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  1. #11
    Registered User Snagrio's Avatar
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    Re: "Black rat snake" identification troubles

    Quote Originally Posted by aurum View Post
    To go a little more in depth for your original taxonomy question, as Bogertophis said most North American rat snakes used to be under the species Elaphe obsoleta with various subspecies for black rat snakes (Elaphe obsoleta obsoleta), yellow rat snakes (Elaphe obsoleta quadrivittata), everglades (Elaphe obsoleta rosalleni), etc.
    Then, with new DNA evidence proving North American rat snakes to be genetically distinct from old world rat snakes (also in the Elaphe genus), the genus name for NA rat snakes switched from Elaphe to Pantherophis.

    The newest and biggest change/discovery, made a few years ago, scraps all those subspecies based on phenotype, and instead identifies only three genetically distinct NA rat snake species. The genetic differences align with three different ranges, so as of right now we have the Eastern rat snake (Pantherophis alleghaniensis), the midland rat snake (Pantherophis spiloides), and the Western rat snake (Pantherophis obsoletus).

    It's important to remember that these species are NOT based on phenotype, so within the midland rat snake species you might find one snake that looks like what was called a "gray rat snake" and another snake that looks like what was called a "black rat snake," but they are the same species. Conversely, you could have two snakes that look like a "black rat snake," but, depending on where they were found, it's entirely possible that one is a Western rat snake and the other is a midland rat snake.
    Based on location, your snake was probably a midland rat snake (also sometimes called the gray rat snake even though it's not based on phenotype), scientific name Pantherophis spiloides.

    All that said, the hobby very much still operates under the common names of the initial subspecies, and that probably won't change any time soon. I hope this was interesting and not too confusing--there are definitely more resources out there if you want to learn more.
    Spiloides does seem like the most likely candidate, especially since that's the name given via a Ohio Division of Wildlife document I found online.

    Thanks for the thorough answer!

  2. The Following User Says Thank You to Snagrio For This Useful Post:

    aurum (12-01-2021)

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