Researchers discover new snake species in Gujarat

Mar 03, 2016, 22:31 IST | A Correspondent

Mumbai-based researchers along with three others have discovered a new species of snake from Gujarat and named it Wallace's Striped Snake

Mumbai-based researchers Rajesh Sanap and Zeeshan Mirza along with three others have discovered a new species of snake from Gujarat.

The new species has been named Wallace's Striped Snake (Wallaceophis gujaratensis).

Wallace's Striped Snake

“We are happy to announce that our group of researchers has discovered a new species of snake from Western state of Gujarat and it has been named as Wallace's striped snake (Wallaceophis gujaratensis,” said researcher Rajesh Sanap.

The group that discovered the news species includes Zeeshan Mirza , Raju Vyas, Harshil Patel, Maheta Jaydeep and Rajesh Sanap.

The new snake genus and species from India has been published in the international peer reviewed journal  'Plos One'.

According to the researchers, the new genus is named after Alfred Russel Wallace for his pioneering work on bio-geography and for co-discovering the theory of natural selection. Wallace was a well-known British naturalist and biologist.

The lead author of the study, herpetologist Zeeshan of the National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bangalore, came across an image of this snake in a paper published by Raju Vyas way back in 2007 when he was an undergraduate student in Mumbai.

“The snake was really odd looking and I called Raju sir to seek his opinion on the identity of the snake but even he just had an image of the snake in question,” said Zeeshan.

“Seven years passed and Harshil Patel, a researcher from Gujarat studying reptiles and amphibians of southern Gujarat, informed me that the snake has been found by a fellow snake rescuer Jaydeep Mahta,” added Zeeshan.

With the snake in hand, now it was possible to identify it. Rajesh Sanap, a research associate with the National Centre for Biological Sciences aided with lab work, Harshil compared specimens from the collection of the Bombay Natural History Society and Zeeshan compared the snake from Gujarat with available literature. In the meantime, we contacted Raju Vyas, who has collected data of 12 additional individuals of the same species from several locations of Gujarat state.

Based on scalation, tooth number, bone morphology and DNA, the snake was identified to belong to a group of colubrid snakes that include racers, royal snakes and whip snakes but did differ considerably not only to call it a new species but also to erect of an entirely new genus to embody it.

"A paper jointly written by us was submitted last year July to 'Plos One' which finally got accepted later this January," said Sanap.

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