The plethora of biodiversity in northern Vietnam’s limestone mountains called Karst Formations houses some of the most unique creatures of wildlife. A recent report has described the presence of a rare species of snake in the region.
How did the discovery lead?
The group(researchers from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and the Institute for Ecology and Biological Resources at the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology) spent evenings wading through creeks and hiking through jungles, catching and recording information about various frogs and snakes along the way. One evening, while on the way to a survey site, the scientists spotted a strange snake on the road. It had dark, iridescent coloration with small, ridged — called keeled — scales. The crew knew right away that it was a new species. The specimen looked very different, so different that the scientists knew immediately what it was. The snake’s strange appearance made it difficult to classify at first. But later that night, the researchers realized that it belongs to the rare genus Achalinus, commonly known as odd-scaled snakes.
This is the heading
The researchers don’t know much about the snake’s behaviour, but its physical traits — odd scale pattern; dark, iridescent coloration and the absence of bright-light photoreceptors in its eyes — suggest that it burrows underground or beneath leaves. This subterranean lifestyle makes these snakes particularly hard to find, even for scientists who have spent decades in the field. As they conduct more biodiversity surveys, the group hopes to find other Achalinus snakes and learn more about their behaviour.
The Origin of Zugorum
When it came time to name the new species, the team used the opportunity to thank retired Smithsonian curator George Zug and his wife, Patricia Zug, for their work in the field and with students over the years.
Scientists from the Smithsonian and the Institute of Ecology and Biological Resources at the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology, have known each other for several years via George Zug. They have built a partnership around biodiversity research and conservation in Vietnam, so as a tribute to them they named a new species after professor Zug and his wife.
Zug has made immense contributions to the field of herpetology, but it was his and his wife’s guidance of young scientists that inspired the honorary species name.