Science

‘Rain-loving’ snake discovered in Mizoram

The maximum recorded size of the new species is 655 mm and is commonly seen in human dominated landscapes after rains.

The maximum recorded size of the new species is 655 mm and is commonly seen in human dominated landscapes after rains.  

Herpetologists took 12 years to document Smithophis atemporalis, a predominantly aquatic species

It’s literally raining reptiles in the Northeast, and the latest to be discovered has a Mizo name that means rain-loving.

A month after a Russian journal published the discovery of a reddish-brown pit viper in Arunachal Pradesh, the New Zealand-based journal Zootaxa has come out with the discovery of a non-venomous snake in Mizoram.

The discovery of another non-venomous snake species — the Crying Keelback, in Arunachal Pradesh’s Lepa-Rada district, was published in an international journal about six months ago.

The new genus and species of the natricine — predominantly aquatic — that took a seven-member team of herpetologists 12 years to document, has been named Smithophis atemporalis after eminent British herpetologist Malcolm Arthur Smith for his immense contribution to Indian herpetology.

Although new to science, the discovery is locally called Ruahlawmrul or rain-loving snake.

The maximum recorded size of the new species is 655 mm and is commonly seen in human dominated landscapes after rains.

The team led by Varad B. Giri of the Bengaluru-based National Centre for Biological Sciences and comprising two Mizoram zoologists — H.T. Lalremsanga and Samuel Lalronunga — had conducted molecular analyses to find that Ruahlawmrul and other species called bicoloured forest snake (Rhabdops bicolor), found primarily in Meghalaya, differed from the Olive forest snake (Rhabdops olivaceous) endemic to Western Ghats.

Distinct species

“Based on DNA and morphology, the study established that the two species are not at all closely related and what was once considered to be a single species from the Northeast, are actually two distinct species. While the species from the Western Ghats continues to remain in the genus Rhabdops, the two species from the Northeast have been assigned to a new genus — Smithophis,” Ashok Captain, one of the authors of the study, told The Hindu.

The species from Mizoram lacks specific enlarged scales in the temporal region of the head. This character is extremely rare in snakes of this family, hence its name Smithophis atemporalis or the Mizo rain snake.

Why you should pay for quality journalism - Click to know more

Recommended for you
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Mar 31, 2020 7:27:38 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/science/rain-loving-snake-discovered-in-mizoram/article27104581.ece

Next Story