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"On the New Guinea taipan" K.R. Slater (1956)


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Posted by oxyuranus on October 28, 2002 at 01:37:14:

In Reply to: Oxyuranus scutellatus barringeri sp. nov posted by Paul Hackett on October 27, 2002 at 20:49:54:

Hi all,

The Papuan taipan (Oxyuranus scutellatus canni) was described by Ken Slater in 1956. The holotype is specimen D8164 in the National Museum of Victoria collection. It was collected on 7 August 1953 at Napa Napa (928.0S, 1475.60E) near Port Moresby by Ken Slater.

Slater states that considerable differences in colouration, keeling of dorsal and lateral scales, venom composition, and cranial morphology (including a variation in the pterygoid bone) were the basis for describing the New Guinean taipans as a separate subspecies to Oxyuranus scutellatus scutellatus from Australia.

His paper contained no specific data regarding variation in venom composition, however he acknowledges information received about tests on the venom from Drs F.G. Morgan and J.J. Graydon at the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories. Similarly he refers to the late Eric Worrell having undertaken comparative studies on the cranial morphology of both Australian and New Guinean taipans, and suggests that this paper may have been intended for publication by the Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales. Slater's paper contains a very detailed description of the holotype that is based on a careful and thorough physical examination of the specimen that he carried out ... quite unlike Ray Hoser's description of "Pailsus rossignoli" which was based on examination of photographs obtained via email ...

Clearly Slater (again, quite unlike Hoser...) does not rely upon geography alone in justifying the differentiation of these snakes into separate subspecies.

Put simply, Slater's description conforms to what was expected of a taxonomic publication at that point in time (1956) and was validly published. It has been accepted by subsequent authors without challenge, and until such time as a more comprehensive comparative analysis based on currently acceptable standards of scientific evidence is published, it is perfectly appropriate to accept Slater's nomenclature.

Unfortunately Ray Hoser's publications fail to meet the standards by which taxonomic publications are adjudged at this point in time (2002), and hence I choose to disregard them, pending publication of scientific evidence that does meet the appropriate standards.

I have appended a link to the full copy of Slater's description of Oxyuranus scutellatus canni: "On the New Guinea taipan" K.R. Slater (1956) Mem.Nat.Mus. Melbourne 30:1 pp 201-205

Cheers


David Williams

PS: The beautiful female Papuan taipan (pictured above) is an animal that Wolfgang Wuster and I recently caught in Papua New Guinea as part of an extensive research project ...



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