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Grass Snake in Europe Classified as New Species

August 21, 2017



Europe is not exactly a hotbed for reptile diversity, but it has gained an additional species with the barred grass snake (Natrix helvetica), a reptile previously thought to have been a common grass snake.

Barred grass snake

Bernard DUPONT/Wikipedia

The barred grass snake (Natrix helvetica) playing dead, a defense mechanism with this species.
 

Prof. Uwe Fritz of the Senckenberg Research Institute in Germany led a team of scientists that determined the genetic lineages of the two snakes were indeed different. “We studied two areas where different genetic lineages of the grass snake come into contact,” Fritz told the Guardian.

“We discovered that the barred grass snake, previously considered a subspecies, is in fact a distinct species.”

The scientists studied more than 1,600 grass snakes, and determined that there were two “contact zones,” where the genetic lineages of the two snakes met and found evidence of reproductive barriers that determined that the barred grass snake was a separate species from  Natrix natrix

“We now have to pay close attention to which species of grass snake is involved in each case, in order to be able to assess whether one of them may be more threatened than previously thought,” Fritz told the Guardian.

The complete paper, published in Scientific Reports, can be read on Nature.com

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