Beautiful new species of rare burrowing snakes discovered

A strikingly beautiful burrowing snake previously unknown to science has been discovered in Paraguay, making waves because of its color and its rarity.

Described in a new study published in the journal Zoosystematics and Evolution as a non-venomous member of the genus Phalotris, the snake has so far been detected in only two places in the landlocked South American republic.

Phaloris shawnella is named after two children, Shawn Ariel Fernández and Ella Bethany Atkinson, who were born in 2008, the same year as the foundation of the nonprofit Fundación Para La Tierra.

Phalotris shawnella, a non-venomous snake previously unknown to science, was discovered in Paraguay.
Jean-Paul Brouard/Zenger

The two children are credited with encouraging the nonprofit to fight for endangered wildlife in Paraguay.

Because only three individual snakes have been found to date, and in only two areas in San Pedro province in eastern Paraguay, the authors of the paper believe that the snake is in danger of extinction, meaning it will face extinction without protection. is threatened.

The genus Phalotris contains at least 15 species of snakes distributed in the vast eco-region of Cerrado savanna that stretches from Brazil into Paraguay.

Phalotris shawnella discovered in Paraguay
Phalotris shawnella, a non-venomous snake previously unknown to science, was discovered in Paraguay.
Jean-Paul Brouard/Zenger

Researcher Jean-Paul Brouard accidentally discovered one of the snakes while digging a hole at Rancho Laguna Blanca in 2014.

The snake is considered a fossil species, meaning it spends most of its time burrowing and hunting just below the surface of the ground in its environment.

In consultation with colleagues Paul Smith and Pier Cacciali, Brouard wrote of the snake, which unlike related species has a red head combined with a yellow band around the neck, followed by black lateral bans and black-spotted orange scales on its abdomen.

So far, the snake has only been found in Laguna Blanca – a tourist destination – and Colonia Volendam, which are about 90 kilometers apart.

A distribution ma of Phalotris shawnella. (Jean-Paul Brouard/Zenger).

Laguna Blanca was set aside for the conservation of native reptiles and amphibians.

Of the three individuals, only one was actually captured for study, while the other two escaped — but not before being photographed.

“This demonstrates once again the need to protect the natural environment in this region of Paraguay,” the authors said.

They went on to say: “Laguna Blanca has been designated a nature reserve for a period of 5 years, but currently has no protection at all. The preservation of this site should be considered a national conservation priority.”

Known for its sandy soils, the Cerrado region in Paraguay is rapidly being developed for agriculture and ranching, endangering the natural environment.

Phalotris shawnella discovered in Paraguay
Phalotris shawnella, a non-venomous snake previously unknown to science, was discovered in Paraguay.
Jean-Paul Brouard/Zenger

This story was provided to Newsweek by Zenger News.

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