Guwahati: Researchers from Developmental Biology & Herpetology Lab, Department of Zoology, Mizoram University, Amity Institute of Forestry and Wildlife, Amity University and Society for South-East Asian Herpetology,  Germany have found a new species of snake Herpetoreas murlen from Murlen National Park, Mizoram.

“We discovered a new species of natricine snake which we named as Herpetoreas murlen commonly known as Murlen Keelback snake from Murlen National Park in Mizoram, one of the least explored protected areas in the state,” Lal Biakzuala, Senior Research Fellow and doctoral student, Mizoram University told EastMojo.

The study has been published in Salamandra journal- a journal of German herpetology.

Natricine snakes belong to the sub-family Natricinae (commonly said as natricine snakes) and are accommodated under the huge snake family Colubridae, and most of the members of this sub-family are considered a pretty common snake species.

“The microhabitat of the species is very far away from water sources unlike other species microhabitat,” H T Lalremsanga of Zoology Department, Mizoram University told EastMojo.

“Other than the distinction of the species through DNA evidence, the key feature for differentiating the species is by having the combinations of divided sub-caudal and anal scales, relatively short tail, and a number of ventral scales not fewer than 168 but not more than 190,” Biakzuala said.

“The snake was found in the high altitude zone of Mizoram at 1,763 metres,” Biakzuala said.

It was found within the core area of the park which is approximately 6 km from Murlen village, one of the fringe villages of the National Park.

The snake was collected from leaf litter along a forest trail. The area is characterized by dense tropical to subtropical evergreen mixed forests, covering 200 sq km at an altitude of 600 to 1,800 metres. It receives an annual rainfall of 2,000–2,500 mm with temperature ranging between 5°C in winter and 35°C in summer.

Murlen National Park is one of the understudied protected areas in Mizoram. The forest type in and around the park is predominantly dense tropical to subtropical evergreen mixed forests.

There are six fringe villages surrounding this Park. Moreover, it has been regarded as one of the dense forests in the country which supports rich biodiversity. It is also one of the few remaining habitats of the Asiatic black bear in the country.

” We expect the presence of this species in the adjoining Manipur state, and perhaps including the neighbouring country (Myanmar) since the National park is located at an aerial distance of less than 20 km from the Indo-Myanmar border,” Biakzuala said.

He said presently, they do not have any specific data on the threats to the species.

“However, the surrounding forested area of the park is predominantly disturbed by several livelihoods such as logging, livestock activity, and shifting (Jhum) cultivation, which could be a potential threat to the species. But, other information on the biology of the species is unknown so far. Consequently, in the paper, we suggested the new species be regarded as a data deficient (DD) species under the categorization of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species,” Biakzuala said.

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