New Species of Iridescent Snake Discovered in Vietnam

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An international team of researchers discovered a new species of snake in the Ha Giang province after conducting yearlong surveillance of the karst forests in Northern Vietnam.

According to a paper published in the journal Copeia, scientists from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and the Institute for Ecology and Biological Resources at the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology described the new species of snake as dark and iridescent which has scales that shift color through blues and greens in light.

They said the snake does not have bright-light photoreceptors in its eyes, which suggests that it belongs to a rare genus called Achalinus – a species of burrowing snakes that live underground or beneath leaves.

This distinct characteristic of subterranean living made it particularly difficult discovery.

“That was a really exciting moment,” Smithsonian researcher Aryeh Miller said on a blog. “The specimen looks very different. So different, in fact, that we didn’t know immediately what it was.”

The news species was named Achalinus zugorum in honor of George Zug, Smithsonian’s retired curator of reptiles and amphibians, and his wife, Patricia Zug.

The team of American and Vietnamese researchers started the work in the summer of 2019 to learn more about the vast diversity of species in Northern Vietnam. It is also in support of the Global Genome Biodiversity Network’s aim, which is to sequence the DNA of as many species as possible within the coming years.

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