A Systematic Review of the Hispaniolan Snake Genus Hypsirhynchus
Studies on the Fauna of Curaçao and other Caribbean Islands , Volume 35 - Issue 1 p. 63- 94
One of the least known of the endemic Hispaniolan colubrid snake genera is Hypsirhynchus. The genus was proposed by GUNTHER (1858) for one specimen of a new snake, purportedly from the island of Barbados, to which he gave the name H. ferox. COPE (1862) later described H. scalaris from Hispaniola (type locality – near Jérémie, Departement du Sud, Haïti). This species differed from H. ferox in that H. scalaris lacked a loreal scale; the pattern and coloration were said to be quite different from those stated by GUNTHER to be typical of his species. COPE (1879) established that H. ferox was Hispaniolan rather than Barbadian and considered H. scalaris as distinct from H. ferox. BOULENGER (1894) regarded H. scalaris as identical to H. ferox. However, COCRAN (1941) noted that the holotype of H. scalaris differed from other H. ferox which she examined in that it lacked a loreal; she also pointed out that the loreal scale was reduced in some specimens of ferox. Only DUNN (1932) seriously questioned the status of Hypsirhynchus as a distinct genus. DUNN suggested that Hypsirhynchus be considered congeneric with the widespread Antillean Dromicus. MERTENS (1939) pointed out that, although Hypsirhynchus was indeed close to Dromicus, the former differed from the latter in having a vertically elliptical pupil. The problem is made somewhat more complex in that the Antillean snakes presently included in Dromicus represent an unquestionably polyphyletic assemblage; to combine Hypsirhynchus with Dromicus surely contributes no clarification to the confusion in Dromicus. Aside even from this contention is the fact that Hypsirhynchus, if combined with Dromicus, stands out immediately in its general habitus (stocky rather than slim and cursorial), peculiarly viperidlike head, pattern and coloration, and relatively short tail. The hemipenial structures of Dromicus (sensu stricto, and exclusive of those forms which are to be included in Leimadophis) and Hypsirhynchus likewise are quite distinct. All things considered, there is surely nothing to be gained by considering Hypsirhynchus a member of the genus Dromicus. As presently understood, Hypsirhynchus is a valid monotypic genus; the species ferox is also monotypic, and no one has attempted to assess the variation within it. My own interest in Hypsirhynchus is due to the collection of four specimens on Isla Saona, that Hispaniolan satellite island off the extreme southeastern coast of the República Dominicana. Although H. ferox has been previously known to occur on lie de la Gonâve, it had not before been taken on any other of the Hispaniolan satellites. In fact, published locality records are few indeed. SCHMIDT (1921) reported specimens from Los Quemados and El Cercado de Mao in the northwestern portion of the Republica Dominicana, and MERTENS (1939) recorded specimens from Monte Cristi in this same general region and from Cap-Haïtien on the northern Haitian littoral. COCHRAN (1941) cited specimens examined or recorded from Jérémie and Côteaux on the Tiburon Peninsula in Haïti, from Momance, Carrefour, Port-au-Prince, Damien, and Manneville in and near the Cul-de-Sac Plain in Haïti, and from St. Michel de l’Atalaye, Gonaïves, Savanne Papaye, and Cap-Haïtien in northern and central Haiti. Dominican records have been very few and include only (in addition to those of SCHMIDT and MERTENS) that of COCHRAN (1941) from Santo Domingo. The species is obviously widespread but apparently uncommon in most areas.
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Schwartz, Albert. (1971). A Systematic Review of the Hispaniolan Snake Genus Hypsirhynchus. Studies on the Fauna of Curaçao and other Caribbean Islands, 35(1), 63–94.