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

Date:
November 27, 2012
Source:
Pensoft Publishers
Summary:
A team of Ecuadorian and American scientists have discovered a new species, belonging to a neotropical group of remarkably long arboreal (tree-dwelling) snakes: the blunt-headed vine snakes, from the Choco biodiversity hotspot in northwestern Ecuador. DNA data suggest that the closest relative of the new species lives on the other side of the Andes.
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This is a live Imantodes chocoensis. Its head is about the size of an American penny.
Credit: Omar Torres-Carvajal et al. CC-BY 3.0

Field 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 274,597 km2 Tumbes-Chocó-Magdalena hotspot that lies west of the Andes.

The study was published in the open access journal ZooKeys.

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.

'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' said Dr Torres-Carvajal.


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Journal Reference:

  1. Omar Torres-Carvajal, Mario Yanez, Diego Quirola, Eric N. Smith, Ana Almendáriz. A new species of blunt-headed vine snake (Colubridae, Imantodes) from the Chocó region of Ecuador. ZooKeys, 2012; 244 (0): 91 DOI: 10.3897/zookeys.244.3950

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Pensoft Publishers. "A rather thin and long new snake crawls out of one of Earth's biodiversity hotspots." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 November 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121127101536.htm>.
Pensoft Publishers. (2012, November 27). A rather thin and long new snake crawls out of one of Earth's biodiversity hotspots. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 23, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121127101536.htm
Pensoft Publishers. "A rather thin and long new snake crawls out of one of Earth's biodiversity hotspots." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121127101536.htm (accessed May 23, 2015).

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