Haitiophis Hedges & Vidal

Hedges, Blair, Couloux, Arnaud & Vidal, Nicolas, 2009, Molecular phylogeny, classification, and biogeography of West Indian racer snakes of the Tribe Alsophiini (Squamata, Dipsadidae, Xenodontinae), Zootaxa 2067, pp. 1-28: 17

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Haitiophis Hedges & Vidal


Genus Haitiophis Hedges & Vidal  , New Genus

Type species. Zamenis anomalus Peters, 1863: 282  .

Diagnosis. The single species in this genus has 21 midbody scale rows, 207–215 ventrals, 113–130 subcaudals, 2 apical scale pits, 8 upper labials, 10 lower labials, 14 total maxillary teeth, and 18–19 dentary teeth ( Table 2). Haitiophis  differs from all other genera except Alsophis  in its high number (21) of midbody scales, and from Alsophis  in its low number of total maxillary teeth (14 versus 18–21) and dentary teeth (18–19 versus 21–26).

Content. One species, Haitiophis anomalus  , is included in the genus ( Table 1).

Distribution. The genus is distributed in Hispaniola, including Ile de la Tortue ( Haiti) and Isla Beata ( Dominican Republic) ( Fig. 2View FIGURE 2).

Etymology. The generic name is derived from the Taino word Haiti (meaning high mountains) for the entire island now called Hispaniola and refers to the distribution of the genus.

Remarks. The single species of Haitiophis  is one of the largest snakes in the family Dipsadidae  , reaching 2.8 meters in total length and 2.0 meters in SVL (Powell & Henderson 1998; Thomas et al. 2007) and past morphological studies have had difficulty in determining its relationship to other alsophiine species ( Maglio 1970; Zaher 1999). Our molecular evidence from the 12 S and 16 S rRNA genes associates H. anomalus  with Caraiba  and Cubophis  , but more data are needed to place it in the phylogeny with confidence. Maglio (1970) also noted that the species is closer to a Cuban species ( Cubophis cantherigerus  ) than any other in the West Indies—in having similar vomer, postorbital, and supratemporal bones. We classify it here in a separate genus because it differs considerably in scalation from either Caraiba  or Cubophis  . Zaher et al. (2009) classified this species with Borikenophis portoricensis  and other West Indian species including Cubophis vudii  and Cubophis cantherigerus  in Ocyophis Cope  , but our results ( Figs. 1View FIGURE 1. A and 4View FIGURE 4. A) refute that classification (see Remarks in Hypsirhynchus  ).