A new species of snake has been identified for the first time by a group of researchers from the University of Adelaide, the South Australian Museum and the Western Australian Museum.
The desert whip snake is the latest of 15 species of whip snake found in dry habitats and outback towns across Australia, including parts of Western Australia, South Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland.
In the past, the desert whip snake has been mistaken for other species of whip snake, but researchers have examined tissue specimens and found that it has different characteristics of its close relatives.
“Unlike other whip snake species, the desert whip snake has a blue body with a copper head and tail. It also doesn’t have as much black on the scales as its closest relative,” said Dr . James Nankivell of the University of Adelaide. , a DNA researcher and first author of the study, published in the journal Zootaxa.
“These subtle but consistent differences in external appearance and genetic evidence led us to identify this new species of whip snake.”
The desert whip snake’s unique blue body is the inspiration behind its scientific name, Demansia cyanochasma, which means blue gap.
It is a fast-moving, slender snake and uses its speed to chase lizards, before defeating its prey with its venom.
“While the desert whip snake is quite venomous, its bite – although painful – is unlikely to cause any serious harm to humans,” said Dr. Nankivell.
“Whip snake bites are very unusual because they are very shy and tend to flee at the first sign of danger.”
The desert whip snake can grow up to 90 centimeters and is most active during the day.
Whip snakes are common in outdoor areas and the desert whip snake is not thought to be in danger of extinction.
“This study continues to highlight the great diversity of reptiles living in Australia’s deserts,” said Dr. Nankivell.
“Our country is home to more reptile species than anywhere else in the world and there are many more species waiting to be discovered.”
The same genetic method was used recently to identify four new species of Sand Dragon in South Australia.
James H. Nankivell et al, Whip it into shape: Revision of the Demansia psammophis (Schlegel, 1837) complex (Squamata: Elapidae), Zootaxa (2023). DOI: 10.11646/zootaxa.5311.3.1
Provided by the University of Adelaide
Citation: Speedy new snake species discovered in Australia (2023, July 19) retrieved 20 July 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-07-speedy-species-snake-uncovered-australia. html
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