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Authors: Diva Maria Borges-Nojosa1 Daniel Loebmann2 Daniel Cassiano Lima3 Júlio César Lima Melo1 Ana Cecília Giacometti Mai4

1Núcleo Regional de Ofiologia da UFC - NUROFUFC, Depto. Biologia - Universidade Federal do Ceará, Campus do Pici - Bloco 905, CEP 60.455760 – Fortaleza, CE, Brasil. E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
2Departamento de Zoologia, Instituto de Biociências, Universidade Estadual Paulista, Caixa Postal 199, CEP 13.506-970 – Rio Claro, SP, Brasil.
3Universidade Estadual do Ceará, Faculdade de Educação de Itapipoca, Av. Monsenhor Tabosa, s/n, CEP 62.500-000 – Itapipoca, CE, Brasil.
4Departamento de Sistemática e Ecologia. Centro de Ciências Exatas e da Natureza, Universidade Federal da Paraíba, CEP 58059-900 – João Pessoa, PB, Brasil.


The Neotropical colubrid snake Pseustes sulphureus (Wagler, 1824) is widely distributed over rainforests in South America. This species occurs in the Atlantic Forest between Paraíba and São Paulo states (Peters and Orejas-Miranda 1970; Marques and Calleffo 1997), and in the Amazon Forest (see Peters and Orejas-Miranda 1970; Duellman 1978; Gasc and Rodrigues 1980; Chippaux 1986; Starace 1998; Kornacker 1999; Lehr 2001; and others). Here, we report a new record for the species, and extend its distribution to Ceará state, Northeastern Brazil.

Two individuals of P. sulphureus were recorded in Ceará state. A male (204.9 cm total length, TL) was collected at Sítio Olho d’Água dos Tangarás, Pacoti city, on Maciço de Baturité (04º14’09,1” S, 38º55’01,5” W, 840 m), in 8 April 2005 (Figure 1). It was deposited in the collection of the Núcleo Regional de Ofiologia of the Universidade Federal do Ceará (NUROF-UFC) with the following number: CHUFC 2326.

Another specimen, with indeterminate sex (259.1 cm TL) was found and photographed (Figure 2) on 27 March 2005 at the Parque Nacional de Ubajara, Ubajara city (03º50’25” S, 40º54’28” W, 810 m).

Figure 1. Adult of Pseustes sulphureus collected at Maciço Baturité, Pacoti, Ceará state, Brazil. (CHUFC 2326). Photo by J. C. L. Melo.

Figure 2. Adult of Pseustes sulphureus observed at the Parque Nacional de Ubajara, Ceará state, Brazil. Photo by D. Loebmann.


Both site collections are more than 600 meters above sea level. According to Andrade-Lima (1966; 1982), the vegetation covering the hillside of such plateaus can be classified as Floresta Tropical Plúvio-Nebular Perenifólia and Floresta Tropical Plúvio-Nebular Sub-Perenifólia (Figure 3), and is considered as a remaining of the Atlantic Forest. The physiognomic and climatic characteristics of this environment makes possible the establishment of a thick forest with trees up to 15-20 m high, characterized by straight stems and branching high above the ground, and smaller trees with many epiphytes inhabiting underground areas (Hoogmoed et al. 1994; Rodrigues and Borges 1997; Borges-Nojosa and Caramaschi 2003).

Figure 3 . General view of the Floresta Tropical Plúvio-Nebular Perenifólia at the Ubajara Nacional Park, Ceará state, Brazil. Photo by D. Loebmann.


The distances between our records, Ubajara and Pacoti cities respectively, and the closest sites where the species is recorded are: 984 and 1218 km towards West, in Tucuruí city, east of Pará state (Jorge da Silva and Sites 1995), and 750 and 524 km towards Southeast, at Paraíba state (Peters and Orejas-Miranda 1970) (Figure 4).

Both sites in Ceará state, where P. sulphureus was recorded, are known as Brejos de Altitude (relictual mountain forests in the Caatinga ). There are several reasons for such habitat to receive special attention. Those fragments are characterized by the presence of several endemic species such as: the scorpion Broteochactas brejo Lourenço, 1988; the snake Atractus sp. n. (Passos et al., unpublished data); the amphisbenian Amphisbaena sp. n. (Borges-Nojosa and Caramaschi unpublished data); lizards such as Mabuya arajara Rebouças-Spieker, 1981, Leposoma baturitensis Rodrigues and Borges, 1997, and Placosoma sp. n. (Borges-Nojosa and Caramaschi, unpublished data); and threatened anuran species such as Adelophryne baturitensis Hoogmoed, Borges and Cascon, 1994, and Adelophryne maranguapensis Hoogmoed, Borges and Cascon, 1994. The Brejos de Altitude of the Ceará state are the most septentrional locality of Atlantic Forest ecosystems (Borges-Nojosa and Caramaschi 2003).

