Biologists from George Washington University in Washington, D.C. say they’ve discovered a new species of snake with pitch-black eyes in the Pacific Andean slopes of southwest Ecuador.

  • Synophis zaheri is short and skinny with a distinct neck that marks the transition from its slender frame to a head that features bulging, black eyes.
  • Scientists say the non-venomous, brown-scaled snake is proof that there is a great amount of undiscovered biodiversity in Central and South America’s higher elevations.
  • The biologists plan to continue studying the snake in its native Andean habitat in the low-elevation cloud forests of southwestern Ecuador in order to better understand the size of its population and distribution patterns.

The new species, named Synophis zaheri, is described by the scientists in an article published this week in the journal ZooKeys. Scientists say the non-venomous, brown-scaled snake is proof that there is a great amount of undiscovered biodiversity in Central and South America’s higher elevations.

Synophis zaheri is short and skinny with a distinct neck that marks the transition from its slender frame to a head that features bulging, black eyes. The authors said they believe the Synophis genus to be closely related to snakes in the Diaphorolepis genus. Both belong to the Dipsadine family.

The top of S. zaheri is grayish brown with an iridescent sheen, the scientists say in their description, while its underside is a pale yellow. Its body is distinguished by a sharply ridged spine and a row of scales running along its length.

The study’s authors said in a statement that they plan to continue studying the snake in its native Andean habitat in the low-elevation cloud forests of southwestern Ecuador in order to better understand the size of its population and distribution patterns.

The biologists also expect their work might very well turn up more previously undiscovered species, writing in the ZooKeys study that “Dipsadine diversity in the Andes is clearly underestimated, and new species are still being discovered in the 21st century.”
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Photographs of some diaphorolepidine species in life: Synophis bicolor (a), and S. cf. bicolor (b).
Photographs of some diaphorolepidine species in life: Synophis bicolor (a), and S. cf. bicolor (b).

Article published by Mike Gaworecki on December 4, 2015.

 

 

 

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