Please note that the information in this article is current as of March 2018 (no later)
Please contact me or leave a comment if you spot an error
|African House Snake (Boaedon fuliginosus) from the|
northernmost part of the range in Morocco.
Like everywhere in Africa, there are probably multiple
undescribed cryptic species within this lineage
|Simplified phylogenetic tree of Lamprophiinae, with|
focus on "house snakes" (genera Boaedon & Lamprophis).
There's enough uncertainty about the structure within Boaedon
that I didn't try to represent much of what's known.
For more detailed trees, see the Kelly, Greenbaum, & Trape papers.
Green are species lacking genetic data that can't be placed yet.
Red stars are multiple cryptic species (there could be more).
Click here for a larger version
|Swazi Rock Snakes, Inyoka swazicus, are endemic to rocky|
outcrops in Swaziland and adjacent provinces of South Africa
|The Olive Water Snake, Lycodonomorphus inornatus,|
was formerly thought to be a Lamprophis
|Fisk's House Snake, Lamprophis fiskii, is found in|
rocky & sandy areas in the western part of South Africa
|Olive House Snakes, Boaedon olivaceus|
are found in forests rather than savannah
& grassland habitats
|Most of the tree from Greenbaum et al. 2015, showing|
the paraphyly of B. fuliginosus with respect to other
Boaedon species, and the geographic diversity of the samples.
Map of the species currently in Boaedon & Lamprophis
Question marks indicate areas where the species range
is uncertain (pink=lineatus complex, green=olivaceus,
Click here for larger version
|Boaedon radfordi, a new species from the Uganda-DRC|
border region. From Greenbaum et al. 2015
|Boaedon longilineatus, a new species from Chad|
From Trape & Mediannikov 2016
|Boaedon capensis from South Africa|
- Hormonotus modestus (Yellow Forest Snake or "Uganda House Snake"; moved in 1850s)
- Inyoka swazicus (Swazi Rock Snake or "Swaziland House Snake"; moved in 2011)
- Pseudoboodon lemniscatus (briefly in Lamprophis in 1904, barely counts, see footnote2)
- Lycodonomorphus inornatus (originally described as a Lamprophis because it was terrestrial, but always a little weird; moved in 2011)
- Lycodonomorphus rufulus (briefly in Lamprophis 1840s-1860s, barely counts)
- Lamprophis aurora (type species for the genus, will always be a Lamprophis by definition)
- Lamprophis fiskii (gets to stick with aurora)
- Lamprophis fuscus (gets to stick with aurora)
- Lamprophis guttatus (gets to stick with aurora)
- "Lamprophis" abyssinicus (awaiting DNA data; Ethioipian highlands)
- "Lamprophis" erlangeri (awaiting DNA data; Ethioipian highlands)
- "Lamprophis" geometricus (awaiting DNA data; Seychelles)
- Boaedon lineatus (type species for the genus, will always be a Boaedon by definition, although as defined it too is likely a cryptic species complex)
- Boaedon virgatus (gets to stick with lineatus)
- Boaedon olivaceus (gets to stick with lineatus)
- Boaedon maculatus (awaiting DNA data; got to stick with the above 3 because of morphology; Horn of Africa)
- Boaedon radfordi (described by Greenbaum et al. 2015, split from olivaceus)
- Boaedon upembae (formerly Lycodonomorphus subtaeniatus upembae; moved by Greenbaum et al. 2015; in the B. virgatus group)
- Boaedon littoralis (split from B. lineatus by Trape & Mediannikov 2016, but lacks DNA data)
- Boaedon longilineatus (split from B. lineatus by Trape & Mediannikov 2016)
- Boaedon paralineatus (split from B. lineatus by Trape & Mediannikov 2016)
- Boaedon perisilvestris (the first of many cryptic species to be split from B. fuliginosus; by Trape & Mediannikov 2016)
- Boaedon subflavus (the 2nd split from B. fuliginosus by Trape & Mediannikov 2016)
- Boaedon capensis (replaces fuliginosus in east Africa, could be multiple cryptic species)
- Boaedon fuliginosus (definitely at least 7 cryptic species, probably many more, no guarantee that any will be called fuliginosus)
|The Aurora House Snake, Lamprophis aurora, is the|
type species of the genus Lamprophis, meaning it will always
be in Lamprophis unless that genus goes away completely
If this group of snakes interests you, watch the labs of Christopher Kelly, Jakob Hallermann, Aaron Bauer, and Jean-François Trape for future research that should make much of this article obsolete.
