New Snake Species Discovered in Mexican Mountains

A specimen of the new species, Geophis loranca, in life. Photo © Miguel Ángel de la Torre Loranca

Last time we mentioned a new species being discovered, it was also long, thin and reddish, but in the form of a toxic cave worm. The freshly-found reptile, which when translated from its scientific name would be called “Loranca’s earth snake,” is a red and black burrowing animal that is only found in a very localized region of east central Mexico, as the collaborative team of Mexican university researchers wrote in their academic journal article published in ZooKeys:

These burrowing reptiles are seldom encountered and, consequently, have been poorly studied. Furthermore, several species have restricted distribution, making them particularly vulnerable to extinction.

Looking to shed light on the evolutionary history and diversity of earth snakes, Luis Canseco-Márquez and Adrián Nieto-Montes de Oca, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, started to collect samples of these rarely seen critters.

A sample from east-central Mexico exhibited a unique set of traits among earth snakes, one of them showing striking orange and black banding pattern. They realized that these snakes represented a new species and proceeded to describe it in collaboration with scientists Carlos J. Pavón-Vázquez, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, and Marco A. López-Luna,Universidad Juárez Autónoma de Tabasco. The specimens of the new species were deposited in the herpetological collections of the Museo de Zoología “Alfonso L. Herrera” and theInstituto Tecnológico Superior de Zongolica.

The new species is the fourth described by Nieto-Montes de Oca and collaborators for the last fourteen years from the Mexican highlands. Funding from the Mexican Council for Science and Technology (CONACYT) has allowed the team to discover other species of earth snake in Oaxaca, Guerrero, and Puebla.

“Most of these snakes have notably small geographic ranges and sometimes are only found in one type of vegetation. This makes them particularly vulnerable to the destruction of their habitat. It is important to know them before it gets too late,” note the scientists.

Genetic data and careful anatomical examination have been vital to understand the real diversity within the group. “These snakes are remarkably similar to each other and it has been only through molecular analyses and rigorous specimen examination that we have come close to understand how diverse they are,” explain the authors.

Read the rest of the press release from Pensoft Publishers on EurekAlert.

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