New snake species discovery in Mexico


This video says about itself:

NEW SPECIES of Pitviper from Mexico

26 December 2015

HERP.MX is proud to introduce two new species of Ophryacus: the Emerald Horned Pitviper, Ophryacus smaragdinus, and the Broad-Horned Pitviper, Ophryacus sphenophrys. The description in Mesoamerican Herpetology is available here: www.herp.mx/pubs/2015-Grunwald-et-al-Oph­ryacus.pdf

——

The story starts in the 1850s with Swiss naturalist, Francis Sumichrast in the eastern state of Veracruz. Among Sumichrast’s important reptile and amphibian collections was a series of horned vipers which he sent to various collections around the world – including the Milan Natural History Museum in Italy. Two of these unusual vipers landed in the hands of museum director Georg Jan, who, described them as the new species Trigonocephalus (Atropos) undulatus, now Ophryacus undulatus in 1859 (www.herp.mx/pubs/1859-Jan-Atropos-undul­atus.pdf). Typical of this era, Jan included a brief summary of the two specimens and three simple line drawings – illustrations that would prove critical when the type specimens were later destroyed during WWII.

Dozens of specimens were collected across several states in the decades that followed – including a particularly interesting snake from southern Oaxaca. During the summer of 1949, W. Leslie Burger collected a pitviper that, while superficially similar to other Ophracus undulatus, possessed distinctly wide, wedge-shaped horns, and a lower number of scales between the eyes and on the underside of the tail. Based on these differences, in 1960 Hobart Smith described Burger’s specimen as the new species: Bothrops sphenophrys and inferred a close relationship to B. undulatus (now Ophryacus) (www.herp.mx/pubs/1960-Smith-New-and-Not­eworthy-Reptiles-from-Oaxaca-Mexico.pdf)­.

Fast forward to 1971. Without explanation, W. Leslie Burger, the very same individual who collected the original specimen of Ophryacus sphenophrys, placed the species in synonymy with Ophryacus undulatus in his unpublished PhD dissertation at the University of Kansas. 18 years later, Campbell and Lamar followed his lead but this time noting that most of the distinguishing characters for O. sphenophrys fall within the range of known variation for O. undulatus. Unbeknownst to all parties, this “variation” was contaminated by a third, undescribed species of horned viper.

Fall of 2010 found the HERP.MX Field Team in Sierra Madre Oriental searching for the eastern limit of Crotalus aquilus in the soggy cloud forests of Veracruz. Just before 11PM on the evening of Septemer 16th, Mexican Independence Day, while returning from field work on a windy, pot-holed mountain road, a bright green pit-viper appeared in the headlights. Though similar to specimens of O. undulatus observed elsewhere, several conspicuous differences suggested the snake represented an undescribed form. Subsequent trips, specimens, and reviewing museum specimens began to shed some light on the horned viper puzzle – largely thanks to the horn itself.

Even though Jan’s original specimens had been destroyed in WWII, his drawings were precise enough to determine which snake he’d been studying half a world away, over 150 years ago. The profile view shows a narrow horn immediately above the snake’s eye, typical of Ophryacus undulatus, while these new specimens from east-central Veracruz had rounded horns separated from the eye by other smaller scales. In a stroke of good luck, a search of museum specimens revealed a second Ophryacus sphenophrys at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México – from the same area, and consistent with Smith’s original description. With the range of variation of O. undulatus adjusted to exclude scale counts from the new species from the north, it was apparent that Smith wasn’t off the mark after all, and Burger’s specimen from 1949 did in fact represent a distinct species.

Some time, additional specimens, scale counts, lab work, and writing later —the team is excited and proud to introduce the new species Ophryacus smaragdinus and resurrect Hobart Smith’s O. sphenophrys. Enjoy!

See also here.

‘Extinct’ Australian sea snakes rediscovered


This August 2015 video is called Top 10 Rarest Snakes In The World (Endangered Snakes).

From ScienceDaily:

Scientists discover rare sea snakes, previously thought extinct, off Western Australia

Date:

December 21, 2015

Source:

ARC Centre of Excellence in Coral Reef Studies

Summary:

Scientists have discovered two critically endangered species of sea snakes, previously thought to be extinct, off the coast of Western Australia. It’s the first time the snakes have been spotted alive and healthy since disappearing from their only known habitat on Ashmore Reef in the Timor Sea more than fifteen years ago.

Scientists from James Cook University have discovered two critically endangered species of sea snakes, previously thought to be extinct, off the coast of Western Australia.

It’s the first time the snakes have been spotted alive and healthy since disappearing from their only known habitat on Ashmore Reef in the Timor Sea more than fifteen years ago.

“This discovery is really exciting, we get another chance to protect these two endemic Western Australian sea snake species,” says study lead author Blanche D’Anastasi from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at JCU.

“But in order to succeed in protecting them, we will need to monitor populations as well as undertake research into understanding their biology and the threats they face.”

The discovery of the critically endangered short nose sea snake was confirmed after a Western Australia Parks and Wildlife Officer, Grant Griffin, sent a photo of a pair of snakes taken on Ningaloo Reef to Ms D’Anastasi for identification.

“We were blown away, these potentially extinct snakes were there in plain sight, living on one of Australia’s natural icons, Ningaloo Reef,” says Ms D’Anastasi.

“What is even more exciting is that they were courting, suggesting that they are members of a breeding population.”

The researchers also made another unexpected discovery, uncovering a significant population of the rare leaf scaled sea snake in the lush seagrass beds of Shark Bay.

The discovery was made 1700 kilometres south of the snakes only known habitat on Ashmore Reef.

“We had thought that this species of sea snake was only found on tropical coral reefs. Finding them in seagrass beds at Shark Bay was a real surprise,” says Ms D’Anastasi.

