Non-venomous Endemic Ssnake-Aquatic Rhabdops

  • Scientists have described a new species of non-venomous endemic snake, Aquatic Rhabdops, from the northern Western Ghats.
  • The three-foot-long nocturnal snake hunts for prey underwater. 
  • Interestingly, while adults of the Aquatic Rhabdops have off-white bellies and black spots on their olive brown skin, juveniles are olive green, with yellow undersides. 
  • This colour difference in life stages could possibly be due to the different local habitats. 
  • The new species is named after its aquatic nature since the adults are mostly associated with freshwater forest streams and juveniles are seen in water-logged areas, mostly on rocky plateaus.
  • Scientists say the new species, Rhabdops aquaticus, was till now considered a variant of the Olive Forest Snake, first described in 1863. 
  • However, the new study confirms that the Aquatic Rhabdops is a different one: they sport not only different colours and patterns, but also vary in other features of size, shape and structure, and also genetic make-up.

About Rhabdops species:

  • Endemicity, the phenomenon of being present only in a specific geographical area, runs in the family: all Rhabdops snakes are endemic to India. 
  • The Olive Forest Snake Rhabdops olivaceus is found only in the Western Ghats while the bi-coloured Forest Snake Rhabdops bicolour lives in a few localities in the northeast.
  • The Aquatic Rhabdops too is found only in the laterite plateaus of the northern Western Ghats in Goa, southern Maharashtra and northern Karnataka, in areas facing severe human pressures.

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