Sunday, April 2, 2023

Bibliotheca Herpetologica 17(3)

McKeever, B. 2023. Mark Catesby’s Snakes of Carolina: A Review. Bibliotheca Herpetologica 17(3):10–31. Published April 2, 2023.

With his 1747 two-volume work, The Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands, (The Natural History) Mark Catesby published the first illustrated guide to a North American flora and fauna. He illustrated, in color, over 400 plant and animal taxa including twenty he identified as snakes, although one of them (his plate 59) is actually the Eastern Glass Lizard (Ophisaurus ventralis). Beginning with Linnaeus (1758, 1766), identification of some of the remaining nineteen has been uncontroversial, and others problematic. His plate 58 (the Wampum Snake), continues to elude complete confidence in its identification. James L. Reveal (2015) wrote “Taxonomic disagreements among experts, especially regarding the identity of Catesby’s fishes and snakes, exist and are bound to continue.” Although he was known to have preserved snakes in alcoholic spirits, specimens are not known to be extant, and Linnaeus’s system of using ventral and subcaudal scale counts to classify snakes was developed decades after Catesby’s work. Each of his accounts includes a color figure of the snake in question, an English language name, a Latin descriptive name, and a description that most often includes color, pattern, size, and natural history notes.

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