Comment on the proposed conservation of Crotalinus catenatus Rafinesque, 1818 (currently Sistrurus catenatus) and Crotalus tergeminus (currently Sistrurus tergeminus; Reptilia, Serpentes) by designation of neotypes for both species

Publication Type:Journal Article
Year of Publication:2012
Authors:J. M. Savage, Crother, B. I. , Holycross, A. T.
Journal:Bulletin of Zoological Nomenclature
Start Page:62
Date Published:03/2012
Type of Article:Comment
Full Text

In our case we proposed the designation of USNM 86472 at the National Museum of Natural History, U.S.A., from Winfield, Cowley, Kansas, U.S.A. as the neotype of Crotalus tergeminus, the Western Massassagua. That decision was based on the lack of agreement by previous authors as to the provenance of the two syntypes of the nominal species variously cited to be from between the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains headwaters of the Arkansas River, from what is now western Iowa or from northeastern Colorado (Dundee, ‘1996’, 1997, p. 8). Stephen Mackessy of the University of Northern Colorado (personal communication) recently informed us that Sistrurus tergeminus is unknown from northeastern Colorado. However, the taxon still occurs in southwestern Iowa (Christiansen & Fieselmann, 1993). It now seems evident that the syntypes of this form were collected during a side trip up the Boyer River (now in Harrison County, Iowa) from the Missouri River where Say (in James, 1822, pp. 45–46) states ‘we saw numbers of the smaller species of rattle snake’. Fortunately, we now have been able to locate well-preserved examples of this taxon from western Iowa. In the light of this information we ask the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature to set aside our request to designate USNM 86472 as the neotype of Crotalus tergeminus. We ask instead that the Commission act to designate specimen at Drake University DU 3917 from 4.5 miles north of Hastings, Willow Slough, Mills County, Iowa, U.S.A. as the neotype of Crotalus tergeminus Say in James (1822, p. 499). Note that the Mills County snake is from a locale approximately 40 miles south of Harrison County, Iowa. The proposed neotype is a Sistrurus 715 mm in total length, having 157 ventrals, 28 subcaudals, a dorsal pattern of 42 dark brown blotches that are in marked contrast to the lighter ground color and the venter light with numerous darker markings.

We take this opportunity to clarify our request that USNM 526 be designated the neotype of Crotalinus catenatus Rafinesque 1818, p. 41. This snake may be the holotype (Adler, 1963) of Crotalus messasaugus Kirtland that is the next available name for the Eastern Massasauga, in the event that our request to establish a neotype for Crotalinus catenatus is denied. Adler (1963) has provided a detailed description of USNM 526 whose salient characters are: 830 mm in total length, 138 ventrals, 19 subcaudals, dorsum very dark with blotches not strongly contrasting with ground color, and venter black with some light markings.

In consequence of the above we request the International Commission to substitute the following in place of 8(2) in our original application when considering Case 3571: (2) to use its specific powers to designate specimen Drake University DU 3917 from Mills County, Iowa as the neotype of Crotalus tergeminus Say in James,1822;

Additional reference Christiansen, J. & Fieselmann, J. 1993. Massasagua rattlesnake bites in Iowa. Iowa Medicine, 83(5): 187–191.

Taxonomic Group(s): 
Scratchpads developed and conceived by (alphabetical): Ed Baker, Katherine Bouton Alice Heaton Dimitris Koureas, Laurence Livermore, Dave Roberts, Simon Rycroft, Ben Scott, Vince Smith