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Counting ventral scales in Asian anilioid snakes

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The anteroventral scalation patterns of 48 specimens (24 species) of Asian anilioid snakes (Anomochilidae, Cylindrophiidae, Uropeltidae) were examined. Scales were pinned and X-rayed to allow the position of the neck joint to be determined. Asian anilioids have a pattern of anteroventral scalation that prevents application of the standard Dowling system for identifying the first (anteriormost) ventral scale. No repeated pattern is found between anteroventral scalation and the position of the neck joint. Between four and eight post-mentum midventral scales lie anterior to the neck joint, with intraspecific variation occurring by up to two scales. Variation in the position of the neck joint is probably caused by variation in scalation and preservation, and perhaps ontogeny, with fewer midventral scales anterior to the neck joint in larger specimens. We recommend that counts of Asian anilioid ventral scales for taxonomic purposes include all midventral scales between the mental and anal scales. For precise comparisons of precloacal vertebral numbers among Asian anilioids and other snakes, dissections or X-rays are required.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 1, 2006

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