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 Post subject: Ring-Necked Snake ID problems in the field
PostPosted: February 28th, 2012, 5:22 am 
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Location: S. Illinois
I wanted to post this picture of a Ring-Necked Snake that was found in Vermillion Co. Illinois. Right off the bat one has to assume the picture will be of a Northern Ring-Necked, but all of the individuals that I have encountered in Vermillion Co. have one defining similarity, they look, as far as belly pattern ID, to be text-book examples of Southern Ring-Necked Snakes.
Image

All of the individuals I have encountered in this area exhibit the same pattern. I know this becomes a real problem in some areas of Shawnee National Forest where 3 subspecies mere into a conglomeration of patterns. I just wanted to get some opinions on your experiences with field ID'ing these guys accurately.


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 Post subject: Re: Ring-Necked Snake ID problems in the field
PostPosted: February 28th, 2012, 5:46 am 

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I have to admit. From my years of surveys in Wisconsin, I gave up on using belly patterns and trying to ID these anymore. Within the same county, and often under the same board or RR tie, there were multiple variations that could have been any of three subspecies according to the field guides.


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 Post subject: Re: Ring-Necked Snake ID problems in the field
PostPosted: February 28th, 2012, 6:32 am 
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You can't use the belly reliably in Southern Illinois. I've found the whole gamut of subspecies if you use the ventral patterns. Pingleton says that this is because it's the collision zone for East meets West, meets North and South. That makes sense to me, and is why this is such a rich area for herps.


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 Post subject: Re: Ring-Necked Snake ID problems in the field
PostPosted: February 28th, 2012, 6:48 am 
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justinm wrote:
You can't use the belly reliably in Southern Illinois. I've found the whole gamut of subspecies if you use the ventral patterns. Pingleton says that this is because it's the collision zone for East meets West, meets North and South. That makes sense to me, and is why this is such a rich area for herps.


Yeah, Southern Illinois is a mess of ringnecks (and black/speckled kings), but Vermillion Co. is a fry cry from there. I have just always had a problem with using the belly patterns to distinguish the subspecies. These were the first Ring-necks that I was able to find in Vermillion Co. and was surprised when the pattern was such. We found 4 in one day in two separate areas about 25 miles apart and all of them matched the Southern patterns. I'm just wondering if locality becomes the main factor in ID's for this species for the purpose of record keeping?

jimoo742 wrote:
I have to admit. From my years of surveys in Wisconsin, I gave up on using belly patterns and trying to ID these anymore. Within the same county, and often under the same board or RR tie, there were multiple variations that could have been any of three subspecies according to the field guides.


This is about where I am as well...I'm more apt to just say Diadophis punctatus and leave it at that


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 Post subject: Re: Ring-Necked Snake ID problems in the field
PostPosted: February 28th, 2012, 7:32 am 
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Your animal is Diadophis punctatus. Individuals in an intergrade zone generally cannot, and should not, be assigned to one subspecies or another. We've had the disucssion on here many times, but subspecies concept may have out-lived its usefulness in many situations (this one included). This is especially the case where one 'form' grades gradually into another, forming more of a cline of variation. Examples like Lampropeltis getula and triangulum come to mind, as do Coluber constrictor and your Diadophis.

-Cole


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 Post subject: Re: Ring-Necked Snake ID problems in the field
PostPosted: February 28th, 2012, 7:47 am 
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Cole Grover wrote:
Your animal is Diadophis punctatus. Individuals in an intergrade zone generally cannot, and should not, be assigned to one subspecies or another. We've had the disucssion on here many times, but subspecies concept may have out-lived its usefulness in many situations (this one included). This is especially the case where one 'form' grades gradually into another, forming more of a cline of variation. Examples like Lampropeltis getula and triangulum come to mind, as do Coluber constrictor and your Diadophis.

-Cole


But, is East Central Illinois (Vermillion Co.) considered to be an intergrade zone? That is what I am questioning. I know southern Illinois is an intergrade zone and has it's own distinct ID issues, but East Central Illinois should technically be a cut and dry Northern Ring-neck area, unless I am wrong. There are no searchable records in the database for ring-necks in Vermillion Co. so I have nothing to compare to see if I have a normally occurring representative of the species from that area, but I would assume so since the only ones I have found in that area are all marked the same as the photo I posted...perhaps the intergrade zone is far more reaching than I am aware of?


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 Post subject: Re: Ring-Necked Snake ID problems in the field
PostPosted: February 28th, 2012, 7:50 am 
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Thanks, Cole. Well said.


