The British Herpetological Society

The Herpetological Journal is the Society's prestigious quarterly scientific journal. Articles are listed in Biological Abstracts, Current Awareness in Biological Sciences,Current Contents, Science Citation Index, and Zoological Record.

 ISSN 0268-0130

2020 Impact Factor for the Herpetological Journal is 0.862

Volume 31, Number 3, July 2021 Volume 31, Number 3, July 2021

pdf 01. Killing them softly: a review on snake translocation and an Australian case study


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pp 118-131

Authors: Jari Cornelis, Tom Parkin & Philip W. Bateman

Abstract: Human-wildlife conflicts with ‘nuisance’ snakes are becoming more frequent around the world as urbanisation continues to encroach on remaining habitats. In an attempt to mitigate this issue, snakes are often translocated in an uncontrolled fashion, with little to no conservation value. To determine the most appropriate methods of translocation we reviewed the available primary literature on studies performing translocations of snakes. We found two types of translocation: long and short-distance. Based on the welfare of the animals involved and difficulty of achieving success with long-distance translocations, we deduced that short-distance translocations are the most favourable. We also reviewed the literature on a third method - repatriating wild populations of snakes with captive-bred or captive-reared individuals, the results
of which were very similar to those of long-distance translocations. In conjunction with a mark recapture study carried out by snake catchers in Darwin, Australia, we use our findings to make suggestions on the most appropriate course of action for the mitigation-based snake catching activities in Australia. The difficulty of ensuring successful outcomes for long distance translocations along with a high mortality rate meant we cannot suggest this as an appropriate method for managing ‘nuisance’ snakes. Instead, we argue that short distance translocations are the most suitable for the welfare of the snakes involved. Nevertheless, no outcome will be more favourable for the snakes than to be simply released within their home range accompanied by a change in attitude of the general public towards a willingness to coexist. Although we
focus primarily on Australia our suggested framework can be applied in any country where there is conflict with snakes. Furthermore, should our suggestions be implemented, they are merely a temporary solution to an ongoing problem and we are in desperate need for further research to devise a long-term management plan.

Keywords: serpentes, translocation, relocation, repatriation, human-wildlife conflict

pdf 02. Potential distribution of the endemic Short-tailed ground agama Calotes minor (Hardwicke & Gray, 1827) in drylands of the Indian sub-continent


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pp. 132-141

Authors: Ashish Kumar Jangid, Gandla Chethan Kumar, Chandra Prakash Singh & Monika Böhm

Abstract: The Short-tailed ground agama or Hardwicke’s bloodsucker Calotes minor (Hardwicke & Gray, 1827) is known to occur in the Indian subcontinent and is largely confined to arid to semiarid environments, such as hard barren desert and abandoned fields. The precise distribution of this species is largely unknown to date, with few locality records spread biogeographically across Eastern Pakistan, Central and Western India. To improve on the existing spatial knowledge on this species and assess the ability to predict species distributions for taxa with few locality records, we studied the distribution of C. minor using a species distribution modelling framework. Our study allowed us to predict the distribution range of C. minor and help define a niche for this habitat-specific species. Highly probable habitats for C. minor were arid and semi-arid dryland habitats, characterised by plains or less rugged terrain with moderately narrow temperature range, lower aridity index, moderate
to low vegetation index, and wide precipitation range. Furthermore, we report four additional occurrence records of C. minor from central Rajasthan.

Keywords: Agamidae; small sample size; environmental niche modelling; distribution range; arid environment

pdf 03. Repeated use of high risk nesting areas in the European whip snake, Hierophis viridiflavus


Open Access

pp. 142-150

Authors: Xavier Bonnet, Jean-Marie Ballouard, Gopal Billy & Roger Meek

Abstract: Oviparous snakes deposit their egg clutches in sites sheltered from predation and from strong thermal and hydric fluctuations. Appropriate laying sites with optimum thermal and hydric conditions are generally scarce and are not necessarily localised in the home range. Thus, many gravid females undertake extensive trips for oviposition, and many may converge at the best egg laying sites. Dispersal mortality of neonates post-hatchling is also a critical factor. Assessing the parameters involved in this intergenerational trade-off is difficult however, and no study has succeeded in embracing all of them. Here we report data indicating that gravid females of the highly mobile European whip snake, Hierophis viridiflavus exhibit nest site fidelity whereby they repeatedly deposit their eggs in cavities under sealed roads over many decades. These anthropogenic structures provide benefits of relative safety and suitable incubation conditions (due to the protective asphalted layer?), but they expose both females and neonates to high risk of road mortality. Artificial laying sites constructed at appropriate distances from busy roads, along with artificial continuous well protected pathways (e.g. dense hedges) that connect risky laying sites to safer areas, should be constructed.

