View Materials , Nang Kom Lom   ; MNHN 1998.8553 View Materials , Doi Saket   . Chiang Rai Province. FMNH 142158 View Materials ,   FMNH 186685–89 View Materials   , Chiang Rai. Kanchanaburi Province. PSGV 664, between Say Yok and Thong Phaphun.   Lampang Province. BMNH 1987.1745, no locality; IRSNB-KBIN 16562–63, Dje Dje Son National Park   . Mae Hong Son Province. PSGV 485   , Mae Hong Son Province. Nakhon Nayok Province. FMNH 180162 View Materials , no locality   . Nan Province. FMNH 186691–96 View Materials , no locality   .

Kramer (1977) called the specimens from higher elevations X. piscator sanctijohannis   . He regarded this taxon as a highland subspecies of X. p. piscator   . Altogether, he examined 73 specimens, all of them originating from Nepal. About 10 of them were re-examined by us and identified as belonging to this morph. Kramer provided the following scale counts (values of specimens examined by us in parenthesis): ventrals males, n = 37, 139–147 (136– 143), ventrals females, n = 36, 142–155 (145–154), subcaudals males, n = 9, 89–97 (83–94) and subcaudals females, n = 24, 82–91 (76–88). Kramer also mentioned the numbers of postoculars as 2 (14 occurrences), 3 (123) and 4 (3). The numbers of ventrals and subcaudals agree with our values, if one considers that Kramer examined more specimens than we did but only from a limited area. The values for the postoculars are similar to our results. Kramer tested statistically if the mean values of ventrals recorded for this morph are equal to those from populations of X. piscator   ; he concluded that these values represent significantly different populations.

Khan (1984) provided data on four specimens belonging to X. “ sanctijohannis   ” from Cholistan Desert, Punjab, Pakistan. Khan (1984) pointed out that, in all specimens examined by him, only the 4 th SL contacted the eye. In contrast, this occurs only in two of 18 specimens examined by us. At this point, we cannot conclude on the significance of this character. We examined only one specimen from Afghanistan. Another population occurring in Pakistan, distinct from X. “ sanctijohannis   ” inhabiting extreme eastern Afghanistan (Jalalabat, ZFMK H 8652, Fig. 33), Nepal and India, cannot be ruled out.

Does the taxon sanctijohannis   deserve formal taxonomic status? On the basis of populations of Nepal, Kramer showed statistically that X. “ sanctijohannis   ” is different from X. piscator   in ventral counts. However, we doubt the significance of these results. All Kramer’s specimens of X. piscator   stem from a single population; one may suspect a low variation in the number of ventrals in such a small population which probably affects the significance of Kramer’s statistical results. Typical X. “ sanctijohannis   ” differ from typical X. piscator   in colouration and body shape. The main difficulty is the fact that too many intermediate specimens exist (see Fig. 37). Furthermore, our examinations of animals of higher altitudes show that X. “ sanctijohannis   ” is the mountain morph of X. piscator   in some areas in the north of the distribution area of the X. piscator   -complex. On the other hand, we cannot confirm Khan’s (1984) observation that in sanctijohannis   only the 4 th supralabial contacts the eye, a point also supported by Boulenger (1893) but not mentioned by Kramer (1977). We noted this character in only four of 38 cases (both sides of 19 specimens) that we assigned to this “taxon”. We also recorded it in 7 out of 262 occurrences in typical X. piscator   (namely excluding “ X. sanctijohannis   ” and the Sri Lanka population). It would be interesting to reexamine the specimens of Khan.

In this study based on morphological characters, we find no compeling evidence to recognize the validity of X. sanctijohannis   as a distinct species, but we also cannot exclude its validity. Molecular analyses may help to ascertain the relationships between dull-patterned populations of the highlands and strongly patterned specimens of the lowlands. Nevertheless, it is possible that there is a constant gene flow between these populations. The large number of intermediate specimens supports this hypothesis and prevents us to recognize the nominal taxon sanctijohannis   as a distinct species. For now, X. “ sanctijohannis   ” can be considered a colour morph of X. piscator   . The 18 following specimens can be assigned unambiguously to this morph: — Afghanistan. Jalalabad, State of Nangahar, 650m NN. ZFMK H 8652. — India. State of Jammu & Kashmir. BMNH, “Jammu”; BMNH 1946.1.13.61 (holotype), “Cashmere”, now Kashmir. State of Uttar Pradesh. BMNH, “Benares”, now Varanasi. — Nepal. Western Region. FMNH 83081–83, Gorgkha District, Gandaki Zone. MHNG 1376.80–81, MHNG 1376.88–90, “Nepal 83°55' / 28°15'”, near Sarankot, Kaski District, Gandaki Zone. Central Region. FMNH 83097, Shanta Bawan, Kathmandu; MHNG 1376.82–83, “Nepal 85°28' / 27°41'”, near Bhaktapur, Kabre District, Bagmati Zone. — Myanmar. Mandalay Division. USNM 562773–75, “Pyin-Oo-Lwin”, now Pyin- U-Lwin. Sagaing Division. BMNH 1911.5.4.2, Meiktila.


Zoologisches Museum Hamburg


Museum für Naturkunde Berlin (Zoological Collections)


Zoologisches Forschungsmuseum Alexander Koenig


Field Museum of Natural History


Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History