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Morphological variation and zoogeography of racers (Coluber constrictor) in the central Rocky Mountains

June 1, 1986

We examined 63 specimens of Coluber constrictor from Colorado and Utah using eight external morphological characters that have been used to distinguish C. c. mormon from C. c. flaviventris. We grouped the snakes into three Operational Taxonomic Units (OTU's) in a transect across the Rocky Mountains: the eastern Front Range foothills in Colorado; the inter-mountain region (western slope of Colorado and northeastern Utah); and the western foothills of the Wasatch Mountains in Utah. Statistically significant variation among the OTU's was discovered for ration of tail length to total length, number of central and subcaudal scales, and number of dentary teeth. However, variation is clinal with nearly complete overlap from one end f the transect to the other for each character, suggesting a wide zone of intergradiation in the inter-mountain region. We do not believe reported differences in reproductive parameters between Great Plains and Great Basin racers are sufficient grounds for recognition of species, because clutch size is both geographically variable and dependent on the environment. The distribution of C. constrictor is similar to that of other reptiles with transmontane distributions in the western United States, and we suggest two possible routes of dispersal across the Continental Divide in southwestern Wyoming. Thus, elevation of C. c. mormon to species status is not supported by morphological, reproductive, or zoogeographic evidence.

Publication Year 1986
Title Morphological variation and zoogeography of racers (Coluber constrictor) in the central Rocky Mountains
Authors Paul Stephen Corn, R. Bruce Bury
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Herpetologica
Index ID 70121080
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse