Color Pattern Dimorphism in the Colubrid Snake Oligodon purpurascens (Schlegel, 1837) (Reptilia: Squamata)

Johan van Rooijen, Perry L. Wood, Jr., Jesse L. Grismer, L. Lee Grismer, Wolfgang Grossmann


The Southeast Asian colubrid snake Oligodon purpurascens (Schlegel, 1837) exhibits a strongly bimodal variation in color pattern. Two competing hypotheses can be put forward to explain the coexistence of the two phenotypes. According to the first hypothesis, the two phenotypes are the result of a color pattern polymorphism within Oligodon purpurascens. According to the second, the two phenotypes in fact represent distinct, sympatrically occurring, taxa. In this study, multivariate analyses of morphological data as well as a phylogenetic analysis of a small segment of mitochondrial DNA were used to assess the likelihood of each of these hypotheses. The results strongly support the polymorphism-hypothesis. The incidence of each phenotype in various areas suggests that negative frequency-dependent selection maintains the coexistence of the two phenotypes.


color pattern polymorphism; Oligodon purpurascens

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