Vivid Snake is newly described and likely already endangered

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With its bright red, black and yellow coloration, it’s surprising that this newly discovered snake has barely been noticed before.

The distinctive and lively snake was recently described by researchers for the first time in Paraguay. The non-venomous snake was previously unknown to science.

The newly recognized snake belongs to the genus Phalotris, which is a group of small to medium-sized snakes. They are usually found in open areas of Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Argentina. Snakes are known for their striking and distinct colors.

While the first snakes of the genus were described in 1862, the newly recognized snake was first discovered by Jean-Paul Brouard, a scientist with the nonprofit conservation group Fundación Para La Tierra. He was digging a hole in Rancho Laguna Blanca, an ecological and tourist site in Paraguay while doing field work.

The researchers named the new discovery Phalotris shawnellaafter two children, Shawn Ariel Smith Fernández and Ella Bethany Atkinson, born in 2008, the same year the Fundación Para La Tierra was founded.

The children were credited with inspiring the group’s founders to work to conserve wildlife in Paraguay “so that one day they can inherit a better world,” the researchers write in the study.

“This group of ophidians is known for its striking coloration with red, black and yellow patterns,” one of the study’s authors, Paul Smith of Fundación Para La Tierra, told Treehugger. “The new species is particularly attractive and can be distinguished from related species by the red head associated with a yellow collar, black lateral band and orange ventral scales with irregular black spots.”

The results were published in the journal Zoosystematics and evolution.

Already in danger

The researchers found only three of these Phalotris shawnella snakes so far in the San Pedro department (province) of northeast Paraguay. They are endemic to the forests of the Cerrado, a savannah ecosystem found mainly in Brazil but extending into Paraguay.

The snakes have been found in two places with sandy soils in this region – Laguna Blanca and Colonia Volendam – which are only 90 kilometers (56 miles) apart. A snake was captured for study. The other two were photographed but escaped after observation.

Researchers think it could be a forest species.

Because the species is so rare, has such a small range, and experiences a fragmented habitat, the authors classified the newly described snake as “endangered” according to categories established by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. (IUCN). This means they believe it is a species in imminent danger of extinction unless conservation efforts are made.

“The discovery of Phalotris Shawnella– once again – shows how diverse but also understudied the fauna of Paraguay is,” says Smith.

“In particular, its presence in Laguna Blanca, an area designated as an Important Area for the Conservation of Amphibians and Reptiles, re-emphasizes the need to protect the natural environment in this highly endangered area of ​​the country which currently does not benefit from any juridic protection. . The discovery of a new snake species in this area demonstrates that the preservation of this site must be considered a national conservation priority.

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