Scientists describe new species of shieldtail snakes found in Anaikatti hills

Herpetologists from Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History (SACON) have found a new species shieldtail snake. It has been given the nomenclature of Uropeltis bhupathyi. This species is commonly found in the Anaikatti regions during monsoons. The snake had been misidentified a decade earlier as Uropeltis ellioti by Dr Subramaniam Bhupathy of SACON. After Dr Bhupathy’s accidental death in 2014, one of his students, V J Jins carried forward his research, realised the mistake in the classification of the species found in Anaikatti, and named his find as Uropeltis bhupathy in honour of his teacher and mentor. Uropeltis ellioti and Uropektis bhupathy differ from each other in the number of ventral scales, with the former having 167 scales while the latter have more than 200 scales. Also, a yellow lateral stripe of colour can be found below the head and the underside of its tail in the U bhupathy, with it being non-venomous and having a diet of earthworms, with a tendency to coil around the handler’s hand. Its taxonomical validity has been judged and confirmed by Vivek Sharma, an expert snake handler. Jins observed in the research paper submitted to the journal Zootaxa that some members of the species showed deformity in the head caused by snake fungal disease, which might be one of the first reports of fungal disease in wild snakes in India. This, along with habitat loss, and other threats, such as of the snakes being victims of roadkills, can be the death blow to the newly described snaked, causing its extinction. According to Jins,  U. Bhupathyi is likely to be added to the Data Deficient category in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.


— As reported by Mongabay


Cover Pic: Earlier thought to be a member of Uropeltis eliottii, scientists from the herpetology division of SACON have found that it is a new species of a shieldtail snake and named it Uropeltis bhupathyi. Photo by V.J. Jins | Courtesy: Mongabay 

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