Thin and Long New Snake Crawls From the Chocoan forests

First Posted: Nov 28, 2012 02:30 AM EST

Blunt-headed vine snakes with extremely thin bodies have recently been discovered in the Chocoan forests of Northwestern Ecuador.

 This region is part of the 274,597 km2 Tumbes-Choco-Magdalena hotspot that lies west of the Andes.

This discovery was a result of a field and laboratory work carried out by a group of zoologists led by Dr Omar Torres-Carvajal from Museo de Zoologia QCAZ, Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Ecuador.

Blunt-headed vine snakes are also found in Mexico and Argentina They have a very thin body, disproportionately slender neck, big eyes and a blunt head. Frogs and lizards are their main prey and they mostly dwell on tress.

The new species has been named Imantodes Chocoensis  by Torres Carvajal and his collaborators and increases the number of species in this group to 7.

The team also examined snakes which were collected as far back as 1994 and deposited in several Ecuadorian and American natural history museums. The examinations revealed some interesting details.

Some snakes from the Ecuadorian Choco lacked big scales on their faces that are present in all other blunt-headed vine snakes from the New World. Other features, as well as DNA evidence, indicate that these Chocoan snakes actually belong to a new species. 

With the help of DNA data scientists suggest that the new blunt-headed snake's closest relative is a species that inhabits the Amazon on the other side of the Andes.

"One possible explanation for the disjunct distribution between the new species and its closest relative is that the uplift of the Andes fragmented an ancestral population into two, each of which evolved into a different species, one in the Choco region and the other in the Amazon," said Dr. Torres-Carvajal.

The study was published in the open access journal Zookeys.

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