Tuesday, 16 August 2016

The Aztec treasure unearthed: New earth snake species discovered in Mexico

Date: August 11, 2016
Source: Pensoft Publishers

A new gem has been added to the vast treasure of Mexican reptiles. Mexican scientists recently described a new and strikingly colored species of earth snake from the mountains of Puebla and Veracruz in east-central Mexico.

These burrowing reptiles are seldom encountered and, consequently, have been poorly studied. Furthermore, several species have restricted distribution, making them particularly vulnerable to extinction. The description of the new species was published in the open access journal ZooKeys.

Looking to shed light on the evolutionary history and diversity of earth snakes, Luis Canseco-Márquez and Adrián Nieto-Montes de Oca, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, started to collect samples of these rarely seen critters.

A sample from east-central Mexico exhibited a unique set of traits among earth snakes, one of them showing striking orange and black banding pattern. They realized that these snakes represented a new species and proceeded to describe it in collaboration with scientists Carlos J. Pavón-Vázquez, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, and Marco A. López-Luna, Universidad Juárez Autónoma de Tabasco. The specimens of the new species were deposited in the herpetological collections of the Museo de Zoología "Alfonso L. Herrera" and the Instituto Tecnológico Superior de Zongolica.

The new species is the fourth described by Nieto-Montes de Oca and collaborators for the last fourteen years from the Mexican highlands. Funding from the Mexican Council for Science and Technology (CONACYT) has allowed the team to discover other species of earth snake in Oaxaca, Guerrero, and Puebla.

"Most of these snakes have notably small geographic ranges and sometimes are only found in one type of vegetation. This makes them particularly vulnerable to the destruction of their habitat. It is important to know them before it gets too late," note the scientists.

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