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New Species of Blunt-Headed Vine Snake Discovered in Ecuador

Nov 28, 2012 05:01 AM EST

Researchers have discovered a new species of blunt-headed vine snake from the Chocoan forests in northwestern Ecuador.

A group of zoologists led by Omar Torres-Carvajal from Museo de Zoología QCAZ, Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador (Pontifical Catholic University of Ecuador), found the new species in the Tumbes-Choco-Magdalena hotspot that lies west of the Andes.

Blunt-headed vine snakes are different from other snakes of the New World. These snakes have a very thin body, slender neck, big eyes, and a blunt head. They live in trees and hunt small animals like frogs and lizards during the night.

When the research team compared the newly-discovered snake to other snakes collected in museums since 1994, they found that the new snake lacked a big scale on its face that is commonly found in all other blunt-headed vine snakes.

DNA evidence also confirmed that the Chocoan snake belongs to a new species and was named Imantodes chocoensis. With this new finding, the number of species in this group of snakes has increased to seven, said the researchers.

DNA data also suggests that the closest relatives of the new snake species live in 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," Dr. Torres-Carvajal said in a statement.

The findings of the study, "A new species of blunt-headed vine snake (Colubridae, Imantodes) from the Chocó region of Ecuador", are published in the open access journal ZooKeys.

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