Open Access Open Access  Restricted Access Subscription or Fee Access

Integrative Taxonomy Reveals a New Cryptic Species of Xenopeltis Gray, 1831 (Ophidia: Macrostomata: Pythonoidea: Xenopeltidae) from Central Highlands, Vietnam

Nikolai L. Orlov, Pavel B. Snetkov, Oleg A. Ermakov, Tao Thien Nguyen, Natalia B. Ananjeva


Herein, we describe a new cryptic snake species of the genus Xenopeltis from Central Highlands of Vietnam: Kon Plông District, Kon Tum Province based both on morphological and molecular data. Xenopeltis intermedius sp. nov. is distinguished from the two known species by a combination of the following morphological characters. Xenopeltis intermedius sp. nov. differs from X. unicolor and X. hainanensis by the number of ventrals and subcaudals. The skull is less elongated than in X. unicolor and somewhat more elongate than in X. hainanensis. X. intermedius demonstrates differences in size, shape proportions and relief of the parietal bone and the number of teeth from X. hainanensis and X. unicolor. We provide a COI-based estimation of diversity of the genus Xenopeltis. Genetic divergence (p-distance) between Xenopeltis sp. nov. from Kon Tum Province, Central Highlands region of Vietnam, and two other congeners was 5.7% (for X. hainanensis) and 12.9% (for X. unicolor). The new species is currently known only from one locality from Central Highland and was recorded from 1500 to 2500 m a.s.l. in the evergreen polydominant forests in the mountainous regions of Kon Tum Province. This is the third species of Xenopeltis from Vietnam.


Xenopeltis intermedius sp. nov.; xenopeltid snakes; taxonomy; morphology; Central Highland; Vietnam; cytochrome c oxidase subunit I

Full Text:



Aljanabi S. M. and Martinez I. (1997), «Universal and rapid salt-extraction of high genomic DNA for PCR-based techniques», Nucl. Acids Res., 25, 4692 – 4693. DOI: 10.1093/nar/25.22.4692

Ananjeva N. B., Ermakov O. A., Nguyen S. N., Nguyen T. T., Murphy R. W., Lukonina S. A., and Orlov N. L. (2020), «A new species of Acanthosaura Gray, 1831 (Squamata: Agamidae) from Central Highlands, Vietnam», Russ. J. Herpetol., 27(4), 217 – 230. DOI: 10.30906/1026-2296-2020-27-4-217-230

Bain R. H. and Hurley M. M. (2011), «A biogeographic synthesis of the amphibians and reptiles of Indochina», Bull. Am. Mus. Nat. Hist., 360, 1 – 138.

Frazetta T. H. (1999), «Adaptations and significance of the cranial feeding apparatus of the sunbeam snake (Xenopeltis unicolor): Part 1. Anatomy of the skull», J. Morphol., 239(1), 27 – 43.

Freitas I., Ursenbacher S., Mebert K., Zinenko O., Schweiger S., Wüster W., Brito J. C., Crnobrnja-Isailovic J., Halpern B., Fahd S., Santos X., Pleguezuelos J. M., Joger U., Orlov N., Mizsei E., Lourdais O., Zuffi M. A. L., Strugariu A., Zamfirescu S. R., Martínez-Solano Í., Velo-Antón G., Kaliontzopoulou A., and Martínez-Freiria F. (2020). «Evaluating taxonomic inflation: towards evidence-based species delimitation in Eurasian vipers (Serpentes: Viperinae)», Amphibia–Reptilia, 41(3), 1 – 27. DOI: 10.1163/15685381-bja10007

Hall T. A. (1999), «BioEdit: a user friendly biological sequence alignment editor and analysis program for Windows 95/98/NT», Nucl. Acid. S., 41, 95 – 98.

Hoang D. T., Chernomor O., von Haeseler A., Minh B. Q., and Vinh L. S. (2018), «UFBoot2: Improving the ultrafast bootstrap approximation», Mol. Biol. Evol., 35, 518 – 522. DOI: 10.1093/molbev/msx281

Huelsenbeck J. P. and Ronquist F. (2001), «MRBAYES: Bayesian inference of phylogeny», Bioinformatics, 17, 754 – 755. DOI: 10.1093/bioinformatics/17.8.754

Kalyaanamoorthy S., Minh B. Q., Wong T. K., von Haeseler A., and Jermiin L. S. (2017), «ModelFinder: fast model selection for accurate phylogenetic estimates», Nat. Meth., 14, 587. DOI: 10.1038/nmeth.4285

Kizirian D., Nguyen Q. T., Eriksson A., and Vora N. (2003), «Taxonomic status of Xenopeltis hainanensis jidamingae Zhao», J. Herpetol., 37(2), 438 – 440. DOI: 10.1670/0022-1511(2003)037[0438:TSOXHJ]2.0.CO;2

Kumar S., Stecher G., and Tamura K. (2016), «MEGA7: Molecular Evolutionary Genetics Analysis Version 7.0 for Bigger Datasets», Mol. Biol. Evol., 33(7), 1870 – 1874. DOI: 10.1093/molbev/msw054

Lanfear R., Frandsen P. B., Wright A. M., Senfeld T., and Calcott B. (2017), «PartitionFinder 2: New methods for selecting partitioned models of evolution for molecular and morphological phylogenetic analyses», Mol. Biol. Evol., 34(3), 772 – 773. DOI: 10.1093/molbev/msw260

Laopichienpong N., Muangmai N., Supikamolseni A., Twilprawat P., Chanhome L., Suntrarachun S., Peyachoknagul S., and Srikulnath K. (2016), «Assessment of snake DNA barcodes based on mitochondrial COI and Cyt b genes revealed multiple putative cryptic species in Thailand», Gene, 594(2), 238 – 247. DOI: 10.1016/j.gene.2016.09.017.

