TechRemarkable discovery: New pit viper species with unique coloring stuns scientists in Burma

Remarkable discovery: New pit viper species with unique coloring stuns scientists in Burma

New species discovered in Burma
New species discovered in Burma
Images source: © Press materials

4:54 PM EST, December 26, 2023

Snake species come in all shapes and sizes, from giant pythons to horned snakes found in deserts. Distinguishing a new species from an existing one proves can be extremely challenging. Many of them can look very different physically. Similarly, the identification of the latest species from the Asian forest was complicated.

"Asian pit vipers from the genus Trimeresurus are particularly challenging to distinguish due to their wide range of morphological variability. Some groups consist of many visually similar species, while others may look completely different, but are in fact the same species," explained Dr. Chan Kin Onn, herpetologist and the main author of the study.

Burmese vipers

The species of pit viper are found in both northern and southern parts of Burma. In the north, the red-tailed viper (Trimeresurus erythrurus) is identifiable by its green body adorned with various markings. In the south, the mangrove viper (Trimeresurus purpureomaculatus) appears in a range of colors, including yellow, brown, and black, but never green. There is also a third species inhabiting the central part of Burma.

"This mysterious population in central Burma was intriguing. We initially suspected it might be a hybrid population," the scientists stated. However, they later concluded that it is not a hybrid, but a completely new and genetically distinct species. It was most surprising that there were vast differences in appearance among individual members of the same species. Moreover, many characteristics were reminiscent of relatives from the north and south. The scientists believe that there may have been gene exchange between the different species in the past.

The newly discovered species located in central Burma has been named Trimeresurus ayeyarwadyensis. This discovery is yet another example of how many creatures on Earth remain undiscovered. We barely know anything about, for example, insects or beings living in the depths of the ocean. Moreover, even terrestrial animals continue to surprise scientists.

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