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Cerberus overview

The homalopsid genus Cerberus is one of the most geographically widespread reptile genera, with the most recent family reviews (Gyi 1970; Murphy 2007) recognizing three species. Cerberus ranges from the vicinity of  teh Gujart Peninsula of northwest India eastward in coastal habitats to the Philippines, southward into the Indonesian Archipelago, eastward to the south coast of New Guinea, and northern Australia. There is also an isolated population in the Palau Islands of Micronesia. Thus, the range of Cerberus approximates the distribution of the entire family, omitting most inland waters. Alfaro et al. (2008) placed Cerberus in a clade with its mostly freshwater sister, the Southeast Asian Homalopsis. Also in this clade are the very unusual Erpeton tentaculatus, Enhydris bocourti, and the two Australopapuan genera Pseudoferania and Myron. Cerberus and Homalopsis share a considerable number of morphological traits including: a variable dorsal scale row count; a strong tendency toward head scale fragmentation; heavily keeled, striated dorsal scales; and fleshy “cheeks.” Additionally, Cerberus and Homalopsis have microhabitats in some environments. Homalopsis tends to be associated with freshwater, but it has been seen within a few meters of the ocean, and reported from brackish water. Whereas, Cerberus is usually found in brackish or marine waters, it does venture into freshwater rivers and streams. Thus, the ecological distributions of the sister genera slightly overlap in the estuaries and rivers of Southeast Asia where they live in close proximity. Murphy et al. (2012) recognized five species: the South Asian C. rynchops (Schneider 1799); the South-east Asian-Philippine C. schneiderii (Schlegel 1837), a new combination; the freshwater Philippine endemic C. microlepis Boulenger 1896; the Australopapuan C. australis (Gray 1842); and a new species from Micronesia, C. dunsoni


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© John C. Murphy

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