Lee S. Y. and Scanlon J. D. (2002), «Snake phylogeny based on osteology, soft anatomy and ecology», Biol. Rev., 77, 333 – 401.

Li J-N., Liang D., Wang Y-Y., Guo P., Huang S., and Zhang P. (2020), «A large-scale systematic framework of Chinese snakes based on a unified multilocus marker system», Mol. Phylogen. Evol., 148, 106807. DOI: 10.1016/j.ympev.2020.106807

Lissovsky A. A., Obolenskaya E. V., Abramson N. I., Dokuchaev N. E., Yakimenko V. V., Mal’kova M. G., Bogdanov A. S., and Ivanova N. V. (2010), «Geographic variation of Microtus middendorffii (Cricetidae, Arvicolinae, Rodentia) sensu lato studied by craniometrical and mitochondrial features», Russ. J. Theriol., 9, 71 – 81. DOI: 10.15298/rusjtheriol.09.2.03

Minh B. Q., Nguyen M. A. T., and von Haeseler A. (2013), «Ultrafast approximation for phylogenetic bootstrap», Mol. Biol. Evol., 30, 1188 – 1195. DOI: 10.1093/molbev/mst024

Mulcahy D. G., Ibañez R. D., Jaramillo C. A., Crawford A. J., Ray J. M., Gotte S. W., Jacobs J. F., Wynn A. H., Gonzales-Porter G. P., McDiarmid R. W., Crombie R. I., Zug G. R., and de Queiroz K. (2022), «DNA barcoding of the National Museum of natural history reptile tissue holdings raises concerns about the use of natural history collections and the responsibilities of scientists in the molecular age», PLoS ONE, 17(3), e0264930. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0264930

Nagy Z. T., Sonet G., Glaw F., and Vences M. (2012), «First Large-Scale DNA Barcoding Assessment of Reptiles in the Biodiversity Hotspot of Madagascar, Based on Newly Designed COI Primers», PLoS ONE, 7(3), e34506. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0034506

Nguyen S. V., Ho C. T., and Nguyen T. Q. (2009), Herpetofauna of Vietnam, Chimaira, Frankfurt.

Nguyen L-T., Schmidt H. A., von Haeseler A., and Minh B. Q. (2015), «IQ-TREE: A fast and effective stochastic algorithm for estimating maximum likelihood phylogenies», Mol. Biol. Evol., 32, 268 – 274. DOI: 10.1093/molbev/msu300

Orlov N. L. (2000), «Distribution, biology and comparative morphology of the snakes of Xenopeltis genus (Serpentes: Macrostomata: Xenopeltidae) in Vietnam,», Russ. J. Herpetol., 7(2), 103 – 114.

Orlov N. L. (2005), «A new species of the genus Vibrissaphora Liu, 1945 (Anura, Megophryidae) from Mount Ngoc Linh (Kon Tum Province) and analysis of the extent of species overlap in the fauna of amphibians and reptiles of the northwest of Vietnam and central highlands,», Russ. J. Herpetol., 12(1), 17 – 38.

Orlov N. L., Ryabov S. A., Nguyen V. S, and Nguyen Q. T. (2003), «Records and Data on the Poorly Known Snakes of Vietnam,», Russ. J. Herpetol., 10(3), 217 – 240.

Puinongpo W., Singchat W., Petpradub S., Kraichak E., Nunome M., Laopichienpong N., Thongchum R., Intarasorn T., Sillapaprayoon S., Indananda C., Muangmai N., Suntrarachun S., Baicharoen S., Chanhome L., Peyachoknagul S., and Srikulnath K. (2020), «Existence of Bov-B LINE retrotransposons in snake lineages reveals recent multiple horizontal gene transfers with copy number variation», Genes, 11, 1241. DOI: 10.3390/genes11111241

Poyarkov N. A., Nguyen T. V., Popov E. S., Geissler P., Pawangkhanant P., Neang T., Suwannapoom Ch., and Orlov N. L. (2021), «Recent progress in taxonomic studies, biogeographic analysis and revised checklist of amphibians in Indochina,», Russ. J. Herpetol., 28(3A), 1 – 110.

Ronquist F. and Huelsenbeck J. P. (2003), «MrBayes: Bayesian Phylogenetic Inference under Mixed Models», Bioinformatics, 19, 1572 – 1574. DOI: 10.1093/bioinformatics/btg180

Trifinopoulos J., Nguyen L-T., von Haesele A., and Minh B. Q. (2016), «W-IQ-TREE: a fast online phylogenetic tool for maximum likelihood analysis», Nucl. Acids Res., 44, W232 – W235. DOI: 10.1093/nar/gkw256

Uetz P., Freed P, Aguilar R. and Hošek J. (eds.) (2022), The Reptile Database,, Accessed February 17, 2022.

Zhao E. M. (1995), «Intraspecific classification of some Chinese snakes», Sichuan J. Zool., 14(3), 107 – 112 [in Chinese with English abstract].

Zhao E., Huang M., and Zong Y. (1998), Fauna Sinica, Reptilia. Vol. 3, Squamata, Serpentes, Science Press, Beijing.

Ziegler T., Hendrix R., Vu N. T., Vogt M., Forster B., and Kien D. N. (2007), «The diversity of a snake community in a karst forest ecosystem in the central Truong Son, Vietnam, with an identification key», Zootaxa, 1493, 1 – 40.



  • There are currently no refbacks.