The Oriental Colubrine Genus Coelognathus Fitzinger, 1843 and Classification of Old and New World Racers and Ratsnakes (Reptilia, Squamata, Colubridae, Colubrinae)

Urs Utiger, Beat Schätti, Notker Helfenberger


The phylogenetic relationships of the colubrine genus Coelognathus is examined on the basis of two partially sequenced mitochondrial genes, COI and 12S rRNA. Maximum parsimony reconstructions show that C. erythrurus, C. flavolineatus, C. helena, C. radiatus, and C. subradiatus share a common ancestor. Coelognathus spp. represent an evolutionary lineage among Oriental racers. Based on molecular data, external morphology, and pulmonary features, Coluber prasinus Blyth and Herpetodryas frenatus Gray are referred to Gonyosoma Wagler (four species). Hemerophis from Sokotra (monotypic) is the sister taxon of Palaearctic and Saharo-Sindian racers. Their phylogenetic relationships with Oriental racers are not clear. Old and New World racers belong to genetically independent lineages. The latter includes Salvadora spp. Masticophis Baird is considered to be a junior synonym of Coluber Linnaeus. A new generic name, Oreocryptophis, is proposed for the East Asian ratsnake taxon Coluber porphyraceus Cantor. Coronellini Jan is proposed for Old and New World ratsnakes. The tribe is monophyletic and made up of at least eight Old World (Coronella, Elaphe [sensu stricto], Euprepiophis, Oocatochus, Oreocryptophis, Orthriophis, Rhinechis, and Zamenis) and ten New World (mostly Nearctic) genera (Arizona, Bogertophis, Cemophora, Lampropeltis, Pantherophis, Pituophis, Pseudelaphe, Rhinocheilus, Senticolis, and Stilosoma).


Coelognathus; Gonyosoma; Oreocryptophis (nomen novum); Oriental racers; phylogeny; Colubrini; Coronellini; morphology; mtDNA; COI; 12S rDNA

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