TAXONOMY

Animal Scene - - SCALY SPECIAL -

Tropi­dolae­mus was es­tab­lished by Ger­man physi­cian and zo­ol­o­gist Jo­hann Ge­org Wa­gler in 1830 but sub­se­quent work­ers pre­ferred that it be main­tained un­der the genus Trimeresu­rus. In my youth, I have re­cur­rently con­sulted Dr. Al­cala’s Guide to Philip­pine Flora and Fauna, where both T. sub­an­nu­la­tus and T. philippens­is are re­ferred to as Trimeresu­rus wa­gleri, a treat­ment in line with Le­vi­ton’s view, as de­tailed in the lat­ter’s 2014 book, “The Dan­ger­ously Ven­omous Snakes of the Philip­pine Archieplag­o with Iden­ti­fi­ca­tion Keys and Species Ac­counts”. In 1996, Kraus, Mink, and Brown res­ur­rected the genus, a line of thought still fol­lowed to this day. Tropi­dolae­mus dif­fers sig­nif­i­cantly from mem­bers of the lat­ter genus by its strongly keeled gu­lar (throat) scales, small and keeled scales on the head, ab­sence of a nasal pore, and a hemipe­nis that is ac­tu­ally closer to ter­res­trial pit vipers (Cal­lose­lasma, Deinagk­istrodon, and Hyp­nale) than it is to other ar­bo­real vipers. The spec­i­men used to de­scribe the species was col­lected by the English­man Hugh Cum­ing, who also col­lected great num­bers of shells as well as plants from the Philip­pines from 1836 to 1850, and which were later de­scribed as new species; Cum­ing did not des­ig­nate a spe­cific lo­cal­ity for his spec­i­mens, choos­ing in­stead to la­bel these as sim­ply from the “Philip­pines”. The species was for­merly de­scribed as Trimesu­rus sub­an­nu­la­tus by John Ed­ward Gary in 1842. In 1864, Al­bert Karl Lud­wig Gotthilf Gün­ther placed the taxon in the syn­onymy of Trimeresu­rus wa­gleri -- a de­ci­sion which was fol­lowed by many sub­se­quent au­thors and which stood for many decades. As men­tioned above, the pop­u­la­tions from Ne­gros dif­fers from what is per­ceived as T. sub­an­nu­la­tus, an anom­aly that was rec­ti­fied by Ed­ward Tay­lor when he de­scribed Trimeresu­rus wa­gleri al­boviridis in 1917, based on spec­i­mens he col­lected two years ear­lier from Is­abela, Ne­gros Occidental. In due time, if these an­i­mals from that is­land are granted an au­ton­o­mous sta­tus then these will be re­ferred to as Tropi­dolae­mus al­boviridis.

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