New snake species found in Assam in over 100 yrs, it has a bindi on its neck
A new snake species with a bindi-like mark on the back of its neck has been discovered in Assam by a team of scientists from India, UK and USA, making it the first such find from the northeastern state in over a century.
News of the discovery by a team of scientists from Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun, Natural History Museum, London and University of Texas, Austin has been published in a recent edition of Zootaxa, a journal for animal taxonomists published from New Zealand.
The new species has been named Rhabdophis bindi for “having a distinct roughly rhomboidal red coloured nuchal spot/blotch which is absent from all other species” of the genus Rhabdophis, which has 27 species, found across South, East and SouthEast Asia.
“The species is named due to its unique red marking on the back of the neck reminiscent of the red beauty spot adorning foreheads of Indian women called ‘bindi’,” said Abhijit Das of WII, who’s associated with the discovery.
It was Das who first found a specimen of the species during a 2007 survey in and around Barail Hill Range in Cachar district of Assam. In subsequent years, 10 other individuals of the species, found at low elevations of below 100 m from sea level, were collected and studied.
“It took 14 years from the time it was first seen till it was classified as a new species because we had to compare the new one with all other closely related species found in different countries and had to study many specimens from across the world. It also took time to do genetic analysis of the species,” said Das.
Morphologically, the new species, which has a length of around 60 cm to 80 cm, resembles the Himalayan Red Necked Keelback distributed widely in the northeast. However, the new species appears to reside in lowland evergreen forest. Himalayan Red Necked Keelback on the other hand has been found only in elevations above 600m.
“Although majority of zoological discoveries are from northeastern states of Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram, the discovery of ‘Rhabdophis bindi’ from Assam shows that more such undiscovered species could exist in the well-explored parts of the region,” said Das.
The last snake species discovered in Assam was a red striped one called Oligodon erythrorhachis, which was found in Jeypore area of Upper Assam in 1910 by British herpetologist Frank Wall.