New snake species discovered thanks to Instagram post

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Oligodon churahensis was discovered after a university student in India took a photo of it in June 2020 (Credit: American Association for the Advancement of Science)

A new species of snake has crept into the reptile list after a team of researchers in India spotted the creature in an Instagram photo.

According to a press release from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Virendar K. Bhardwaj, a university student, began exploring his garden in Chamba, India. He photographed everything he found and posted photos on his Instagram page.

In June 2020, he posted a photo of a kukri snake – known for its curved teeth which resemble the Nepalese “Kukri” dagger.

Zeeshan A. Mirza, a researcher at the National Center for Biological Sciences in Bangalore, saw the photo of the snake and contacted Virendar to learn more about the reptile.

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Virendar told researchers he found the snake along a mud road during the summer.

Researchers initially thought the reptile was a common Kukri snake, but a herpetologist said it had unique characteristics that left questions about its identity. However, the COVID-19 pandemic and containment have slowed research.

When the labs reopened, researchers said they studied the snake’s DNA and realized it was different from the Common Kukri snake. They then analyzed the morphological characteristics of the snake and realized that the snake belonged to a species unknown to scientists.

The discovery of the new species was later published in a research article in the international peer-reviewed journal Evolutionary Systematics.

Scientists labeled the new species “Oligodon churahensis”, referring to the Churah Valley in Himachal Pradesh where it was discovered.

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“It’s quite interesting how an image on Instagram led to the discovery of such a pretty snake which until very recently has remained hidden from the world,” Mirza said in the press release.

“Compared to other biodiversity hotspots, the Western Himalayas are still poorly explored, especially in terms of herpetological diversity, but it is home to unique reptile species that we only began to unravel in the past two years. past years, “he continued.

Finding new species is not uncommon. National Museum of History, London discovered more than 500 in 2020. One was a monkey called Popa langur, found on the extinct volcano of Mount Popa in Myanmar.

“What’s even more interesting is that exploring your own backyard can reveal as yet undocumented species,” Mirza continued. “Lately, people have been eager to travel to remote biodiversity hotspots to find new or rare species, but if you look in their own backyards, they may end up finding a new species there – low, ”Mirza said.

This story was reported from Los Angeles.

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