Talamancan Palm-Pitviper: Latest species to join the slithering reptiles discovered!

A large snake might reach about 30 inches, but most are less than 24 inches.

By Udita Madan | Last Updated: Jul 20, 2016, 14:50 PM IST
Talamancan Palm-Pitviper: Latest species to join the slithering reptiles discovered!
Image courtesy: University of Central Florida

New Delhi: Would accidentally stumbling upon a snake make you jump with joy? Celebration would be the last thing on your mind, we're sure, but not for professor Christopher Parkinson.

Parkinson, a professor in the University of Florida, is an expert on venomous snakes. Along with his team, he recently discovered a type of snake that wasn’t previously identified by scientists called the Talamancan Palm-Pitviper, which has become the cause for celebration!

The new species that had gone unnoticed for more than 100 years, are striking green-and-black reptiles living in the most remote regions of Costa Rica.

They are small to medium sized pitvipers, are relatively slender and are found in trees where they are brilliantly camouflaged owing to their green and black colour, which they share with the Black-Speckled Palm-Pitviper.

In fact, these two species look so similar, which explains why the Talamancan Palm-Pitviper went unrecognized for over 100 years. It is a case of cryptic speciation, where two species look almost identical, but are genetically different.

A large snake might reach about 30 inches, but most are less than 24 inches. Scientists believe their habitat to include only 100 km area in the north of the Talamancan Cordillera of Costa Rica.

"It shows some of the complexities we deal with when cataloging biodiversity and underscores the importance of maintaining natural-history collections," said Parkinson.

The team first discovered evidence of the new species in 2001 during a genetic analysis of the palm-pitviper clade.

The researchers noticed some unusual genetic differences among the snakes they were studying.

They began questioning if they could have a distinct new species on their hands.

However, the snakes live at high elevations and are rare even in their natural habitat, making it difficult to find the samples needed for thorough comparisons.

Researchers turned to several museums to generate the morphological data used in the project.

These institutions house natural-history collections containing thousands of reptile specimens from decades of research.

The findings were published in the journal Zootaxa.

(With PTI inputs)