A new moth-preying alpine pit viper species from Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau (Viperidae, Crotalinae)

in Amphibia-Reptilia
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The Sanjiangyuan region of Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau is recognized as a biodiversity hotspot of alpine mammals but a barren area in terms of amphibians and reptiles. Here, we describe a new pit viper species, Gloydius rubromaculatus sp. n. Shi, Li and Liu, 2017 that was discovered in this region, with a brief taxonomic revision of the genus Gloydius. The new species can be distinguished from the other congeneric species by the following characteristics: cardinal crossbands on the back, indistinct canthus rostralis, glossy dorsal scales, colubrid-like oval head shape, irregular small black spots on the head scales, black eyes and high altitude distribution (3300-4770 m above sea level). The mitochondrial phylogenetic reconstruction supported the validity of the new species and furthermore reaffirms that G. intermedius changdaoensis, G. halys cognatus, G. h. caraganus and G. h. stejnegeri should be elevated as full species. Gloydius rubromaculatus sp. n. was found to be insectivorous: preying on moths (Lepidoptera, Noctuidae, Sideridis sp.) in the wild. This unusual diet may be one of the key factors to the survival of this species in such a harsh alpine environment.

A new moth-preying alpine pit viper species from Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau (Viperidae, Crotalinae)

in Amphibia-Reptilia



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    Photos of Gloydius rubromaculatus sp. n. in the habitat. (A) holotype (IOZ032317); (B) paratype, subadult female (JS1607Y4); (C) another subadult sympatry with the holotype (by Jian-sheng Peng, released).

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    Head illustration of G. rubromaculatus sp. n. (holotype, IOZ 032317, Y2, by Tingting Zhang and Jingsong Shi); (A) ventral view; (B) dorsal view; (C) lateral view.

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    CT scanned skull imagine of (A) G. rubromaculatus sp. n. (Y2, holotype) and (B) G. strauchi (G4). 1: ventral view; 2: dorsal view; 3: lateral view.

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    Asulcate side (A) and sulcus side (B) of the right hemipenis of G. rubromaculatus sp. n. (holotype, Y2).

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    Bayesian phylogenetic tree of the Gloydius species (Asian pit vipers) based on concatenated 12S, 16S, ND4 and cytb gene sequences, 3129 bp, with the Bayesian posterior supports (left, italic) and ML bootstrap supports (right) showed on the nodes (the ones which are lower than 50 percent are noted as “-”). The holotypes are marked with “∗∗”, the topotypes are marked with “”.

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    Habitat of Gloydius rubromaculatus sp. n. (type locality), along the Tongtianhe River, Qumarleb Country, Qinghai Province, 4154 above sea level.

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