BENGALURU: Researchers from the Centre for Ecological Sciences (CES), IISc, have discovered five new species of vine snakes, four from the Western Ghats alone. The researchers carried out studies across the country collecting morphological data, tissue samples and specimens to understand the patterns of distribution and diversification of the species.
Though vine snakes are common in the country, especially the dry regions and Western Ghats, finding new species in the peri-urban areas has only added new dimensions to the species.
According to the report, the researchers found four distinct small-bodied and short-nosed species: the Northern Western Ghats vine snake (ahaetulla borealis), Farnsworth’s vine snake (ahaetulla farnsworthi), Malabar vine snake (ahaetulla malabarica) and Wall’s vine snake (ahaetulla isabellina) in the Western Ghats’ forests.
They also found the long-nosed vine snake (ahaetulla oxyrhyncha) in the lowlands and drier parts of peninsular India. This snake is much larger and is morphologically distinct.
The research was conducted by Ashok Kumar Mallik, Achyuthan N Srikanthan, Saunak P Pal, Princia Margaret D’Souza, Kartik Shanker and Sumaithangi Rajagopalan Ganesh. The researchers said that though vine snakes looked similar, there were different species that needed more analysis. While each species has been named by researchers based on the regions from where they have been found, in the case of ahaetulla farnsworthi, it has been named after famous scientist Dr Hubert Farnsworth.
The team concluded that there are six vine snake species in total which they stated after studying the morphological distinctions between the brown vine snake, found in the Western Ghats, to the one found in Sri Lanka. To end any confusion, they named the Western Ghats species as-ahaetulla sahyadrensis.
The IISc report stated that the team also also delineated the Travancore vine snake (ahaetulla travancorica), separated by morphology and a geographic barrier from the Gunther’s vine snake (ahaetulla dispar)Kartik Shanker, associate professor at CES, said that the discovery helped them learn more about the evolutionary history of vine snakes in South Asia.
“Ahaetulla nasuta is one of the first snake names that we learned as aspiring herpetologists. We almost feel sad that we had to assign it to the Sri Lankan snake population, but it is far more exciting that we have all these new species in India,” he said.The study has also been published in the journal Zootaxa, which was carried out in collaboration with researchers S R Ganesh from Chennai Snake Park, Saunak Pal from Bombay Natural History Society and Princia D’Souza from IISc.