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 Post subject: Re: Ring-Necked Snake ID problems in the field
PostPosted: February 28th, 2012, 8:15 am 
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kayfabe wrote:
But, is East Central Illinois (Vermillion Co.) considered to be an intergrade zone? ...perhaps the intergrade zone is far more reaching than I am aware of?


Yes, the genetic influence (via gene flow) from 'forms' on either side of an intergrade zone can sometimes be seen for hundreds of miles (or more) from where the field guides map them. Intergrade zones tend to be smaller (more narrow) where selective pressures strongly favor one set of traits on one side of the intergrade zone and another set of traits on the other. By contrast, intergrade zones can be very broad where selective pressures aren't as strong. The evolution of ventral spotting in Diadophis and its variation between populations may have more to do with genetic drift than selective pressures.

In short, I'd call that simply Diadophis punctatus and include a photo or two. That's the most accurate.


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 Post subject: Re: Ring-Necked Snake ID problems in the field
PostPosted: February 28th, 2012, 8:46 am 
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It may seem tedious but start collecting data along with ventral pics of all the Ringnecks you're seeing. Then maybe after you have a decent sample you can start to draw some conclusions. I doubt it in all honesty, but it's not impossible and would have merit.


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 Post subject: Re: Ring-Necked Snake ID problems in the field
PostPosted: February 28th, 2012, 10:20 am 
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Thanks guys...I'm new to the data collecting aspect of the hobby, but am having a blast doing it. For now I'm going to stick to not using sub-species naming until I have much more data. Really wish I would have been keeping data for all these years...but later is better than never :thumb:


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 Post subject: Re: Ring-Necked Snake ID problems in the field
PostPosted: February 28th, 2012, 10:31 am 
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Yea belly patterning on Ringnecks are one of the features that i totally ignore. In Eastern KY, where only Northerns are found, I have found ones with patterning displayed from all the subspecies, but they are without a doubt Northerns. I have found Southern Ringnecks with a solid ring, not broken as indicated for Southerns in field guides. Their is so much variation that it isnt even funny. That is why i love Ringnecks so much!


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 Post subject: Re: Ring-Necked Snake ID problems in the field
PostPosted: February 28th, 2012, 10:46 am 
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I'm not sure when it will be published but there is a ringneck phylogeny in the works.

It will probably clear up a lot of this confusion or alternatively make things even more confused. I'm looking forward to it.


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 Post subject: Re: Ring-Necked Snake ID problems in the field
PostPosted: February 28th, 2012, 11:56 am 
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Bryan,

I don't have a lot of access to journals like that. Would you kindly update us when that comes out so that we can all learn or get confused by it.


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 Post subject: Re: Ring-Necked Snake ID problems in the field
PostPosted: February 28th, 2012, 12:11 pm 
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justinm wrote:
Bryan,

I don't have a lot of access to journals like that. Would you kindly update us when that comes out so that we can all learn or get confused by it.




THIS ^^^^ :D


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 Post subject: Re: Ring-Necked Snake ID problems in the field
PostPosted: February 28th, 2012, 1:02 pm 
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Cole Grover wrote:
Your animal is Diadophis punctatus. Individuals in an intergrade zone generally cannot, and should not, be assigned to one subspecies or another. We've had the disucssion on here many times, but subspecies concept may have out-lived its usefulness in many situations (this one included). This is especially the case where one 'form' grades gradually into another, forming more of a cline of variation. Examples like Lampropeltis getula and triangulum come to mind, as do Coluber constrictor and your Diadophis.

-Cole



And as I have said in pretty much all of the other discussions, you SHOULD label it as what ever subspecies it keys out to the closest. If we record those things, then we would either show that subspecies boundaries are wrong, that a certain subspecies is invalid, or that the whole premise of subspecies is bunk.


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 Post subject: Re: Ring-Necked Snake ID problems in the field
PostPosted: February 28th, 2012, 1:31 pm 
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psyon wrote:
Cole Grover wrote:
Your animal is Diadophis punctatus. Individuals in an intergrade zone generally cannot, and should not, be assigned to one subspecies or another. We've had the disucssion on here many times, but subspecies concept may have out-lived its usefulness in many situations (this one included). This is especially the case where one 'form' grades gradually into another, forming more of a cline of variation. Examples like Lampropeltis getula and triangulum come to mind, as do Coluber constrictor and your Diadophis.

-Cole



And as I have said in pretty much all of the other discussions, you SHOULD label it as what ever subspecies it keys out to the closest. If we record those things, then we would either show that subspecies boundaries are wrong, that a certain subspecies is invalid, or that the whole premise of subspecies is bunk.