Keywords: Hierophis viridiflavus, road mortality, cost of reproduction, reptiles, anthropogenic landscape, forest

pdf 04. Reproductive characteristics, diet composition and fat reserves of nose-horned vipers (Vipera ammodytes)


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pp. 151-161

Authors: Marko Anđelković, Sonja Nikolić & Ljiljana Tomović

Abstract: Long-term ecological studies are usually both time-consuming and costly, particularly when conducted on species with low detectability, such as vipers. An alternative, non-expensive method for obtaining detailed information about numerous important ecological traits, e.g. size at maturity, reproductive output, diet composition and amount of body reserves, are dissections of museum specimens. We dissected 237 museum specimens (125 males and 112 females of all age classes) of the nose-horned vipers Vipera ammodytes from the central and western regions of the Balkan Peninsula. Their reproductive and digestive systems were examined, and fat stores estimated. Relative testes volumes were significantly higher in adults than in subadults. Also, we found seasonal variation of testes volumes in adult males. Females became mature at around 43.8 cm snout-to-vent length (SVL); 38.1 % of adult females were pregnant (i.e. had developed eggs/embryos, suggesting
bi- or even triennial reproduction frequency). The average number of developed eggs/embryos was 9.1 (range 5–17). As expected, there was a positive correlation between maternal body size (SVL) and the number of embryos. The nose-horned vipers fed predominately on lizards (64.7 %) and mammals (31.9 %); only a few remains of different prey were found (birds, snakes and centipedes). Analyses of inter-sexual differences showed that males more frequently consumed lizards than
mammals, while in females both types of prey were equally present. A subtle ontogenetic change in diet was recorded, with a shift from lizards towards mammals. Adult individuals had more fat reserves than subadults, but there were no inter-sexual differences, and gravid females had similar amounts of fat reserves as non-gravid individuals. The data about reproductive output and dietary specialisation demonstrate the vulnerability of the species, generally regarded as “quite common” and
non-threatened. This study might help in the establishment of future conservation studies, and management of the impacts of anthropogenic factors on populations of V. ammodytes in the central and western Balkans.

Keywords: testes volumes, follicles and embryos, prey spectrum, fat bodies, herpetological collection, Viperidae

pdf 05. New evidence for distinctiveness of the island-endemic Príncipe giant tree frog (Arthroleptidae: Leptopelis palmatus)


Open Access

pp. 162-169

Authors: Kyle E. Jaynes, Edward A. Myers, Robert C. Drewes & Rayna C. Bell

Abstract: The Príncipe giant tree frog Leptopelis palmatus is endemic to the small oceanic island of Príncipe in the Gulf of Guinea. For several decades, this charismatic but poorly known species was confused with another large tree frog species from continental Africa, L. rufus. Phylogenetic relationships within the African genus Leptopelis are poorly understood and consequently the evolutionary history of L. palmatus and its affinity to L. rufus remain unclear. In this study, we combined mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), morphological, and acoustic data for L. palmatus and L. rufus to assess different axes of divergence between the species. Our mtDNA gene tree for the genus Leptopelis indicated that L. palmatus is not closely related to L. rufus or other large species of Leptopelis. Additionally, we found low mtDNA diversity in L. palmatus across its range on Príncipe. We found significant morphological differences between females of L. rufus and L. palmatus, but not between males. We characterised the advertisement call of L. palmatus for the first time, which is markedly distinct from L. rufus. Finally, we summarised our observations of L. palmatus habitats and additional notes on phenotypic variation and behaviour. Our study reinforces the distinctiveness of L. palmatus and provides information important for the conservation of this endangered species.

