Researchers Sandeep Das and K.P. Rajkumar discovered the Anamalai wood snake while surveying India’s Kerala Eravikulam National Park.
Researchers Sandeep Das and K.P. Rajkumar discovered a new species of wood snake, apparently by accident! Das and Rajkumar were relaxing after a hard day’s work surveying snakes and other fauna in India’s Kerala Eravikulam National Park in the Anamalai hills when Das noticed some movement in a trench not far from where they were sitting.
Upon further inspection, Das observed a dark colored snake thermoregulating near its hole. Das had found a wood snake. The snake appeared different from other species of wood snakes and, five years after that day, Das and Rajkumar along with scientist Deepak V, have determined that the snake, now named the Xylophis mosaicus, or the Anamalai wood snake, is indeed a new species.
The researchers compared mitochondrial DNA of Xylophis mosaicus to that of two Perrotet’s wood snakes from nearby Nilgiris and Eravikulam, looked at data from other wood snakes and built a phylogenetic tree, somewhat like a family tree, and determined that the Perrotet’s wood snake in Eravikulam differed genetically from those found in Nilgiris. The Anamalai wood snake and the Nilgiris wood snakes are two different from related branches in the phylogenetic tree.
Xylophis mosaicus is a mottled gray and brown in coloration with yellow scales throughout in a mosaic-like pattern. An abstract of the study can be read on the Biotaxa website.