I think subspecies based solely on morphology is bunk but when morphology and genetic lineages largely coincide, they are valid.

Completely coinciding with lineages I don't think is necessary because features of one subspecies may be brought into another via introgression from a previous contact zone (or convergent evolution).

I think Southern Alligator lizards show this, where California and San Diego subspecies are morphologically different and have different lineages except part of southern Sierra shows San Diego lineage but morphologically is closer to California subspecies (someone correct me if I'm wrong).

In those cases I think it is best to subspecies ID by range map because if the two lineages are diverging and speciate in the future, the southern Sierra would be part of San Diego species and not California. I think that's what is suggested happened with the getula split but I don't buy they actually have split.

Anyway, point I'm trying to make is that I don't think morphology can always be relied upon to properly ID subspecies level because the morphology may not be a good indicator of recent family tree relationship within a complex, and that's probably what subspecies should indicate if taxonomy is going to be a hypothesis of evolutionary family tree.


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 Post subject: Re: Ring-Necked Snake ID problems in the field
PostPosted: February 28th, 2012, 1:44 pm 
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FunkyRes wrote:
Anyway, point I'm trying to make is that I don't think morphology can always be relied upon to properly ID subspecies level because the morphology may not be a good indicator of recent family tree relationship within a complex


How old are the subspecies we currently use though? If they were defined prior to when DNA was discovered, let alone undertstood, then the morphology is pretty much what defines it.


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 Post subject: Re: Ring-Necked Snake ID problems in the field
PostPosted: February 28th, 2012, 1:50 pm 
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psyon wrote:
FunkyRes wrote:
Anyway, point I'm trying to make is that I don't think morphology can always be relied upon to properly ID subspecies level because the morphology may not be a good indicator of recent family tree relationship within a complex


How old are the subspecies we currently use though? If they were defined prior to when DNA was discovered, let alone undertstood, then the morphology is pretty much what defines it.


Most were defined pre DNA but some have been adjusted post DNA or invalidated post DNA, just like species descriptions have been adjusted post DNA. New tools to study the organism results in updated to the hypothesis.


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 Post subject: Re: Ring-Necked Snake ID problems in the field
PostPosted: February 28th, 2012, 1:52 pm 
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Excuse me gents, but hasn't this issue of subspecies validity been worked out to the point where it is 100% unanimously agreed upon? I thought some guy was like, "hey i just realized we've been putting false emphasis on arbitrary characteristics that have no real value in asserting how closely related two specimens are...." Or something like that... And then literally every single person involved in the classification of organisms was like, "hey that guy's absolutely right". And from that point on the entire scientific community worldwide stopped recognizing subspecies and deemed them more misleading than anything else.

That's where i thought we were at with this.


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 Post subject: Re: Ring-Necked Snake ID problems in the field
PostPosted: February 28th, 2012, 1:57 pm 
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Joe Farah wrote:
Excuse me gents, but hasn't this issue of subspecies validity been worked out to the point where it is 100% unanimously agreed upon? I thought some guy was like, "hey i just realized we've been putting false emphasis on arbitrary characteristics that have no real value in asserting how closely related two specimens are...." Or something like that... And then literally every single person involved in the classification of organisms was like, "hey that guy's absolutely right". And from that point on the entire scientific community worldwide stopped recognizing subspecies and deemed them more misleading than anything else.

That's where i thought we were at with this.


Yes, but not everyone is a scientist, and there are plenty of people fascinated with the varying colors of animals across their range, and they still like to call them different things.


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 Post subject: Re: Ring-Necked Snake ID problems in the field
PostPosted: February 28th, 2012, 2:06 pm 
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psyon wrote:
Joe Farah wrote:
Excuse me gents, but hasn't this issue of subspecies validity been worked out to the point where it is 100% unanimously agreed upon? I thought some guy was like, "hey i just realized we've been putting false emphasis on arbitrary characteristics that have no real value in asserting how closely related two specimens are...." Or something like that... And then literally every single person involved in the classification of organisms was like, "hey that guy's absolutely right". And from that point on the entire scientific community worldwide stopped recognizing subspecies and deemed them more misleading than anything else.

That's where i thought we were at with this.


Yes, but not everyone is a scientist, and there are plenty of people fascinated with the varying colors of animals across their range, and they still like to call them different things.


I was just clowning around... I'm not at all qualified to contribute to this conversation. I am qualified to brew some decaff, make some popcorn and hope this thread deteriorates into some sort of nasty ego-driven pissing match.