A rã gigante de Príncipe, Leptopelis palmatus, é endêmica da pequena ilha oceânica de Príncipe no Golfo da Guiné. Por várias décadas, esta espécie carismática mas pouco conhecida foi confundida com outra espécie grande de rã da África continental, L. rufus. As relações filogenéticas dentro do gênero africano Leptopelis são mal compreendidas e, conseqüentemente, a história evolutiva de L. palmatus e sua afinidade com L. rufus permanecem obscuras. Neste estudo, combinamos dados de
DNA mitocondrial (mtDNA), morfológicos e acústicos de L. palmatus e L. rufus para avaliar diferentes eixos de divergência entre as espécies. Nossa árvore de genes de mtDNA para o gênero Leptopelis indicou que L. palmatus não está proximamente relacionada a L. rufus ou outras espécies grandes de Leptopelis, e encontramos baixa diversidade de mtDNA em L. palmatus em toda a sua distribuição em Príncipe. Encontramos diferenças morfológicas significativas entre as fêmeas de L. rufus e L. palmatus, mas não entre os machos. Caracterizamos o canto reprodutor de L. palmatus pela primeira vez, que é marcadamente distinto do de L. rufus. Finalmente, resumimos nossas observações dos habitats de L. palmatus e notas adicionais sobre variação fenotípica e comportamento. Nosso estudo fornece informações importantes para a conservação dessa espécie ameaçada de extinção

Keywords: bioacoustic, morphology, endemic, mitochondrial DNA, island, São Tomé and Príncipe

pdf 06. Description of the tadpole of Cruziohyla calcarifer (Boulenger, 1902) (Amphibia, Anura, Phyllomedusidae)


Open Access

pp. 170-176

Authors: Andrew R. Gray, Konstantin Taupp, Loic Denès, Franziska Elsner-Gearing & David Bewick

Abstract: Specimens belonging to the genus Cruziohyla from Panama, Costa Rica and Honduras, collected by the scientific community as Cruziohyla calcarifer are now known to represent a different species, Cruziohyla sylviae. Similarly, the tadpole previously described for C. calcarifer also now represents that of C. sylviae. Here we describe the tadpole of the true C. calcarifer for the first time, including information on ontogenetic changes during larval development. The tadpole of C. calcarifer is characterised in having distinctive morphology, mouthpart features and markings.

Keywords: larvae, splendid leaf frog, reproduction, development, morphology

pdf 07. A new species of Bent-toed gecko (Squamata: Gekkonidae: Cyrtodactylus Gray, 1827) from the Garo Hills, Meghalaya State, north-east India, and discussion of morphological variation for C. urbanus


Open Access

pp. 177-196

Authors: Rachunliu G. Kamei & Stephen Mahony

Abstract: Recent taxonomic and systematic research on Cyrtodactylus khasiensis has found that this nomen comprises a large number of superficially similar but deeply divergent species-level taxa from throughout north-east India and surrounding countries. In this study we focus on the taxonomic status of recently surveyed populations from the East Garo Hills and West Garo Hills districts and a single specimen collected from Ri Bhoi District in Meghalaya State, north-east India. Based on a combination of morphological and molecular data we found that the Ri Bhoi specimen is conspecific with the recently described C. urbanus, and that the Garo Hills populations represent a new species of Cyrtodactylus described herein. Molecular analyses (using the NADH dehydrogenase 2, nd2 and adjoining tRNA genes) demonstrate that the new species is nested within the khasiensis group of the Indo-Burma radiation of Cyrtodactylus, and is well-supported as sister to a clade that comprises C. septentrionalis and C. guwahatiensis. We morphologically compare the new C. urbanus specimen with the original description of the species, identify a number of errors and ambiguities in the original description, and notably expand the known morphological variation for the species based on 23 characters. The discovery of an endemic new species of lizards from the Garo Hills further highlights the region as an overlooked centre of biodiversity importance. We discuss several misidentifications in the literature of other reptile species from the region emphasising the need for further attention by taxonomists to review the herpetofauna of the Garo Hills.

Keywords: Biodiversity, taxonomy, lizard, reptile, endemic

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Please note that as from Volume 31 Number 1 (January 2021) on, the Herpetological Journal will be available as an online publication only - the last print edition will be Volume 30 Number 4.   

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