Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A New Blunt-headed Treesnake from Ecuador

Imantodes chocoensis
Blunt-headed tree snakes range from Mexico and Argentina, and are distinct from all other New World snakes because they have an exceptionally thin body, slender neck, big eyes, and a blunt head. The arboreal snakes hunt frogs and lizards at night and their extremely gracile bodies allow them to bridge gaps between branches that most other arboreal snakes cannot. Omar Torres-Carvajal from Museo de Zoología QCAZ and colleagues (2012) have described Imantodes chocoensis, in the journal Zookeys bringing the number of species in the genus to seven. The Chocoan blunt-headed tree snake chocoensis inhabits the Chocoan forests of northwestern Ecuador. DNA data also suggest that I. chocoensis’ closest relative is a species that inhabits the Amazon on the other side of the Andes.

“One possible explanation for the disjunct distribution between the new species and its closest relative is that the uplift of the Andes fragmented an ancestral population into two, each of which evolved into a different species, one in the Chocó region and the other in the Amazon,” Omar Torres-Carvajal from Museo de Zoología QCAZ, who led the study, said in a statement.

Snakes collected as far back as 1994, and deposited in several Ecuadorian and American natural history museums were examined for the study to help determine whether this was a newly discovered species.

The head of the chocoensis is about the size of a penny, and the species slightly exceeds a meter in total length. The Chocoan forests are part of the Tumbes-Chocó-Magdalena hotspot that lies west of the Andes. The full article is available on-line.

Omar Torres-Carvajal, Mario H. Yánez-Muñoz, Diego Quirol, Eric N. Smith, & Ana Almendáriz. 2012. A new species of blunt-headed vine snake (Colubridae, Imantodes) from the Chocó region of Ecuador. ZooKeys 244: 91–110, doi: 10.3897/zookeys.244.3950

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