AboutZoos, Since 2008


A rather thin and long new snake crawls out of one of Earth’s bio­di­ver­sity hotspots

pub­lished 28 Novem­ber 2012 | mod­i­fied 28 Novem­ber 2012

Blunt-headed vine snakeField and lab­o­ra­tory work by a group of zool­o­gists led by Omar Torres-​Carvajal from Museo de Zoología QCAZ, Pon­ti­f­i­cia Uni­ver­si­dad Católica del Ecuador, has resulted in the dis­cov­ery of a new species of blunt-​headed vine snake from the Chocoan forests in north­west­ern Ecuador. This region is part of the Tumbes-​Chocó-​Magdalena hotspot, an area of about 275,000 km2 that lies west of the Andes. The study was pub­lished in the open access jour­nal ZooKeys.

One pos­si­ble expla­na­tion for the dis­junct dis­tri­b­u­tion between the new species and its clos­est rel­a­tive is that the uplift of the Andes frag­mented an ances­tral pop­u­la­tion into two, each of which evolved into a dif­fer­ent species, one in the Chocó region and the other in the Amazon
Omar Torres-​Carvajal, Museo de Zoología QCAZ, Pon­ti­f­i­cia Uni­ver­si­dad Católica del Ecuador »

Blunt-​headed vine snakes live in an area com­pris­ing Mex­ico and Argentina, and are dif­fer­ent from all other New World snakes in hav­ing a very thin body, dis­pro­por­tion­ately slen­der neck, big eyes, and a blunt head. They live in trees and hunt frogs and lizards at night. The new species described by Torres-​Carvajal and his col­lab­o­ra­tors was named Iman­todes chocoen­sis and increases the num­ber of species in this group of snakes to seven.

Snakes col­lected as far back as 1994 and deposited in sev­eral Ecuado­rian and Amer­i­can nat­ural his­tory muse­ums were also exam­ined. The authors were soon sur­prised with an inter­est­ing dis­cov­ery. Some indi­vid­u­als from the Ecuado­rian Chocó lacked a big scale on their face that is present in all other blunt-​headed vine snakes from the New World. Other fea­tures, as well as DNA evi­dence, indi­cate that these Chocoan snakes actu­ally belong to a new species. DNA data also sug­gest that its clos­est rel­a­tive is a species that inhab­its the Ama­zon on the other side of the Andes.

(Source: PEN­SOFT News, 28.11.2012)

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