Both leaf scaled and short nosed sea snakes are listed as Critically Endangered under Australia’s threatened species legislation, which means they have special protection.

Despite the good news of the find, sea snake numbers have been declining in several marine parks, and scientists are at a loss to explain why.

“Many of the snakes in this study were collected from prawn trawl by-catch surveys, indicating that these species are vulnerable to trawling,” says Dr Vimoksalehi Lukoschek from the Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies.

“But the disappearance of sea snakes from Ashmore Reef, could not be attributed to trawling and remains unexplained.

“Clearly we need to identify the key threats to their survival in order to implement effective conservation strategies if we are going to protect these newly discovered coastal populations,” Dr Lukoschek says.

Grass snake swims, video


This video shows a grass snake swimming in nature reserve Het Leesten in the Veluwe region in the Netherlands.

Tom Bandsma made this video.

Dutch ‘Year of the Adder’ almost over


This video says about itself:

14 August 2013

The enigmatic European Adder (Vipera berus) is one of the hardiest and widespread snakes on earth, and is Britain’s only venomous snake. Unfortunately, it is suffering declines due to a variety of ecological factors. Here we have a fantastic encounter with a creature that’s becoming increasingly difficult to see.

Translated from the Dutch RAVON herpetologists:

12 December 2015 – The Year of the Adder is almost over; a good time to see how things are with the adder populations in the Netherlands. Over the last 20 years, the adder is stable, as evidenced by data from the Monitoring Network for Reptiles. However, the decline had already happened in the decades before that; this is also the reason why the adder on the Red List.

Year of the Adder report: here.

Dinosaur age fossil snake discovery


This video says about itself:

Lizards, Snakes and Legs (Evolution)

27 September 2008

David Attenborough explaining how lizards lost their legs.

From daily The Independent in Britain:

Ancient snake skull found in Argentina could reveal why the reptiles have no legs

The research challenges the theory that snakes originally became limbless as they began to live in the sea

John von Radowitz

27 November 2015

A fossilised snake skull found in Argentina may have solved the mystery of how the animals lost their legs.

Rather than shed them to become better swimmers as they began to inhabit aquatic environments, the skull, from 90 million years ago, suggests legs became an evolutionary disadvantage as the ancestors of modern snakes wriggled into increasingly narrow burrows in pursuit of prey.

The research challenges the theory that snakes originally became limbless as they began to live in the sea. The secret of the lost limbs was revealed by an examination of the inner ear of Dinilysia patagonica, a two-metre long relative of the modern snake.

Using Computed Tomography (CT), scientists found a distinctive structure in its bony canals and cavities that was also turned out to be present in modern burrowing snakes and lizards.

But the structure, which may assist with the detection of prey and predators, was missing from snakes that live in water or above ground. Lead scientist Dr Hongyu Yi, from the University of Edinburgh’s School of GeoSciences, said: “How snakes lost their legs has been a mystery to scientists but it seems this happened when their ancestors became adept at burrowing.

“The inner ears of fossils can reveal a remarkable amount of information and are very useful when the exterior of fossils are too damaged or too fragile to examine.”

The findings, published in the journal Science Advances, confirm Dinilysia patagonica as the largest burrowing snake ever known.

Co-author Dr Mark Norell, from the American Museum of Natural History, said: “This discovery would not have been possible a decade ago. CT scanning has revolutionised how we can study ancient animals.

“We hope similar studies can shed light on the evolution of more species, including lizards, crocodiles and turtles.”

A CT scan is an advanced form of X-ray that generates detailed 3D images of organs and skeletal structures.

See also here.

Corn snakes, why some are white


This video from the USA says about itself:

15 August 2014

The corn snake (Pantherophis gutattus gutattus) is a medium sized non-venomous colubrid that lives in the southeastern United States. Their bright colors, docile temperament, and minimum care requirements make them great for pets but it’s important to note that those you find in the wild are facing a decline in numbers and should be left alone if at all possible.

From Reptiles magazine:

Corn Snake Genome Sequenced, Albinism Mutation Detailed

November 25, 2015

By John Virata

Scientists with the University of Geneva (UNIGE), Switzerland have sequenced the corn snake Pantherophis guttatus (Elaphe guttata) genome for the first time, and discovered the mutation in the snake that causes albinism in the species, according to a paper published in Scientific Reports.

“Our aim was to produce ourselves a substantial portion of the missing data by sequencing all genes from several reptilian species. To reach this goal, we used tissues, such as the brain and the kidney, expressing the largest number of genes,” said Athanasia Tzika, researcher in the Department of Genetics and Evolution at UNIGE. “The objective was to obtain a genuine reptilian genomic model that people could rely on,” said Athanasia Tzika. “Here, we covered about 85% of the snake total genome size. There is much additional work ahead.”

The data compiled by Tzika will be freely available to researchers around the world who are working on developmental and evolutionary studies of reptiles.

UNIGE researcher Suzanne Saenko, working with Swedish scientists identified the mutation responsible for amenalism. The researchers bred a wild corn snake with a captive bred amenalistic corn snake and DNA sequenced all offspring from the cross and identified the malfunctioning gene. The gene OCA2 codes for a receptor located in the membranes of melanosomes, where melanin is found, according to the study. The receptor controls the acidity that enables the synthesis of melanin.

The researchers say that they will look into how some corn snakes are born with modified colors and patterns like longitudinal lines rather than transversal saddles that are typical of the species.

Smooth snake starts hibernation, video


In autumn, smooth snakes in the Netherlands start their hibernation. Like this individual, near Ede in Gelderland province, crawling into a hole in the ground.

Michael de Vries made this video.