Hypsirhynchus ater Gosse, 1851

Black racer, Jamaican racer, Jamaican tree-snake, Jamaican tree snake



Taxonomy & Nomenclature

Synonym/s: Alsophis ater Gosse, 1851; Dromicus ater Gosse, 1851; Natrix atra Gosse, 1851; Ocyophis ater Gosse, 1851; Hypsirhynchus capistratus Gosse, 1851


The Black or Jamaican Racer was transferred to the genus Hypsirhynchus by (Hedges et al. 2011) from the genus Alsophis based upon the fact that it:

"lacks a loreal scale, an uncommon character (the absence of the scale) in the Subtribe Alsophiina that occurs in a few species of the genera Hypsirhynchus (H. callilaemus of Jamaica, and H. ferox and H. scalaris of Hispaniola), Ialtris (I. haetianus of Hispaniola) and Magliophis (M. exiguus of the Puerto Rican Bank)."[/i] (pp. 18)

Hypsirhynchus capistratus was described in the same work as Hypsirhynchus ater (Gosse, 1851) but was synonymized with the latter by (Boulenger, 1893). However, (Hedges et al. 2009) suggests that it may in fact be a valid species:

"Another related species, H. capistratus, was described from Jamaica at the same time that H. ater was described (Gosse 1851), but it was synonymized with H. ater by Boulenger (1893). Although we do not recognize H. capistratus here, the original description suggests that H. capistratus could be a valid species; additional study is needed."


Conservation Status


Last record: 1900 (Hedges, Wilson & Gibson, 2016); c.1929 (early 1970's?)

IUCN RedList status: Critically Endangered (Possibly Extinct)


Henderson (1992:6) cites a personal communication with R. I. Crombie, who communicated the fact that a shed skin of H. ater was collected in the early 1970's. Unfortunately no more information is reported regards this potentially immensely important discovery.



Jamaica, the Caribbean


Biology & Ecology










Original scientific description:

Gosse, P. H. (1851). A Naturalist’s Sojurn in Jamaica. London: Longman, Brown, Green and Longmans. 508 pp.


Other references:

Boulenger, G. A. (1893). Catalogue of snakes in the British Museum (Natural History), Vol. 1. London: Longmans and Company, 448 pp.

Burbrink, Frank T., Ruane, Sara and Pyron, R. Alexander. (2012). When are adaptive radiations replicated in areas? Ecological opportunity and unexceptional diversification in West Indian dipsadine snakes (Colubridae: Alsophiini). Journal of Biogeography 39: 465-475.

Day, David. (1981). The Doomsday Book of Animals: A Natural History of Vanished Species. New York, N.Y.: The Viking Press.

Hedges, S. Blair, Couloux, Arnaud and Vidal, Nicolas. (2009). Molecular phylogeny, classification, and biogeography of West Indian racer snakes of the Tribe Alsophiini (Squamata, Dipsadidae, Xenodontinae). Zootaxa 2067: 1-28.

Hedges, B., Wilson, B.S. & Gibson, R. 2016. Hypsirhynchus ater. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T940A71739234. Downloaded on 17 December 2016.

Henderson, Robert W. (1992). Consequences of predator introductions and habitat destruction on amphibians and reptiles in the post-Columbus West Indies. Caribbean Journal of Science 28: 1-10.

Henderson, Rober W. and Powell, R. (1996). Alsophis ater. Catalogue of American Amphibians and Reptiles 633: 1-2.

Mittermeier, Russell A. (1972). Jamaica’s Endangered Species. Oryx 11(4): 258-262.

Powell, Robert and Henderson, Robert W. (2012). Island lists of West Indian amphibians and reptiles. Bulletin of the Florida Museum of Natural History 51(2): 85-166. [considers this taxon possibly extinct]

Regalado, Pedro Galán. (2015). Los Anfibios y Reptiles Extinguidos: Herpetofauna Desaparecida Desde el Año 1500. Monografías de la Universidade da Coruña 155: 1-509.

Zaher, H., Grazziotin, F.G., Cadle, J.E., Murphy, R.W., Moura-Leite, J.C. & Bonatto, S.L. (2009). Molecular phylogeny of advanced snakes (Serpentes, Caenophidia) with an emphasis on South America xenodontines: a revised classification and descriptions of new taxa. Papéis Avulsos de Zoologia 49: 115-153.


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