Amphisbaena Linnaeus, 1758,

Costa, Henrique C., Welton, Luke J. & Hallermann, Jakob, 2018, An updated diagnosis of the rare Amphisbaenaslateri Boulenger, 1907, based on additional specimens (Squamata, Amphisbaenia, Amphisbaenidae), Evolutionary Systematics 2 (2), pp. 125-135: 125-127

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Amphisbaena Linnaeus, 1758


Amphisbaena Linnaeus, 1758 

Amphisbaena slateri  Boulenger, 1907: 487.


Amphisbaena darwinii  : ( Werner 1910) - erroneous identification of ZMH R05908.

Type material.

Holotype, BM 1946.8.31.82 (former 1907.5.2-RR), undetermined sex, collected sometime prior to 2 May 1907 by Thomas Slater and presented by him to the British Museum through Prof. G. S. Boulger ( Boulenger 1907) (Figure 1).


San Gaban river valley, Provincia de Carabaya, Departamento de Puno, Peru, between 2000-3000 feet (~600-900 m) above sea level. Originally cited as "Peru, obtained in the Rio San Gaban Valley, Prov. Carabaya, altitude 2000-3000 feet" ( Boulenger 1907).


Amphisbaena slateri  is defined by the following combination of characters: (1) rounded head, not compressed or depressed; (2) length of frontal suture > < prefrontal > nasal sutures; (3) four precloacal pores with out a median hiatus; (4) lateral sulcus present, dorsal and ventral sulci absent; (5) 176-213 body annuli; (6) three or four lateral annuli; (7) 20-24 caudal annuli; (8) autotomy constriction on caudal annulus 7-10; (9) tail round in cross-section, with similar width along its length; (10) dorsal surface of tail with non-tuberculate segments; (11) tail tip round, segmented, not compressed; (12) 10-14 dorsal and 14-16 ventral segments on a midbody annulus (24-30 total midbody segments); (13) three supralabials; (14) three infralabials; (15) a pair of enlarged pentagonal parietals; (16) one postocular; (17) one temporal; (18) postmental distinctly longer than mental; (19) one or two rows of postgenials; (20) postmalar row present or absent; (21) dorsum and venter uniformly dark brown or light brown in preservative, with a white or a brown tail tip. Basic morphological data are present in Table 1, and photographs of the five known specimens are shown in Figures 1-4.


Among the Bolivian and Peruvian amphisbaenians (characters inside parenthesis) the round head distinguishes Amphisbaena slateri  from A. kingii  Bell, 1833, (keel-headed) and Leposternon microcephalum  Wagler, 1824 (shovel-headed). The four precloacal pores distinguish it from A. silvestrii  Boulenger, 1902 (two pores) and A. fuliginosa  Linnaeus, 1758 (6-10 pores). The presence of 176-213 body annuli distinguishes A. slateri  from A. borelli  Peracca, 1897 (239-261), A. occidentalis  Cope, 1876 (262-275), A. polygrammica  Werner, 1900 (270), A. steindachneri  Strauch, 1881 (255-266), and A. townsendi  Stejneger, 1911 (261-279). By having 10-14 dorsal segments at midbody, A. slateri  differs from A. alba  (30-42), A. angustifrons  Cope, 1861 (20-31), A. bolivica  Mertens, 1929 (27-38), A. camura  Cope, 1862 (28-42), A. cegei  Montero, Sáfadez & Álvarez, 1997 (17-22), and A. vermicularis  Wagler, 1824 (18-26). Amphisbaena slateri  differs from A. heterozonata  Burmeister, 1861 - sometimes considered a subspecies of A. darwinii  Duméril & Bibron, 1839 ( Montero 2016) - by the having 20-24 caudal annuli (vs. 13-18), enlarged parietals (vs. rarely enlarged), and a uniform body coloration (vs. dorsum brown, venter cream). Despite a small overlap in midbody dorsal/ventral segment counts between A. slateri  (10 –14/14– 16) and A. heterozonata  (14 –24/15– 28), specimens of the later most commonly have 16/18 segments. Finally, A. slateri  differs from A. pericensis  Noble, 1921 by lacking a compressed tail tip (vs. slightly laterally compressed), by having a postmental longer than the mental (vs. postmental faintly longer than mental) and having a uniform body coloration (vs. dorsum brown, venter cream). A summary of morphological characters useful to identify Peruvian and Bolivian amphisbaenids is present in Table 2.

Expanding comparisons to all Neotropical amphisbaenians, we find an overlap of most morphological character states between A. slateri  and A. albocingulata  Boettger, 1885, A. darwinii  Duméril & Bibron, 1839, A. hogei  Vanzolini, 1950, A. manni  Barbour, 1914, A. mensae  Castro-Mello, 2000, A. munoai  Klappenbach, 1960, A nigricauda  Gans, 1966, A. prunicolor  (Cope, 1885), A. schmidti  Gans, 1964, and A. talisiae  Vanzolini, 1995. The uniform color pattern of A. slateri  distinguishes it from A. albocingulata  , A. darwinii  , A. hogei  , A. mensae  , A. munoai  , A. nigricauda  , A. schmidti  , and A. talisiae  (countershading pattern), and from A. prunicolor  (venter with a checkerboard pattern). By presenting a modal number of 14 midbody ventral segments, Amphisbaena slateri  differs from A. hogei  , A. manni  , A. munoai  , A. nigricauda  , A. prunicolor  , and A. schmidti  (16), A. albocingulata  (18), and A. darwinii  (20). While all known specimens of A. slateri  have four precloacal pores, most specimens of A. manni  have six pores - females of A. nigricauda  and A. prunicolor  lack pores, but this trait is unknown in A. slateri  , since no specimen was sexed. Postmental is distinctly longer than wide in A. slateri  , while it is almost long as wide in A. darwinii  , A. mensae  , A. munoai  , A. nigricauda  , A. prunicolor  , and A. talisiae  . Parietals are enlarged in A. slateri  , but not in A. manni  and are irregular in A. darwinii  . Finally, while the tail tip is rounded in A. slateri  , it is conical in A. manni  and has a slight lateral constriction in A. darwinii  , A. hogei  , and A. nigricauda  .

Distribution and habitat.

Amphisbaena slateri  is known from southeastern Peru (Departamento Huánuco) to western Bolivia (Departamento La Paz) (Figure 5; Table 3). Locality records are in the Tropical and Subtropical Moist Broadleaf Forests biome (Ucayali Moist Forests, Southwest Amazon Moist Forests, and Bolivian Yungas ecoregions). The main soil types of the localities where the species is known are cambisol and regosol, with coarse (loamy sand or sandy loam) to medium textures (loam or silt loam).