Those forests can be considered as islands for many habitat-specific species, including here P. sulphureus . Those mountains’s plateau (more than 600 m) includes the dry forest known as “Mata Seca” (Floresta Subcaducifólia Tropical Pluvial ) that completely involves the upper part of the forest, whereas the plateau’s basis (less than 100 m) is surrounded by the open formation “Caatinga Arbórea” (Floresta Caducifólia Espinhosa ) (Figueiredo 1997). The anthropic pressure in this area, mainly by wood exploration, agriculture, and livestock activities, brings increasingly concern. Thus, this threat needs to be controlled urgently in order to conserve and preserve such oases around Northeastern Caatinga and, consequently, their habitat-specific species.

Figure 4. New records of P. sulphureus and their respective closest sites according to the literature. 1 - Paraíba state (Peters and Orejas-Miranda 1970); 2 - Pacoti city on Maciço de Baturité; 3 - Ubajara’s National Park, and; 4 - Tucuruí city, east of Pará state (Jorge da Silva and Sites 1995).


Moreover, the presence of P. sulphureus in the Ceará state shows strong evidence supporting the hypothesis that in the past the Atlantic and Amazon Rain Forest were able to expand and connect themselves during humid phases, extending their limits into where is currently found the semi-arid Caatinga (Andrade-Lima 1982; Coimbra-Filho and Câmara 1996; Borges-Nojosa and Caramaschi 2003; Cavalcante 2005). In 30 years of herpetofauna’s research at Ceará those are the two first records of P. sulphureus . Therefore, we suggest this species should be considered threatened in the Ceará state.


We thanks to José Carneiro who contributed in the field work on Serra de Baturité. Field work in Pacoti conducted by DMBN was financed by Biodiversitas Fundation.

Literature cited

Andrade-Lima, D. 1966. Vegetação. Pp. 11. In IBGE, Atlas Nacional do Brasil. Rio de Janeiro. Conselho Nacional de Geografia.

Andrade-Lima, D. 1982. Present-day refuges in Northeastern Brazil. Pp. 245–251. In G. T. Prance (ed.), Biological diversification in the tropics. New York. Columbia University Press.

Borges-Nojosa, D. M. and Caramaschi, U. 2003. Composição e análise comparativa da diversidade das afinidades biogeográficas dos lagartos e anfisbenídeos (squamata) dos brejos nordestinos. Pp. 463-512. In I. R. Leal, M. Tabarelli and J. M. C. Silva (eds.), Ecologia e Conservação da Caatinga. Recife. UFPE.

Cavalcante, A. M. B. 2005. Jardins Suspensos no Sertão. Scientific American Brasil 32: 66-73. Chippaux, J. P. 1986. Les serpents de la Guyane Française – Collection Faune Tropicale nº

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Figueiredo, M. A. 1997. Unidades Fitoecológicas. Pp: 28-29. In Instituto de Planejamento do Estado do Ceará, Atlas do Ceará. Fortaleza. Secretaria do Planejamento - Governo do Estado do Ceará.

Gasc, J. P. and M. T. Rodrigues. 1980. Liste préliminaire des Serpents de la Guyane Française. Bulletin du Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle 2(4): 559-598.

Hoogmoed, M. S., D. M. Borges and P. Cascon. 1994. Three new species of the genus Adelophryne (Amphibia: Leptodactylidae) from northeastern Brazil, with remarks on the other species of the genus. Zoologische Mededelingen 68: 271-300.

Jorge da Silva, Jr., N. and J. W. Sites, Jr. 1995. Patterns of diversity of Neotropical Squamate reptiles species with emphasis on the Brazilian Amazon and the conservation potential of indigenous reserves. Conservation Biology 9: 873-901.

Kornacker, P. M. 1999. Checklist and key to the snakes of Venezuela. Rheinbach. Pako-Verlag. 270 p.

Lehr, E. 2001. New records for amphibians and reptiles from Departamentos Pasco and Ucayali, Peru. Herpetological Review 32(2): 130-132.

Marques, O. A. V. and M. E. Calleffo. 1997. Geographic distribution. Pseustes sulphureus . Herpetological Review 28(3): 160.

Peters, J. A. and B. Orejas-Miranda. 1970. Catalogue of the Neotropical Squamata. Part I. Snakes. United States National Museum Bulletin 297: 1-347.

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