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Four New Stegonotus New Guinea Ground Snakes Discovered And Described

December 21, 2017

Researchers studying New Guinea ground snakes have found molecular evidence to confirm four new colubrid snake species of the Stegonotus genus.

The snakes, Stegonotus derooijae, Stegonotus iridis, Stegonotus melanolabiatus, and Stegonotus admiraltiensis, are native to New Guinea and were discovered by studying the species’ molecular and genetic data as well as morphology and DNA sequencing to determine the species are unique.

The researchers looked at the molecular data of 49 individual snakes of the Stegonotus genus of New Guinea and with the help of museum specimens, determined that four species are new to science.

Stegonotus melanolabiatus is dark in coloration, while Stegonotus admiraltiensis is reddish brown in coloration. Stegonotus derooijae, named after famed Dutch herpetologist Dr. Nelly De Rooij, is grey-brown in coloration.  De Rooij was author of The Reptiles of the Indo-Australian Archipelago (1915) and for her dissertation, studied the cardiovascular system of the Japanese giant salamander.

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Herps Of Papua New Guinea

Stegonotus iridis is delightfully white in coloration with a brown head (as if its head was dipped in brown paint.

“The island of New Guinea has been identified as biologically megadiverse; however, it remains one of the least studied regions of the world,” Rutgers University snake researcher Sara Ruane and collaborators wrote in in their study, published in the Journal of Natural History. “Most groups of snakes in New Guinea have been poorly studied and are in dire need of taxonomic revision.”

Ruane and her colleagues think that as yet undiscovered snakes of the Stegnotus genus on New Guinea may still yet to be discovered and described.

“These ground snakes have not garnered much attention, and we expect that additional species remain to be discovered,” she said.

An abstract of the study, “Cryptic and non-cryptic diversity in New Guinea ground snakes of the genus Stegonotus Duméril, Bibron and Duméril, 1854: a description of four new species (Squamata: Colubridae)” can be read on the Journal of Natural History website.

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