What snake is found in Yangon Myanmar

New snake species from Myanmar discovered in the museum

(06.10.2020) So far unknown, non-poisonous snake species from Myanmar named after the reptile scientist Joe Slowinski.

An international research team with the participation of Prof. Dr. Hinrich Kaiser from the Zoological Research Museum Alexander Koenig - Leibniz Institute for Biodiversity Research (ZFMK) in Bonn, has discovered a new species of snake.

It was named after the reptile expert Joseph B. Slowinski (1962-2001), who died during a research trip to northern Myanmar from the bite of a krait (a poisonous snake). The newly discovered, black and white banded reptile found in the collections of the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco and the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC is now called the Slowinski's roller snake (Cylindrophis slowinskii).


Cylindrophis slowinskii

“The discovery shows what amazing species are hidden in the cupboards of museum collections, waiting to be discovered,” says Hinrich Kaiser.

As the team writes in the journal Zootaxa, Cylindrophis slowinskii only lives on the shores of Lake Indawgyi in Kachin State in northern Myanmar - a region with an extremely high biodiversity. "Myanmar is one of the last, largely unexplored areas on earth, a hotspot for biodiversity." Sven Mecke from the Paderborn Natural History Museum, who led the project. Cylindrophis slowinskii is now the 177th species of snake that has been detected in the Southeast Asian country. In Germany there are only six species of snakes.

The new snake belongs to the family of roller snakes, of which there are 14 other species. These non-venomous snakes often look quite alike, making it easy to miss a new species. The special feature of the 30 centimeter long Cylindrophis slowinskii: the scaling of the tail and the many elongated spots on the underside of the body.

Using DNA analysis, the researchers were able to identify them as a separate species and create a family tree of the genus. The previously unknown species belongs to the burrowing and giant snake-like species and thus to the superfamily that also includes the largest living snake species.

Incidentally, Cylindrophis slowinskii is not the first reptile to be named after Slowinski. In 2002 a gecko native to Myanmar was given the name of this researcher (Cyrtodactylus slowinskii), in 2005 it was the turn of a krait common in Thailand, Laos and Vietnam (Bungarus slowinskii).

Over ten years later, researchers discovered a small agame (a lizard) in China, which they named Diploderma slowinskii. "There are sure to be other species named in honor of Joe Slowinski, after all, he was one of the world's leading experts on Asian reptiles," said Kaiser.

Profile of cylindrical snakes (Cylindrophis). Roller snakes are less than a meter long, burrowing reptiles that are found on Sri Lanka and in Southeast Asia as far as the Indonesian island world.

Particularly characteristic of these reptiles are their short head with small eyes, the short tail and the strikingly patterned underside of the body. In the event of danger, the rear part of the body is flattened and the underside of the tail, which is usually red, is presented.

Roller snakes are viviparous and give birth to up to 15 young. They feed on other snakes, lizards and fish. Because of their hidden way of life, little is known about them to this day.

Short biography of Joe Slowinski

Joseph “Joe” Bruno Slowinski (November 15, 1962 - September 12, 2001) was an American reptile scientist. Since childhood he was particularly fascinated by the Elapidae family - the poisonous snakes, with the dreaded four-star cobras, mambas, kraits and coral otters. He caught his first snake when he was just four years old.

After overcoming many bureaucratic and logistical obstacles, the enthusiastic and ambitious scientist succeeded in 2001 in organizing an international expedition to the remote and as yet hardly explored north of Myanmar.

On September 11, the day of the most momentous act of terrorism in his home country, the reptile scientist was bitten by a krait (Bungarus multicinctus) and died in a moment of inattention.

publication

Bernstein, J.M., Bauer, A.M. McGuire, J.A., Arida, E., Kaiser, H., Kieckbusch, M. & Mecke, S. (2020). Molecular phylogeny of Asian pipesnakes, genus Cylindrophis Wagler, 1828
(Squamata: Cylindrophiidae), with the description of a new species from Myanmar. Zootaxa, 4851, 3, 535-558.

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