1 Note the difference between the endings of the family ("-idae") and subfamily ("-inae") names.↩
2 Except for Pseudoboodon lemniscatus, but that was only once, in 1904. It counts, but only in the same way as stuff you did once in college. This is complicated enough already.↩
3 Sources differ on whether B. lineatus is distinct from B. fuliginosis, but it seems to be in western Africa (though both could be multiple cryptic species). Some resources use B. lineatus for house snakes with head stripes in e.g. Uganda, Ethiopia, and Sudan, but increasingly these are referred to as B. capensis. Characteristics used to distinguish B. virgatus & B. olivaceus from B. fuliginosus/capensis/lineatus include undivided subcaudal scales in B. olivaceus and only 23 dorsal scale rows in B. virgatus, as well as the fact that B. virgatus & B. olivaceus are found in forests whereas the others are savannah species.↩
4 The presence or absence of head stripes has been used as a highly visible character, but ultimately this probably won't prove to be closely correlated with genetic variation (and it's complicated by the fact that some Boaedon populations have head stripes as juveniles but lose them as adults). This is also the case in North American ratsnakes, where former subspecies with radically different adult color patterns, like E. o. rossalleni and E. o. quadrivittata turned out to be so genetically similar to the more widespread black phenotype that they are now not recognized. This is part of a move away from the subspecies concept in general, wherein many authors either synonymize subspecies with existing species as "mere variants" or elevate them to full species status using genetic data. I think we can expect this trend to continue with House Snakes.↩
5 This could happen if South Africa is chosen as the type locality of fuliginosus, because the type locality of capensis is also in South Africa—if South Africa ultimately contains just one species from the fuliginosus complex, then it will get to keep the older name (fuliginosus), and other former members elsewhere should not use the name capensis in order to avoid further confusion. If the type locality of fuliginosus is chosen to be in Ghana instead, then the name will probably continue to be used in western Africa. Let us hope for the 2nd option.↩
6 This isn't an identification guide, but if you want to see the scale characters for the different species, you can refer to the tables and descriptions in the Kelly, Greenbaum, and Trape papers.↩
7 "B. fuliginosus" are also found on the Arabian peninsula in Yemen; this could be the most obvious future split if these are shown to be their own lineage, and several sources have already used the name arabicus for them, although just a few individuals are known and additional biological specimens from Yemen are hard to come by. A recent paper used bedriagae as the name of a full species on the islands of São Tomé, with a new species being described from the neighboring island of Príncipe.↩
Bates, M. F., W. Branch, A. Bauer, M. Burger, J. Marais, G. Alexander, and M. De Villiers. 2014. Atlas and red list of the reptiles of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. South African National Biodiversity Institute <full-text>
Bogert, C. M. 1940. Herpetological results of the Vernay Angola Expedition. Part 1. Snakes, including an arrangement of African Colubridae. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 77:1-107 <link>
Brassine, M. C., C. M. R. Kelly, N. P. Barker, and M. H. Villet. 2008. The phylogenetics of the Lamprophis fuliginosus/capensis species complex in southern Africa. Page 13 Proceedings of the 9th Conference of the Herpetological Association of Africa, Sterkfontein Dam, South Africa.
Broadley, D. G. 1969. The African house snakes—How many genera? The Journal of the Herpetological Association of Africa 5:6-8 <preview>
Ceríaco, L. M., M. P. Marques, and A. M. Bauer. 2018. Miscellanea Herpetologica Sanctithomae, with a provisional checklist of the terrestrial herpetofauna of São Tomé, Príncipe and Annobon islands. Zootaxa 4387:91-108.
Conradie, W., R. Bills, and W. Branch. 2016. The herpetofauna of the Cubango, Cuito, and lower Cuando river catchments of south-eastern Angola. Amphibian and Reptile Conservation 10:6-36 <full-text>
de Witte, G. F. 1963. The colubrid snake genera Chamaelycus Boulenger and Oophilositum Parker. Copeia 1963:634-636 <full-text>
Hallermann, J. and A. Schmitz. 2007. First results on the taxonomy of the Lamprophis fuliginosus complex in Africa. 14th European Congress of Herpetology and SEH Ordinary General Meeting <abstract book>
Schaefer, N. 1970. A new species of house snake from Swaziland, with notes on the status of the two genera Lamprophis and Boaedon. Annals of the Cape provincial Museums 8:205-208 <full-text from BHL>
Schätti, B. 1989. Amphibians and reptiles from the Yemen Arab Republic and Djibouti. Revue Suisse de Zoologie 96:905-937 <full-text from BHL>
Visser, J. 1979. Notes on two rare house snakes – Part 1. Lamprophis fiskii Boulenger (1887) and L. swazicus Schaefer (1970). Journal of the Herpetological Association of Africa 19:10-13.
Visser, J. 1979. Notes on two rare house snakes – Part 2: The generic status of Lamprophis fiskii Boulenger (1887) and Lamprophis swazicus Schaefer (1970). Journal of the Herpetological Association of Africa 21:31-37.