Three new species of snake have been discovered deep in the northern Andes mountains.
Three new species of fishing snake, along with another species discovered merely weeks before, now make up the genus Synophis, an elusive species of snake native to South America.
The fishing snake is recognizable by its dark back and light belly, but it is unclear how they got their name as they don’t eat fish.
“I have no idea where [the name “fishing snake”] comes from—they don’t fish at all,” says biologist Omar Torres-Carvajal of the Pontifical Catholic University of Ecuador, who led the expedition into the Andes to search for new species.
Rather, these elusive snakes eat small lizards and are burrowers, spending most of their time underground.
Torres-Carvajal and his team spent weeks in the cloud forests of the Andes gathering the new snakes. They tested the collected snake’s DNA and it did not match any known snake, leading them to believe they had found three new species.
The area that the now named Synophis bogerti, Synophis zamora, and Synophis insulomontanus were found is considered a “hot spot for diversity.” Torres-Carvajal recently discovered eight new species of “dwarf dragons” from the same Andean cloud forests, an area that is also threatened by deforestation.
“43 of the 454 species of reptiles known to occur in Ecuador have been described in the twenty-first century…We need an army—a new generation—of taxonomists just to clarify how many species are around us.”
All images via National Geographic