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Surprising new snake species discovered in Paraguay

Christian Fernsby |
A non-venomous snake, previously unknown to science, was discovered in Paraguay and described by researchers of the Paraguayan NGO Para La Tierra with the collaboration of Guyra Paraguay and the Instituto de Investigación Biológica del Paraguay.

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It belongs to the genus Phalotris, which features 15 semi-subterranean species distributed in central South America. This group of snakes is noted for its striking coloration with red, black, and yellow patterns.

"It can be distinguished from the other members of the group by having the following combination of characters:

1) fifth supralabial in contact with parietal,

2) vertebral stripe present,

3) yellowish nuchal collar (2 or 3 dorsal scales long),

4) dull reddish color of head,

5) broad, solidly or near solidly dark, lateral bands,

6) red-orange ventral scales lightly and irregularly spotted with black mainly on the posterior half of the body and

7) a bilobed, extremely asymmetrical hemipenis, with enlarged, curved, lateral spines", the research paper states.

The new Phalotris snake is particularly attractive and can be distinguished from other related species in its genus by its red head in combination with a yellow collar, a black lateral band and orange ventral scales with irregular black spots. Only known from three individuals, it is endemic to the Cerrado forests of the department of San Pedro in east Paraguay. Its known distribution consists of two spots with sandy soils in that department—Colonia Volendam and Laguna Blanca—which are 90 km apart.

The extreme rarity of this species led the authors to consider it as "Endangered", according to the conservation categories of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which means it is in imminent danger of extinction in the absence of measures for its protection.

This species can only be found in the famous tourist destination of Laguna Blanca, an area declared as an Important Area for the Conservation of Amphibians and Reptiles.

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