Two new species of deadly venomous snake have been discovered in Colombia by a team of international scientists.
They have been named as Bothrocophias myrringae and Bothrocophias tulitoi, two new types of toadheaded pitviper.
The snakes’ venom is said to be so powerful it can kill a man.
Newsflash obtained a statement from the Senckenberg Society for Nature Research on Monday, 7th November, saying: “Together with a South American team, Senckenberg scientist Juan Pablo Hurtado-Gomez has described two new toadheaded pitvipers.
“To date, hardly anything is known about these venomous snakes, which are native to Colombia.
“The new species descriptions were made possible by a collection from the National Institute of Health in Colombia aimed at improving the treatment of snakebites.”
The experts explained in a statement that toadheaded pitvipers (Bothrocophias) live “in isolated and hard-to-reach South American rainforest areas such as the Choco rainforest in Ecuador, the western lowlands of the Amazon rainforest, the Pacific highlands, and the eastern slope of the Andes.”
Hurtado-Gomez said: “The lack of Bothrocophias material in scientific collections as well as the tendency to confuse the species of this genus with the more common and widespread members of the American pit vipers (Bothrops), have greatly complicated the taxonomic assessment of this group.”
But Hurtado-Gomez and his Colombian colleagues still succeed in identifying two new species within the genus.
The statement said: “The snakes originate from the highlands of the Colombian Andes and were previously confused with the species Bothrocophias microphthalmus.
“However, based on morphological and genetic analyses, the team has now determined that they represent two previously unknown species: Bothrocophias myrringae sp. nov., and Bothrocophias tulitoi sp. nov.”
Hurtado-Gomez, who is also Colombian but who works at the Senckenberg Society in Dresden, in Germany, said: “The new species differ in a number of external characteristics, such as the arrangement and number of their scales or the colour pattern of the body and tail.”
The two new species have been named after Tulio Angarita and Myriam Sierra, who were “instrumental in developing a modern educational model that is now used in all schools in Colombia” and are the parents of the study’s first author, Teddy Angarita Sierra.
The discovery of the snakes, whose venom can reportedly prove deadly, was reportedly made possible by the National Institute of Health in Colombia (Instituto Nacional de Salud, INS) which is geared towards developing antivenoms and treating severe snakebites.
The statement said: “All species of the genus Bothrocophias studied by Hurtado-Gómez and his team are venomous.
“The limited data on the venom’s effects in humans range from mild presentations with short-lasting pain and mild swelling to severe poisoning and isolated deaths.”
Senckenberg reptile expert Prof. Dr. Uwe Fritz explains, “Clarifying the taxonomy of toadheaded pitvipers has significant implications for the treatment of venomous snake bites in Andean countries.
“Unfortunately, such accidents are sometimes fatal.
“The first step in effectively treating snakebites is to accurately identify the snake that caused the poisoning.
“This facilitates the subsequent preparation and administration of the proper antiserum, i.e. the antivenom.
“Knowing the biology and habitat of a particular species also reduces the risk of being bitten in the first place.
“The new taxonomic findings of the study thus make an important contribution toward achieving the World Health Organization’s goal of reducing the number of snakebites!”
The findings were published in the academic journal Vertebrate Zoology under the title ‘Hidden in the highs: Two new species of the enigmatic toadheaded pitvipers of the genus Bothrocophias’ on 28th October.
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