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The members of the Xenochrophis piscator group are among the most common snake species in the Oriental region, but have a long and confused taxonomic history. Vogel and David (2012) reviewed the complex taxonomic history of the genus Xenochrophis, with a focus on resolving relationships within the Xenochrophis piscator group, the members of which are clearly distinct from other Xenochrophis. Their taxonomic revision of the of Xenochrophis piscator species group was based on univariate analyses of external morphological characters of snakes from across the group’s geographic range (the authors state that complementary molecular phylogenetic analyses are planned). Vogel and David (2012) includes an extensive analysis of historical synonyms, with many photographs, and details what the authors recognize as valid taxa.

On a purely morphological basis, Vogel and David distinguish two informal groups of species:

  1. the Xenochrophis piscator complex, which includes species with a nuchal (neck) marking either absent or resembling an inverted-V when seen from above. This complex is composed of X. piscator, X. asperrimus, X. cf. piscator (Sri Lanka), and X. schnurrenbergeri. The latter taxon has a wide, straight nuchal bar, but is referred to this complex on the basis of its overall pattern and its geographic range.
  2. the X. flavipunctatus complex, with species having a V-like nuchal marking. This complex includes X. flavipunctatus, X. tytleri and X. melanzostus. Vogel and David (2012) provide maps showing the general distributions of these species as well as many color photographs of living specimens. The authors address the question of whether certain taxa deserve recognition as full species by examining whether the forms remain distinct in sympatry.

The authors note that some taxonomic confusion remains, notably regarding X. piscator complex snakes occurring in India and Sri Lanka.

According to Vogel and David (2012), the genus Xenochrophis now includes the following 12 species: X. asperrimus (Boulenger, 1891), X. bellula (Stoliczka, 1871), X. cerasogaster (Cantor, 1839; type species of the genus Xenochrophis by monotypy), X. flavipunctatus (Hallowell, 1861), X. maculatus (Edeling, 1864), X. melanzostus(Gravenhorst, 1807), X. piscator (Schneider, 1799), X. punctulatus (Günther, 1858), X. schnurrenbergeri Kramer, 1977, X. tytleri (Blyth, 1863), X. trianguligerus (Boie, 1827), and X. vittatus (Linnaeus, 1758).

Vogel and David note that revisions of snake genera from the Oriental region in recent years have generally revealed considerable previously unrecognized diversity and that this pattern is likely to continue. They, further, suggest that revisions of widely distributed genera often cannot be carried out by native herpetologists by themselves because most of the preserved material (and older literature) is dispersed over collections in western countries, but that native workers have the advantage of conducting fieldwork more easily. Thus, general revisions such as Vogel and David (2012) can offer local herpetologists a framework for undertaking regional revisions based on fresh materials collected from selected localities.

(Vogel and David 2012 and references therein)

Vogel and Han-Yuen (2010) described an incidentsof death-feigning (or thanatosis) by Xenochrophis piscator, apparently only the second report of death-feigning by this species (this behavior was previously reported by MacDonal [1947] for snakes of this species confronted with a mongoose).

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