New species of vine snakes discovered


A team of researchers from the Centre for Ecological Sciences (CES), Indian Institute of Science (IISc), after extensive sampling across peninsular India, have discovered new species of vine snakes in the region.

  • The team carried out field visits across India to collect morphological data, tissue samples and specimens to understand the patterns of distribution and diversification of vine snakes. 
  • Vine snakes are known to be among the most common snakes in peninsular India, found even in many peri-urban areas and in the Western Ghats. 
  • According to an IISc release, Asian vine snakes, distributed throughout the continent, belong to the genus Ahaetulla andthe recently described Proahaetulla.
  • The common green vine snake (Ahaetulla nasuta) in India was a complex of several species. 
  • They found four distinct small-bodied and short-nosed species: the Northern Western Ghats vine snake (Ahaetulla borealis), Farnsworth’s vine snake (Ahaetulla farnsworthi), Malabar vine snake (Ahaetulla malabarica) andWall’s vine snake (Ahaetulla isabellina) in the Western Ghats rainforests alone.
  • These species were superficially similar in their morphology, but separated by geographic or ecological barriers.
  • The Travancore vine snake (Ahaetulla travancorica), separated by morphology and a geographic barrier from the Gunther’s vine snake (Ahaetulla dispar).
  • All the vine snakes were assigned names related to the locality or based on a morphological character.
  • They recognised morphological distinctions between the brown vine snake in the Western Ghats and the one found in Sri Lanka, and gave the Western Ghats form a new name (Ahaetulla sahyadrensis). There are now six species of vine snakes endemic to the Western Ghats.
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