Non-venomous species of ‘rain snake’ discovered in Mizoram
The Mizo rain snake (Smithophis atemporalis) has been named after eminent British herpetologist, Malcom A Smith, for his contribution to Indian herpetology.Updated: May 11, 2019 02:11 IST
Taxonomists have discovered a non-venomous species of snake in Mizoram. The findings about the snake were published in the taxonomic journal, Zootaxa, on Thursday, by a team of scientists from India and abroad.
The Mizo rain snake (Smithophis atemporalis) has been named after eminent British herpetologist, Malcom A Smith, for his contribution to Indian herpetology. “Our research is based on Smith’s findings as his contribution has been significant in studying reptiles in India,” said Varad Giri, the lead author of the paper.
He further added, “The species looks like a slender elongated common water snake with black-white-yellowish scales. They frequent streams close to human habitation in Mizoram and are usually seen after the rain, thus deriving the name, the Mizo rain snake.”
Although the snake’s finding is new to science, locals have known about this species for decades. They locally referred to it as ‘ruahlawmrul’, a rain-loving snake, said Giri.
The snake lacks temporal scales (specific enlarged scales in the temporal region of the head located behind the eyes), which is characterised as extremely rare for the snake family. The maximum-recorded length of the species is 655 mm (approximately 2.5 feet).
“This snake is aquatic and is commonly seen in human dominated landscapes and forests, mostly in Mizoram’s capital, Aizawl. They feeds on lizards and frogs,” Giri said.
Scientists considered the new genus as a part of the genus Rhabdops, which has two species – the Olive forest snake found in the Western Ghats and the bicoloured forest snake from northeast India.
“We used molecular phylogenetic (data) and DNA analysis to study some of these species and found the evolutionary history of the new species against genus Rhabdops was totally different. Some of the features of the new species were similar to those spotted further towards China,” said Giri.
The discovery of the species comes days after a United Nations report, endorsed by 130 countries, said one million species – both plants and animals – were at risk of extinction due to the impacts of climate change and human pressures.
First Published: May 11, 2019 02:11 IST