Skip to main content Skip to main navigation menu Skip to site footer
Type: Article
Published: 2020-07-09
Page range: 65–80
Abstract views: 147
PDF downloaded: 3

A new species of Rhinophis Hemprich, 1820 (Reptilia: Uropeltidae), from cloud forest of the Knuckles massif of Sri Lanka

Herpetological Foundation of Sri Lanka, 31/5 Alwis Town, Hendala, Wattala, Sri Lanka
Herpetological Foundation of Sri Lanka, 31/5 Alwis Town, Hendala, Wattala, Sri Lanka
Herpetological Foundation of Sri Lanka, 31/5 Alwis Town, Hendala, Wattala, Sri Lanka Institute of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, Biotechnology, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka
Department of Life Sciences, The Natural History Museum, London, UK
Reptilia Dumbara endemic Rhinophis phillipsi shieldtail taxonomy Western Ghats-Sri Lanka Biodiversity Hotspot


A new species of uropeltid snake is described from the Knuckles Conservation Forest, Matale District, Sri Lanka. Rhinophis gunasekarai sp. nov. is superficially most similar to Rhinophis phillipsi in having yellow lines on the dorsum, blotches on the lateral body, and a relatively small tail shield, but it differs from that species in having substantially fewer ventrals, and a unique number and disposition of the dorsal yellow lines and lateral blotches. The new description brings the uropeltid fauna of Sri Lanka to 17 currently recognized species, all Rhinophis.



  1. Aengals, R. & Ganesh, S.R. (2013) Rhinophis goweri—a new species of shieldtail snake from the southern Eastern Ghats, India. Russian Journal of Herpetology, 20 (1), 61–65.

    Beddome, R.H. (1863) Further notes upon the snakes of the Madras Presidency; with descriptions of new species. Journal of Medical Science, 6, 41–48.

    Boulenger, G.A. (1893) Description of a new earth-snake from Travancore. Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society, 7 (3), 318–319.

    Boulenger, G.A. (1896) Description of a new earth snake from Travancore (Rhinophis fergusonianus). Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society, 10, 236.

    Cuvier, G.J.L.N.F.D. (1829) Le Règne Animal Distribué, d’après son Organisation, pour servir de base à l’Histoire naturelle des Animaux et d’introduction à l’Anatomie Comparée. Les Reptiles. Déterville, Paris, 406 pp.

    Cyriac, V.P., Narayanan, S., Sampaio, F.L., Umesh, P. & Gower, D.J. (2020) A new species of Rhinophis Hemprich, 1820 (Serpentes : Uropeltidae) from the Wayanad region of peninsular India. Zootaxa, 4778 (2), 329–342.

    de Silva, A., Goonewardene, S., Bauer, A., Austin, C., Drake, J. & de Silva, P. (2005) Notes on the snakes inhabiting the Knuckles Massif with special reference to Uropeltis melanogaster (Gray, 1858) and Uropeltis phillipsi (Nicholls, 1929). Lyriocephalus, 6, 149–159.

    Deraniyagala, P.E.P. (1941) A new fossorial snake (Rhinophis dorsimaculatus) from Ceylon. Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society, 42(4), 800–802.

    Deraniyagala, P.E.P. (1975) A new fossorial snake of the genus Rhinophis. Spolia Zeylanica, 33, 535–536.

    Ganesh, S.R. & Achyuthan, N.S. (2020) A new species of shieldtail snake (Reptilia: Squamata: Uropeltidae) from Kolli Hill complex, southern Eastern Ghats, peninsular India. Journal of Threatened Taxa, 12, 15436–15442.

    Ganesh, S.R., Aengals, R. & Ramanujam, E. (2014) Taxonomic reassessment of two Indian shieldtail snakes in the Uropeltis ceylanicus species group (Reptilia: Uropeltidae). Journal of Threatened Taxa, 6, 5305–5314.

    Gower, D.J. & Ablett, J.D. (2006) Counting ventral scales in Asian aniloid snakes. Herpetological Journal, 16, 259–263.

    Gower, D.J. & Maduwage, K. (2011) Two new species of Rhinophis Hemprich (Serpentes: Uropeltidae) from Sri Lanka. Zootaxa, 2881 (1), 51–68.

