Thursday, 6 December 2012

Dog-faced Mangrove Snake Named for Finder – via Herp Digest

Gasparilla Gazette, Boca Grande, Florida, 11/6/12 by William Dunson

I was surprised to find that a colleague at the Chicago Field Museum of Natural History named a mangrove snake for me recently.

Many years ago I discovered a new type of salt gland in a mangrove snake, a dog-faced water snake I collected in Palau of the island group Micronesia, and (my wife) Margaret, and I published a paper on this in 1979.

Subsequently this snake has been found to be a new and isolated island species dubbed Cerberus dunsoni.

"This species is named in honor of William A. Dunson for his pioneering work in osmoregulation in reptiles," read the etymology on the research find published in Zootaxa, a peer-reviewed Magnolia Press scientific journal for animal taxonomists.

Cerberus dunsoni can be distinguished from all other members of the genus with 23 scales rows at midbody by its rounded, juxtaposed, plate-like scales on the crown. These scales appear to be thickened compared with the scales of other Cerberus species. The 9-inch upper labial is horizontally divided.

These characters, combined with large parietal scale fragments and its uniform black venter, make this a distinctive species. The large, plate-like fragments of the parietals may fuse with the temporal scales.

The parietal scales in other Cerberus snakes are usually fragmented into small scales similar to other scales on the crown.

Is it an honor to have a snake named for you? I think so and am very pleased to have my years of study of marine reptiles recognized in this way.

William Dunson, Ph.d., professor emeritus of biology at Penn State University, splits time between Southwest Florida and his farm in Galax, Va. He can be reached at

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