New Species Of Snake Discovered In Ecuador
November 27, 2012

New Species Of Snake Discovered In Ecuador

Lee Rannals for — Your Universe Online

A group of zoologists have discovered a new reptilian species hiding out in the Chocoan forests in northwestern Ecuador. The discovery of the reptile, a species of blunt-headed vine snake, was reported in the journal ZooKeys this week.

Blunt-headed vine snakes live in Mexico and Argentina, and are a different from all other New World snakes because they have a very thin body, slender neck, big eyes, and a blunt head. The snakes live in trees and hunt frogs and lizards at night.

The new species was named Imantodes chocoensis, bringing the number of species in this group of snakes to seven.

Imantodes chocoensis lack a big scale on their face that is present in all other blunt-headed vine snakes from the New World. DNA evidence also shows that the snakes actually belong to a new species.

DNA data also suggest that Chocoensis' closest relative is a species that inhabits the Amazon on the other side of the Andes.

"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 from Museo de Zoología QCAZ, who led the study, said in a statement.

Snakes collected as far back as 1994, and deposited in several Ecuadorian and American natural history museums were examined for the study to help determine whether this was a newly discovered species.

The head of the Chocoensis is about the size of a penny, according to the scientists. The snake lives in the Chocoan forests, part of the Tumbes-Chocó-Magdalena hotspot that lies west of the Andes.