    Gower, D.J., Captain, & Thakur, S.S. (2008) On the taxonomic status of Uropeltis bicatenata (Günther) (Reptilia: Serpentes: Uropeltidae). Hamadryad, 33, 6482.

    Gower, D.J. & Wickramasinghe, L.J.M. (2016) Recharacterization of Rhinophis dorsimaculatus Deraniyagala, 1941 (Serpentes: Uropeltidae), including description of new material. Zootaxa, 4158 (2), 203–212.

    Gower, D.J., Giri, V., Captain, A. & Wilkinson, M. (2016) A reassessment of Melanophidium Günther, 1864 (Reptilia: Serpentes: Uropeltidae) from the Western Ghats of peninsular India, with the description of a new species. Zootaxa, 4085 (4), 481–503.

    Hemprich, F.W. (1820) Grundriss der Naturgeschichte für hohere Lehranstalten. August Rücker, Berlin, 432 pp.

    IUCN Standards and Petitions Committee (2019) Guidelines for using and IUCN Red List categories and criteria. Version 14. Avaialble from: (accessed 27 May 2020)

    Jins, V.J., Sampaio, F.L. & Gower, D.J. (2018) A new species of Uropeltis Cuvier, 1829 (Serpentes: Uropeltidae) from the Anaikatty Hills of the Western Ghats of India. Zootaxa, 4415 (3), 401–422.

    Kelaart, E.F. (1853) Description of new or little-known species of reptiles collected in Ceylon. Journal of the Ceylon Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 22, 102–116.

    McDiarmid, R.W., Campbell, J.A. & Toureì, T. (1999) Snake Species of the World. A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference. Volume 1. The Herpetologists’ League, Washington, 511pp.

    Müller, J. (1832) Beiträge zur Anatomie und Naturgeschichte der Amphibia. Zeitschrift für Physiologie, 4, 190–275.

    Nicholls, L. (1929) A new species of earth snake of the genus Silybura (Silybura phillipsi). Ceylon Journal of Science, 15, 153–155.

    Pyron, R.A., Ganesh, S.R., Sayyed, A., Sharma, V., Wallach, V. & Somaweera, R. (2016) A catalogue and systematic overview of the shield-tailed snakes (Serpentes: Uropeltidae). Zoosystema, 38, 453–506.

    Schneider, J.G. (1801) Historiae Amphibiorum naturalis et literariae. Fasciculus secundus continens Crocodilos, Scincos, Chamaesauras, Boas. Pseudoboas, Elapes, Angues. Amphisbaenas et Caecilias. Frommanni, Jena, 374 pp.

    Uetz, P., Cherikh, S., Shea, G., Ineich, I., Campbell, P.D., Doronin, I.V., Rosado, J., Wynn, A., Tighe, K.A., Mcdiarmid, R., Lee, J.L., Köhler, G., Ellis, R., Doughty, P., Raxworthy, C.J., Scheinberg, L., Resetar, A., Sabaj, M., Schneider, G., Franzen, M., Glaw, F., Böhme, W., Schweiger, S., Gemel, R., Couper, P., Amey, A., Dondorp, E., Ofer, G., Meiri, S. & Wallach, V. (2019) A global catalog of primary reptile type specimens. Zootaxa, 4695 (5), 438–450.

    Wall, F. (1921) Ophidia Taprobanica or the snakes of Ceylon. Governmental Press, Colombo, 581 pp.

    Wickramasinghe, L.J.M. (2012) Taxonomy and conservation status of terrestrial reptile fauna in Sri Lanka. In: Weerakoon, D.K. & Wijesundara, S. (Eds.), The National Red List 2012 of Sri Lanka; conservation status of the fauna and flora. Ministry of Environment, Colombo, 99–113.

    Wickramasinghe, L.J.M., Vidanapathirana, D.R. Wickramasinghe, N. & Ranwella, P.N. (2009) A new species of Rhinophis Hemprich, 1820 (Reptilia: Serpentes: Uropeltidae) from Rakwana massif, Sri Lanka. Zootaxa, 2044 (1), 1–22.

    Wickramasinghe, L.J.M., Vidanapathirana, D.R., Rajeev, M.D.G. & Gower, D.J. (2017) A new species of Rhinophis Hemprich, 1820 (Serpentes: Uropeltidae) from the central hills of Sri Lanka. Zootaxa, 4263 (1), 153–164.