Original description: Noted (Dr. K.W.J Boelen 1952), BRONGERSMA, L.D. (1953). Notes on New Guinean Reptiles and Amphibians II. – Proc. Koninkl. Nederl. Akademie van Wetenschappen, Amsterdam, 56 (3): 317-325. Type locality: New Guinea. Synonyms: Liasis boeleni; Liasis taronga; Python boeleni. Common Names: Boelen’s python, Black python. These data were complemented by Brongersma in 1969 as follows:
“NOTE ON LIASIS BOELENI BRONGERSMA” BY L. D. BRONGERSMA. (Communicated at the meeting of February 22, 1969) This species was described by me from two specimens from the Wissel Lakes area in the central mountain range of Western New Guinea (Brongersma, 1953: 317, pl. I figs. 1-5). Two additional specimens were acquired in 1955 (Brongersma, 1956: 451, figs, lc, d, 3). Early in October 1961, Dr C. J. Royer obtained a live female of this species to the west of Lake Paniai, Wissel Lakes area; this snake he presented to the Royal Zoological Gardens, Rotterdam, where it lived till February 19th, 1963. After its death the snake was sent to the Rijksniuseum van Natuurlijke Historie, Leiden. Thus, we now dispose of the following five specimens, all from the Wissel Lakes area:
- Dimija, December 25th, 1952, leg. Dr K. W. J. Boelen, RMNH 9651, holotype;
- Flat skin, Okaitadi, 1952, leg. Rev. J. Rose, RMNH 9652, paratype;
- Okito, March 1955, leg. R. den Haas, RMNH 10190;
- Wissel Lakes area, 1955, leg. R. den Haas, RMNH 10191;
- West of Lake Paniai, October 1961, leg. Dr C. J. Royer; don. Royal Zoological Gardens, Rotterdam, February 19th, 1963, RMNH 14097.
As was to be expected, the specimen has also been recorded from elsewhere in New Guinea, be it under another name. A specimen, stated to have been taken at Lae, Territory of New Guinea, was described by Worrell (1958: 26, figs. 1-4) as belonging to a new species, which he named Liasis taronga. The description and figures published by Worrell clearly show this snake from Lae to be a specimen of Liasis boeleni. If the holotype of L. taronga was really taken at Lae this would mean that L. boeleni has a very great vertical distribution, viz., from about sea-level (Lae) to about 1,750 m (or about 5,700 feet, Lake Paniai). However, I would not deem it impossible that the holotype of L. taronga was not taken at Lae itself, but in the mountains somewhat more to the interior.
The scale counts for the four specimens from the Wissel Lakes area and those for the holotype of L. taronga (taken from Worrell, 1958) have been indicated in table 1. The fact that the holotype of L. taronga has a slightly lower number of ventrals (282, as opposed to 292-298 in the Wissel Lakes specimens) is negligible; if a larger number of specimens from various localities becomes available, the range of variation will probably show to be even greater. There seems to be no marked difference in the number of ventrals between the sexes, two males from the Wissel Lakes area having 292 to 295 ventrals, and two females from the same area 292 to 298 ventrals. It is interesting that the two females have mutilated tails, ending in very blunt tips, whilst in the males the tails apparently are complete. Usually two upper labials enter the orbit, but in RMNH 14097 (Pl. II fig. 3) only a single upper labial (the 6th) forms the lower border of the orbit. In RMNH 10191 (Pl. I fig. 3) and 14097, the mental is rather small and the lower labials of the first pair meet behind it. In RMNH 9651 (Pl. I fig. 1), the left first lower labial is much shorter than the one on the right side, but the two still just touch behind the mental. In RMNH 10190 (Pl. I fig. 4) the labials of the first pair are separated from each other by the mental, which reaches the median groove of the chin.
The only feature mentioned by WORRELL that is rather puzzling concerns the pitted lower labials. WORRELL (1958: 26) states that in his specimen the third to seventh lower labials are deeply pitted; in the specimens examined by me the pitted lower labials are situated more posteriorly (7th to 13th). However, if WORRELL counted the pitted lower labials from the rear to the front, the third to seventh from the rear would be the eighth to twelfth as counted from the front, and this would agree with the situation found in the other specimens.
There is some variation in the coloration of the chin and throat, and this may be related to the sex of the specimens, the males showing more black markings. The holotype of L. boeleni (Pl. I fig. 1) is a female, and the chin and throat are yellowish with only a few small, black spots. The female RMNH 14097 (Pl. I fig. 2) also shows but little black on the chin and throat, although it is somewhat more strongly marked than the holotype and it has a black spot at the base of the first two ventrals. The two males (RMNH 10190, 10191) are more distinctly marked with black on the chin and throat; in RMNH 10190 (Pl. I fig. 4) the black markings are more numerous than in RMNH 10191 (Pl. I fig. 3). In RMNH 10190 black spots are present on the anterior seven ventrals. RMNH 10191 has black spots on the second to fifth ventrals, but these are not visible in Pl. I fig. 3, because they are covered by the preceding ventrals. Black markings are also distinct on the chin and throat of the holotype of L. taronga (WORRELL, 1958: fig. 2), which is also a male.
The synonymous description of Liasis taronga by Worell (1958) referred to herein reads as follows (plate with four figures not reproduced): “A New Papuan Python” by Eric WORRELL. This spectacular python was sent to Sir Edward Hallstrom in 1955. It was kept for several months in the reptile section of Taronga Zoological Park, Sydney, and then died from a head infection.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS: Sir Edward Hallstrom, chairman of Taronga Zoological Park Trust, gave me permission to describe the species. Mr. O. Cann. curator of reptiles at Taronga Zoological Park assisted me with the taking of photographs in life. Mr. A. Loveridge of Harvard College, Cambridge, Massachusetts checked the first draft and offered valuable suggestions which have been incorporated in this paper. The drawings were skillfully reconstructed from photographs by Mr. J. Dwyer as the head of the type is swollen and distorted by the infection responsible for its death.
LIASIS TARONGA. sp. nov.
Type: An adult ? taken at Lae, Papua, by Mr. T. G. Downs, District Commissioner of Goroka, in 1955. It is now lodged in the Australian Museum. Sydney.
Diagnosis: The scalation most nearly resembles Liasis childreni Gray, of northern Australia. Characterized by 48 midbody scale-rows; 282 ventrals; single anal; 57 pairs of subcaudals. Yellow and black above; underside anteriorly lemon-yellow, posterior half black.
Description: Head distinct from neck, form robust. Premaxillary teeth present. Grooved rostral visible from above; internasals less than half length of anterior prefrontals which are separated from frontal by a small ovate azygous shield; frontal almost as broad as long, about as long as but wider than supraoculars: 2 pairs of parietals, posterior pair followed by, border of enlarged shields: single nasal: loreal area broken into small shields; 2 preoculars: 2 postoculars; temporals broken into small scales; 8 supralabials, first to third grooved, fifth and sixth enter eye; 14 infra-labials, third to seventh deeply pitted. Total length 246 cm. or 8 ft. 2 in.; tail 25 cm. or 10 inches.
Colour: Above, blue black, a yellow spot inside each nostril, labials posteriorly edged with yellow: flanks with yellow diagonal stripes that merge into the belly colouring. Below, anteriorly lemon yellow with black spots under head; posterior half black with occasional yellow spots.Tags: boelen, new guinea, specimen, zoological gardens