A herpetologist from Mumbai saw the photo of a snake taken 9 years ago. With no definite proof of its existence or exact location, the researcher teamed up with others to locate, prove its physical presence and discover the same snake! This newly found species of snake is probably the rarest find in the reptile history of India.
This new genus of snake has the eponym of Wallaceophis, after Alfred Russel Wallace who pioneered on the work on biogeography and also co-discovered the ‘Theory of Natural Selection’. The species has been christened gujaratensis. This new discovery has been published in the journal Plos One.
The researchers from Mumbai were Zeeshan A. Mirza and Rajesh Sanap who worked together with Harish Patel, Raju Vyas and Jaydeep Maheta; three wildlife enthusiast from Gujarat.
The image of this rare snake was first published by Raju Vyas, in the year 2007. Zeeshan Mirza who is a herpetologist from the National Center for Biological Science, Bangalore, came across the photo published in the journal 9 years ago and conducted the research to confirm the actual presence of this genus of snake.
Odd One Out
Mirza says that the snake was an odd one out of the known species of snakes. So, he sought for the opinion of Vyas if the physical presence of the snake could be proven. Vyas only had a photograph and had no further details of the location of the snake.
“Seven years later, Harshil Patel, a researcher from Gujarat studying reptiles and amphibians of southern Gujarat, informed me that the snake has been found by snake rescuer Jaydeep Maheta,” said Mirza.
This led to the beginning of research and comparision, to prove that this was indeed a new snake species.
A Research Associate of the National Center for Biological Sciences; Rajesh Sanap extended his assistance in carrying out work in the laboratory. He conducted comparisons of specimens collected from the Bombay Natural History Society. Mirza also conducted studies in this context through the available literature.
In order to add further to the studies, Vyas made a collection of 12 individual snakes of the said species from other parts of Gujarat.
Studies of the said species of snake were conducted, covering its scalation, bone morphology, number of tooth and DNA and it was finally identified as belonging to a group of colubrid snakes which encompasses racers, whip snakes and royal snakes.
A joint paper was written by the researcher and was submitted to the magazine Plos One, last year, which got final approval during January 2016.
Colubrid snakes, belonging to the family of Colubride are represented through 1,800 species, across the world. It is quite likely, this number will grow, when studies are conducted with more advanced techniques in species delimitation.
Till now, Wallaceophis gujjaratensis has been identified in seven different locations in Gujarat.
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