Borikenophis 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: 13-14

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Borikenophis Hedges & Vidal


Genus Borikenophis Hedges & Vidal  , New Genus

Type species. Alsophis portoricensis Reinhardt & Lütken 1862: 221  .

Diagnosis. Species in this genus have 17–19 midbody scale rows, 163–198 ventrals, 106–145 subcaudals, 1–3 apical scale pits, eight upper labials, 10 lower labial, 16-21 maxillary teeth, and 22-35 dentary teeth ( Table 2). Borikenophis  differs in at least one of these characters from all other alsophiine genera except Alsophis  and Hypsirhynchus  . Except for B. sanctaecrucis  (191–198 ventrals), it differs from most Alsophis  in having a lower number of ventrals (163–187 versus 184–220 in Alsophis  ). Most Hypsirhynchus  have 19 midbody scales rows ( H. ater  and H. melanichnus  have 17 rows) whereas most Borikenophis  have 17 rows (those populations from the Virgin Islands usually have 19 rows).

Content. Three species (eight species + subspecies) are included in the genus ( Table 1).

Distribution. Species of Borikenophis  are distributed throughout the Puerto Rican Bank, and on the nearby islands of Mona, Desecheo, and Saint Croix ( Fig. 2 View Figure ).

Etymology. The generic name refers to its distribution centered on the Puerto Rican Bank; Boriken is the Taino word for Puerto Rico.

Remarks. Species of Borikenophis  are moderate-sized (1025 mm, maximum SVL) racers ( Fig. 3 View Figure B) and they occur sympatrically with the smaller racers of the Genus Magliophis  . Six subspecies are recognized for Borikenophis portoricensis  . The species from St. Croix, B. sanctaecrucis  , is possibly extinct (Henderson & Powell 1996) and was not included in this study, but it has been considered a close relative of B. portoricensis  based on color pattern and scalation ( Schwartz 1966). Although we found B. p. portoricensis  and B. p. anegadae  to have identical sequences at all genes sampled, the two subspecies are not particularly close morphologically, with different midbody scale row counts (17 versus 19, respectively). Therefore, to resolve geographic variation in the species B. portoricensis  , sequences of additional, more variable, genes will be needed. Zaher et al. (2009) included B. portoricensis  together with various other West Indian species in the resurrected genus Ocyophis Cope  , but our data ( Figs. 1 View Figure and 4 View Figure ) contradict that decision as the genera Borikenophis  , Cubophis  and Haitiophis  (the latter not sampled by Zaher et al.) do not form a monophyletic group (see Remarks in Hypsirhynchus  ).