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Aizawl: Researchers have discovered a rare new non-venomous species of snake in Mizoram named Stoliczkia vanhnuailianai, local name – “Rulphusin” – meaning ‘snake with small scales’.

Officials said it is identified as a member of the genus Stoliczkia by distinct scale arrangements on the posterior of the head, and by scales on the body being separated by scaleless skin, and it differs from the two known congeners in body and head scalation.

This is only the third specimen of Stoliczkia collected from India, and the sixth reported specimen for the genus. A revised key to the identification of the species of Stoliczkia is provided. The snake is about 50 cm in length.

The researchers named it Stoliczkia vanhnuailianai in honour of Vanhnuailiana, a famous Mizo warrior. It has also been given a common name – ‘Lushai hills dragon snake’.

The snake was found in the Phulpui area of Mizoram during an expedition by a research team consisting of Samuel Lalronunga, K Lalhmangaiha, Isaac Zosangliana, Esther Lalhmingliani, David J Gower, Abhijit Das and V Deepak.

The species was first taken to Systematics, a Toxicology lab at Mizoram University’s Zoology department.

Researchers initially believed the finding to be the rare specimen of Stoliczkia khasiensis. Later, upon examination by the Zoological Survey of India in Kolkata and Natural History Museum of London for detailed identification, it was found out that the snake was different from Stoliczkia khasiensis. It was then declared as a new species.

The findings were published recently in Zootaxa, a peer-reviewed scientific mega journal for animal taxonomists.

The stoliczkia genus species has three sub species – Stoliczkia khasiensis, Stoliczkia borneensis and newly found stoliczkia vanhnuailianai. These species are believed to be one of the rarest snakes in the world.

Stoliczkia borneensis is only found in Borneo Island, Indonesia and there are only 3 specimens in the world kept in a museum. Also, there are only 2 Stoliczkia khasiensis specimens in the world kept in a museum. The latest stoliczkia vanhnuailianai species is only found in Mizoram.

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