A tiny snake of just 20 cm length with iridescent scales Xylophis deepaki, first stumbled upon in a coconut plantation in Kanyakumari, is now reported to be an endemic species of Tamil Nadu and has been sighted in a few locations in the southern part of the Western Ghats.
- The species is named in honour of Indian herpetologist Deepak Veerappan for his contribution in erecting a new subfamily Xylophiinae to accommodate wood snakes.
- Wood snakes are harmless, sub-fossorial and often found while digging soil in farms and under the logs in the Western Ghat forests.
- They feed on earthworms and possibly other invertebrates. Interestingly, their close relatives are found in northeast India and Southeast Asia and are known to be arboreal.
About Xylophis deepaki
- This new species is found in the drier regions and in lower altitudes around Agasthyamalai hills.
- The other Xylophis were reported from cold higher altitudes, of 1,700 m and above, in the Nilgiris and the Anaimalai.
- Its close relative, Captain’s wood snake, is known from the western slopes of the Western Ghats in the Kerala
- The snake was previously confused with X. captaini, but detailed morphological studies showed that the it had a broader off-white collar and more ventral scales.
- Further, DNA studies indicated that it was indeed a new species and was a close relative to X. captaini.
- The new find increases the total number of currently recognised wood snakes to five species.
- The snake was found from rubber, banana, and coconut farms, it seems to be well adapted to moderate habitat changes.
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