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Rare Snake Population Doubles: Three New Fishing Snakes Found In Andes

Dec 17, 2015 04:28 PM EST
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Three new fishing snakes have been reeled in from a Tropical Andes hotspot in South America, researchers report in a new study. These snakes are the first members of the Synophis genus to be found in Peru.

"We started working with fishing snakes a year ago as new specimens were collected in poorly explored areas of the Amazonian slopes of the Andes in Ecuador and Peru," Dr. Omar Torres-Carvajal, lead author from the Museo de Zoología QCAZ, explained in a news release. "At that time only four species of fishing snakes had been described, and they were recognized in the literature as one of the most rare and secretive groups of snakes in South America."

Based on their analysis, researchers found the new species varied from its closest relatives based on scale features, male sexual organs and DNA. The new species have since been named Synophis bogerti, Synophis zamora and Synophis insulomontanusTheir study was recently published in the journal ZooKeys.

Although fishing snakes have been seen in the cloud forests of the Andes on both the Colombia and Ecuador side, not much else is known about the snakes' diet or behavior -- aside from one's preference for snacking on lizards. However, the recent find suggests the snakes may finally be ready to make their debut and show themselves to the world.

"In less than a year, we and other herpetologists doubled the number of known species of fishing snakes, showing that their diversity had been greatly underestimated," Dr. Torres-Carvajal added. "This story is similar to the story of the woodlizards (Enyalioides), a group of dragon-like lizards with more than half of its species discovered in recent years in the tropical Andes."

This tells us that this hotspot is more diverse than we thought, so it is very important that basic biodiversity research is properly funded. Otherwise, we might never know what other scaly creatures are crawling around us," he concluded.

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