BHUBANESWAR: At a time when coastal Odisha is staring at an ecology crisis in the aftermath of cyclone Fani, a team of researchers has discovered a new snake species in the State bringing cheer to wildlife lovers and herpetologists.
The researchers from Bangalore-based Indian Institute of Science, Zoological Survey of India (ZSI), Wildlife Institute of India, Nature, Environment and Wildlife Society (NEWS), Wayanad Wild and London-based Natural History Museum have discovered a rare vine snake of genus Ahaetulla after a gap of more than a century.
The species, Laudankia vine snake, has been found in Similipal, Balasore and Boudh. Of nine species of vine snake reported from across the country so far, Odisha is home to three - common Indian vine snake, variable coloured vine snake and Laudankia, which is also found in Maharashtra and Rajasthan.
A study in this regard has been published in the recent edition of the Journal of Natural History. Noted herpetologist and co-author of the research paper Prof Sushil Kumar Dutta said the snake was first spotted near Lulung in Similipal in January 2009.
“The study took almost 10 years since describing a new species needs meticulous observation and verification. We realised it to be a new species after studying two other snakes of the same variety from Boudh and Balasore. Our search for similar looking vine snakes across India yielded with two more specimens at National Zoological Collection of ZSI, Kolkata collected from Mount Abu in Rajasthan,” said Prof Dutta.
The species has been described based on morphological features and genetic study carried out by lead author V Deepak. During the study, the team came to know that ‘isabellina’ vine snake found in Odisha and Rajasthan is of some other species and not that of Ahaetulla nasuta isabellina. They compared the specimens with Ahaetulla nasuta isabellina collected by another co-author Surya Narayanan from Valparai in Anamalai.
“Laudankia snake probably has a very low population and is rare,” said corresponding author of the paper Pratyush Mohapatra, a scientist with ZSI, Jabalpur.
Mohapatra said distribution of the species was also found in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and North Bengal apart from the known localities in Odisha and Rajasthan. “The species is very rare in comparison to other sympatric vine snake family such as Ahaetulla nasuta and Ahaetulla anomala. There are only a few specimens in the museums,” he claimed.
Apparently, the vine snake was discovered after a gap of 113 years as first director of ZSI Thomas Nelson Annandale had described Ahaetulla anomala as an anomalous variety of Ahaetulla nasuta in 1906.