New snake species found 84 years af­ter last dis­cov­ery

The China Post - - LOCAL -

Tai­wanese re­searchers have made a rare dis­cov­ery of a new en­demic snake species in Tai­wan with the help of mod­ern science and named it af­ter the in­dige­nous tribe with which it shares its habi­tat.

Lin Si-min, a life science pro­fes­sor at Na­tional Tai­wan Nor­mal Uni­ver­sity who led the re­search team that made the dis­cov­ery, said Fri­day it was the first time in 84 years that a new snake species had been found in Tai­wan.

His team has called the snake the Par­eas Atayal be­cause it be­longs to the genus Par­eas and lives in the moun­tain ar­eas that are the tra­di­tional ter­ri­tory of the in­dige­nous Atayal tribe, Lin said in pre­sent­ing the team’s find­ings.

The last dis­cov­ery of a new snake species was made by a Ja­panese scholar in 1931 when Tai­wan was un­der Ja­panese colo­nial rule, Lin said.

But thanks to im­proved sci­en­tific iden­ti­fi­ca­tion tech­niques, such as DNA anal­y­sis, his re­search team found some flaws in past sci­en­tific stud­ies that led to un­der­es­ti­mat­ing Tai­wan’s bio­di­ver­sity.

Lin’s team es­tab­lished through DNA testing and the ex­ten­sive ex­am­i­na­tion of dif­fer­ent snakes that Par­eas Atayal is one of three en­demic slug snakes on the is­land, the other two be­ing Par­eas for­mosen­sis (com­monly known as the Tai­wan/For­mosa slug snake) and Par­eas ko­maii.

Ac­cord­ing to the life science pro­fes­sor, the three snakes have sev­eral sub­tle dif­fer­ences.

The For­mosa slug snake eats slugs while the Ko­maii and Atayal slug snakes pre­fer snails, Lin said.

They also are dis­tinct from each other in terms of hered­ity and body shape, and they do not cross­breed.

To be able to scoop out snails from their shells, lo­cal slug snakes have de­vel­oped a dif­fer­ent num­ber of teeth on each side of their mouth, and the Atayal slug snake has the most asym­met­ri­cal bite, with 20 teeth on the left side of the mouth and 11 on the right side, said You Chung-wei, a mem­ber of Lin’s team.

Also, the eyes of the Atayal and Ko­maii slug snakes are yel­low­ish, while For­mosa slug snakes have red eyes, he added.

The new find­ing has been pub­lished in the Zoo­log­i­cal Scripta, a bi­monthly peer-re­viewed sci­en­tific jour­nal on sys­tem­atic zo­ol­ogy.

CNA

Lin Si-min, a life science pro­fes­sor at Na­tional Tai­wan Nor­mal Uni­ver­sity, left, holds up pho­tos of a newly dis­cov­ered snake species with his fel­low re­searcher, yes­ter­day. The re­searchers made a rare dis­cov­ery of a new en­demic snake species in Tai­wan and named it af­ter the in­dige­nous tribe with which it shares its habi­tat. Lin’s team has called the snake the Par­eas Atayal be­cause it be­longs to the genus Par­eas and lives in the moun­tain ar­eas that are the tra­di­tional ter­ri­tory of the in­dige­nous Atayal tribe, Lin said in pre­sent­ing the team’s find­ings.

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