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HomeBioscienceBiologyIn Paraguay, striking new snake species have been identified

In Paraguay, striking new snake species have been identified

Phalotris shawnella. Credit: Jean-Paul Brouard

In Paraguay, researchers from the Paraguayan NGO Para La Tierra, in partnership with Guyra Paraguay and the Instituto de Investigación Biológica del Paraguay, discovered and identified a gorgeous non-venomous snake that was previously unknown to science. It is a member of the Phalotris genus, which contains 15 semi-subterranean species scattered throughout central South America. This group of snakes is distinguished by their distinctive red, black, and yellow colours.

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In 2014, one of the collaborating researchers, Jean-Paul Brouard, stumbled upon an individual of the new species while digging a hole at Rancho Laguna Blanca. In the open-access scientific journal Zoosystematics and Evolution, he and his colleagues Paul Smith and Pier Cacciali revealed the discovery. The authors called it Phalotris shawnella in honour of two youngsters born in the same year as Fundación Para La Tierra: Shawn Ariel Smith Fernández and Ella Bethany Atkinson (2008). In the hope that their children will inherit a better world, they encouraged the founders of the NGO to strive for the preservation of Paraguayan biodiversity.

The new Phalotris snake has a red head, a yellow collar, a black lateral band, and orange ventral scales with irregular black spots, distinguishing it from other related species in its genus. It is known from only three specimens and is limited to the Cerrado woodlands of the San Pedro Department in eastern Paraguay. Its known distribution is restricted to two locations with sandy soils in that department, Colonia Volendam and Laguna Blanca, 90 kilometres apart.

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The great rarity of this species prompted its classification as “Endangered” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which indicates it faces an extremely high risk of extinction in the absence of protection measures.

This species can only be found in the Important Area for the Conservation of Amphibians and Reptiles that is the famed tourist destination of Laguna Blanca.

The authors write, “This once again underlines the necessity to maintain the natural environment in this region of Paraguay.” “Laguna Blanca was designated a Nature Reserve for a term of five years, but it is currently unprotected. The preservation of this place ought to be a national conservation priority.”

Further information: Paul Smith et al, A new species of Phalotris (Serpentes, Colubridae, Elapomorphini) from Paraguay, Zoosystematics and Evolution (2022). DOI: 10.3897/zse.98.61064

Source: Pensoft Publishers

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