Thermophis baileyi

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Thermophis baileyi
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Colubridae
Subfamily: Xenodontinae[2][3]
Genus: Thermophis
Species: T. baileyi
Binomial name
Thermophis baileyi
(Wall, 1907)
  • Tropidonotus baileyi Wall, 1907
  • Natrix baileyi Malnate, 1953
  • Thermophis baileyi — Malnate, 1953[4]

Thermophis baileyi, also known as Bailey's snake or the hot-spring snake,[5] is a rare species of colubrid snake endemic to Tibet.


The specific name, baileyi, is in honor of Frederick M. Bailey, a British army officer and explorer.[6]

Geographic range[edit]

T. baileyi is found only at high altitudes on the Tibetan Plateau. The species is endemic to Tibet and has been recorded for the first time in 1907 by Wall near Gyantze at 4300 m asl (no exact coordinates available).[7] In 1990 Macey and Papenfuss reported the species from Yangbajain hot spring area (California Academy of Science, online collection catalogue, So far T. baileyi is known only from a few sites.[2][3][8] A comprehensive distribution map of T. baileyi is provided by Hofmann et al. (2014), showing that the geographic range of the snake is a restricted area between the Transhimalaya and the Himalaya, along the central part of the Yarlung Zhangbo suture zone.[9]


Thermophis baileyi is olive green, with five series of indistinct spots dorsally, most pronounced in the forebody. It has a dusky postocular streak, and dusky posterior edges to the labials. The belly is bluish-grey, with each ventral black basally. The young are darker than adults.

Dorsal scales in 19 rows at midbody, all keeled except last row, with indistinct double apical facets. Ventrals 201-221; anal divided; subcaudals 91-111, mostly divided, but with a few entire.

Adults may attain a total length (body + tail) of 2 feet 6 inches (76 cm).[7]

Conservation status[edit]

Bailey's snake is considered vulnerable by IUCN.[1] In the last decades, the growing exploitation of geothermal energy has led to a destruction of hot spring habitats, resulting in an increased threat to populations of hot-spring snakes.[3][10][11]


The existence of Bailey's snake was first announced in the scientific literature in 1907, when it was described as a new species by Frank Wall.[7] Wall originally classified it as Tropodinotus (=Natrix) baileyi, before it was realized that Bailey's snake did not fit in the genus Natrix. In 1953 Malnate placed it in the new genus Thermophis, designating baileyi as the type species.[12]


This genus of snakes lives probably at the highest altitude of any snake in the world.[13] Presence of T. baileyi is strongly attributable to hot springs with low sulphur concentration, locations in river valleys that provide rocky slopes and vegetated shorelines and existence of a river within a 500 m radius (Hofmann et al. 2014).


  1. ^ a b World Conservation Monitoring Centre (1996). "Thermophis baileyi". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2007. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 1 June 2008. 
  2. ^ a b He, M.; Feng, J. C.; Liu, S. Y.; Guo, P.; Zhao, E. M. (2009). "The phylogenetic position of Thermophis (Serpentes: Colubridae), an endemic snake from the Qinghai‐Xizang Plateau, China" (PDF). Journal of Natural History 43 (7–8): 479–488. doi:10.1080/00222930802389825. 
  3. ^ a b c Huang, S.; Liu, S. Y.; Guo, P.; Zhang, Y. P.; Zhao, E. M. (2009). "What are the closest relatives of the hot-spring snakes (Colubridae, Thermophis), the relict species endemic to the Tibetan Plateau?" (PDF). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 51 (3): 438–446. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2009.02.013. PMID 19249375. 
  4. ^ The Reptile Database.
  5. ^ "Hot-spring snake" is the translation of the Chinese name 温泉蛇.
  6. ^ Beolens B, Watkins M, Grayson M. 2011. The Eponym Dictionary of Reptiles. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. xiii + 296 pp. ISBN 978-1-4214-0135-5. (Thermophis baileyi, p. 14).
  7. ^ a b c Wall, Frank. Some new Asian snakes. Jour. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc., 1907, 17 (3): 612-618
  8. ^ Zhao E.M. Thermophis baileyi. In: E.M. Zhao, et al. Fauna Sinica, Reptilia, vol. 3, Serpentes. Science Press, Beijing, 1998: 318-320.
  9. ^ Hofmann, S.; Kraus, S.; Dorge, T.; Nothnagel, M.; Fritzsche, P.; Miehe, G. (2014). "Effects of Pleistocene climatic fluctuations on the phylogeography, demography and population structure of a high-elevation snake species, Thermophis baileyi, on the Tibetan Plateau". Journal of Biogeography 41: 2162–2172. doi:10.1111/jbi.12358. 
  10. ^ Dorge, T.; Hofmann, S.; Wangdwei, M.; Duoje, L.; Solhøy, T.; Miehe, G. (2007). "The ecological specialist, Thermophis baileyi (Wall, 1907) – new records, distribution and biogeographic conclusions". Herpetological Bulletin 101: 8–12. 
  11. ^ Hofmann, S. (2012). "Population genetic structure and geographic differentiation in the hot spring snake Thermophis baileyi (Serpentes, Colubridae): Indications for glacial refuges in southern-central Tibet". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 63: 396–406. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2012.01.014. 
  12. ^ Malnate, E.V. (1953). "The Taxonomic Status of the Tibetan Colubrid Snake Natrix baileyi". Copeia 1953: 92–96. doi:10.2307/1440132. 
  13. ^ Bernard Hill (narrator) (25 May 2008). "Tibet". Wild China. 13:00 minutes in. BBC. BBC Two. 

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