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 Post subject: Re: Ring-Necked Snake ID problems in the field
PostPosted: February 28th, 2012, 3:16 pm 
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justinm wrote:
Bryan,

I don't have a lot of access to journals like that. Would you kindly update us when that comes out so that we can all learn or get confused by it.


When the paper comes out I'll definitely post something.

This is exactly the situation where Joe Collins and his CNAH mailing list are sorely missed. I really took it for granted until now what a valuable service Joe provided in disseminating herp related information.


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 Post subject: Re: Ring-Necked Snake ID problems in the field
PostPosted: February 28th, 2012, 4:04 pm 
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Here's an interesting paper on Diadophis phylogeography: http://www.naherpetology.org/pdf_files/941.pdf. There are some major "issues" with this paper, though (as with most of the work done by one of the authors).


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 Post subject: Re: Ring-Necked Snake ID problems in the field
PostPosted: February 28th, 2012, 4:14 pm 
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That's the paper I was thinking of Cole. I didn't realize it had been published already.

Do they discuss subspecies or recomend splitting D. punctatus into seperate species?


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 Post subject: Re: Ring-Necked Snake ID problems in the field
PostPosted: February 28th, 2012, 4:24 pm 
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Bryan Hamilton wrote:
Do they discuss subspecies or recomend splitting D. punctatus into seperate species?


It's strongly suggested, but "a taxonomic revision should not be undertaken without further sampling", surprisingly enough. They conclude that the "barriers to gene flow" that they identify for large, strong-swimming species (like Pantherophis guttatus and obsoletus, for example) don't seem to be a genetic barrier for this small burrowing species. :|


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 Post subject: Re: Ring-Necked Snake ID problems in the field
PostPosted: February 28th, 2012, 4:30 pm 
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apparently I must have missed some previous arguments about this subject...Sorry. As the new guy in the forums I should have searched harder to see if the discussion had already taken place. BUT in the meantime I may grab some popcorn and do some reading of the article that was posted. A quick read through only made my head hurt even more though. I see some say Diadophis punctatus and some say it is a Diadophis p. punctatus If the current standard for the database is to ID it as the closest match then that is what I will do for the time being. I'm not here to rock the boat, just want to know that what I am adding is accurate to the best of my ability. I'm in no way shape or form a scientist or even extremely well versed in taxonomy. All I know is what I can take in from others. I'm just a guy who loves creepy crawlies and hiking and doing both at the same time! :beer:


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 Post subject: Re: Ring-Necked Snake ID problems in the field
PostPosted: February 28th, 2012, 4:42 pm 
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The authors are still working on Diadophis or were last I checked. I wonder if they'll get enough samples to make any taxonomic recomendations.


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 Post subject: Re: Ring-Necked Snake ID problems in the field
PostPosted: February 28th, 2012, 5:07 pm 
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kayfabe wrote:
If the current standard for the database is to ID it as the closest match then that is what I will do for the time being.


It's not a standard per se but rather what many do.

Western Toads in Shasta County I leave subspecies off because IMHO they appear to be intergrades and while some (to me) look more influenced by boreal subspecies and others don't, I'm guessing that the species will likely undergo some revisions anyway and may be a cryptic species complex, so I don't enter subspecies for them. I suspect that when they are investigated, we'll end up with several species and no subspecies, and the species won't match our defined subspecies ranges.

The one zonata I have was a DOR - field guides indicate intergrade where I am but I personally reject that notion, so I entered it as St. Helena. I reject an intergrade zone that ranges from California up into Oregon and WA state but only has contact with the "parent" subspecies down in CA. That's not an intergrade zone. I consider St. Helena to be all of St. Helena + the intergrade zone, so that's what I enter them as.

Southern Alligator Lizards - if they have red pigment on back, I enter as California subspecies. A few looked like Oregon to me so I entered them as Oregon subspecies. Sheds I've found and neonates I just do species level. Oregon subspecies appears to be same lineage as California from what I've read and I suspect it will be invalidated, so in that case, I do enter what it looks like the most to me because in that case, it appears that morphology is the only distinguishing characteristic, they are really the same thing though.

So I'm not consistent. And I don't feel bad about it because the researcher requesting my data will look at the data in a way that best suits his or her research, and won't blanket accept my subspecies level identifications.


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 Post subject: Re: Ring-Necked Snake ID problems in the field
PostPosted: February 28th, 2012, 5:49 pm 
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I find Ringers in mainland south FL a few times a year that have absolutely no markings whatsoever on the belly. They're of course Southerns, but ventral in this circumstance would be no help in ID.

Tim


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