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Rare Iridescent Snake Discovered in Vietnam
December 7th, 2020
Looming limestone mountains called karst formations rise abruptly from rivers, bays and valleys in northern Vietnam. In a region of the world already rich with life, these karsts and the lush green forests that cover them create habitats that support extreme biodiversity. Many of the species are endemic to the area, meaning they only exist there.
In a paper published today in the journal Copeia, researchers 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 a new species of snake that they discovered in the Ha Giang province. The species is part of a rare genus of burrowing snakes that branched from the evolutionary tree earlier than most other groups. Because of this, they look and behave unlike many other snakes and could help scientists piece together new information about snake evolution.
The researchers named the new species Achalinus zugorum in honor of the Smithsonian’s retired curator of reptiles and amphibians, George Zug, and his wife, Patricia Zug.
Scaling up local work
The international team of researchers surveyed karst forests in the summer of 2019 to learn more about northern Vietnam’s species diversity. The work supports the broader mission of the Global Genome Biodiversity Network: to sequence the DNA of as many species as possible within the next few years.