26 million year old Species of Vine Snake found in Western Ghats
Team of researchers, from Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru while attempting to study and classify snakes in Western Ghats discovered Proahaetulla antiqua, a new vine snake species. This is an ancient species which is endemic to southern Western Ghats is thought to have evolved around 26 million years ago during the mid-Oligocene.
Study Funded: The study describing unique features of this snake was published in journal PLOS ONE in collaboration with researchers from Chennai Snake Park, Chennai and Bombay Natural History Society, Mumbai. Study was funded by Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC), DBT-IISc Partnership Programme and Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund.
Vine Snakes: Vine snakes get their names due to their slender bodies and vine-like appearances. Although there are similar species in South America and Africa but Asian vine snakes, distributed throughout Asia, belong to the genus Ahaetulla. In India particularly there are 4 species of commonly distributed vine snakes, and another one was discovered in Odisha recently.
About Proahaetulla antiqua
They are named after Latin words ‘antiqua’, which means- old or ancient. The common name suggested for these individuals is ‘keeled vine snake’.
While studying evolutionary tree of Proahaetulla antiqua, researchers discovered that this species diverged from other vine snakes about 26 million years ago. Thus, they are not only a new species but also belong to a new genus. The new species faces no major extinction threats at the moment.
It was found in protected habitats of Kalakkad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve, Tamil Nadu and Shendurney Wildlife Sanctuary, Kerala (both located in the southern Western Ghats).
Significance: Discovery would not only help know more about evolution of vine snakes but also evolutionary history of Western Ghats, a landmass older than Himalayas.
Categories: Environment & Biodiversity