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Taxonomic history

Taxonomic changes

In 1893, G. A. Boulenger (1858-1937) found Hubrecht’s Leiopython gracilis to belong to the same species as the one described by Peters and Doria (1878), Liasis albertisii and synonymized it with the latter.

Later Olive Griffith Stull (1905-xxxx) conducted a checklist of the boid snakes placing the White-lipped python as subspecies of the Brown water python (Liasis fuscus Peters, 1873). Although the author had given no explanation for this action (it should have been published later, but actually never was), this placement was widely accepted by subsequent workers. It was in 1960, when Eric Worrel examined the morphology of the skull of both subspecies finding differences that let him raise the subspecies back to specific rank.

In a comparative study of the anatomy and morphology of the boid snakes of New Guinea and Indonesia, McDowell (1975) placed the White-lipped python into his so-called “Liasis boa”-Group which contained besides Liasis boa Fitzinger, 1843 [= Bothrochilus boa] the species Liasis albertisii and Liasis childreni [= Antareisa childreni]. The other group was the “Liasis olivaceus”-Group which contained Liasis mackloti, Liasis fuscus, and Liasis papuanus. McDowell noticed that there are two different races of White-lipped pythons, a northern- and a southern one with the latter being much larger and different in color from the former. These differences were also found in specimens available to herpetoculture.

McDowell also discussed the taxonomic problems with the genus Liasis. Gray had not designated a type specimen for this genus and McDowell considered the species Liasis childreni to be the type whereas Cogger et al. (1983) assumed that Boa amethistina Schneider, 1801 (which actually was Liasis mackloti) was the type.

To solve this Problem, Cogger et al. (1983) synonymized the genus Liasis with Morelia Gray, 1842 and all species included within Liasis were placed into the genus Bothrochilus Fitzinger, 1843. Richard Wells and Ross Wellington had a different approach in their list of the Australian fauna. They placed the White-lipped python into the genus Lisalia Gray, 1849. However, their work was heavily criticized by other scientist and not widely followed.

Few years later, Underwood and Stimson (1990) examined the relationship of the pythonid snakes by their anatomy and morphology. Based on their examination, the authors synonymized Liasis and Bothrochilus with Morelia. The White-lipped python therefore became Morelia albertisii.

Three years later, Arnold Kluge (1993) examined 121 anatomical and morphological characters in his phylogenetic study. His findings were partially different from those of Underwood and Stimson (1990). Kluge found notable anatomical and morphological differences between the White-lipped python and other pythons, hence, resurrected the genus Leiopython for the White-lipped python again.

In 2000, an Australian snake handler by the name of Raymond Hoser published a paper in the first issue of a new herpetocultural magazine, "Ophidia Review" therein introducing one new species Leiopython hoserae, and two new subspecies Leiopython albertisii barkeri and Leiopython albertisii bennetti to the genus Leiopython. The former subspecies was considered a nomen nudum (a term used in the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN) for names that are not accompanied by a definition or description in accordance with article 13.1.1) because Hoser had not provided any diagnostic characters to separate this subspecies from the nominate subspecies that are in accordance with article 13.1.1 of the Code. The two other names were not used until Schleip (2008) in his revision of the genus Leiopython provided proper re-descriptions of these taxa and showing their biological validity, however, assuming that the names were validly published under the Code.

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