Not every day do you discover an entirely new species - unless, of course, you are biologist Alejandro Arteaga. He found, along with his team, not just one but three new species of snakes back in November. The team had almost called it quits, taking a break and graciously eating a meal prepared by a local Ecuadorian woman when they were discussing how they were searching for snakes. That is when the woman joined in on the conversation, informing them that she tends to see snakes in the graveyard when she pays her respects to her family members.
The team decided to take the chance and went to the graveyard. When they dug in the ground and began their search, they found two snakes buried by the graves. They published their findings in the journal Zoo Keys. The snakes they found were from the genus, or species, of the Atractus snake. It is classified as a ground snake that tends to be secretive and spends most of its time underground. There are about 146 known species. Before Arteaga’s discovery, there was no scientific recording of this type of snake in Ecuador. This finding is a significant win for Arteaga and his team. They are part of the Khamai Foundation, which is a non-governmental organization with the mission to help biodiversity areas that are being threatened and to help promote conservation.
Upon finding these snakes in the graveyard, the team dedicated more time and resources to exploring the Andean region. The snakes have yellow bellies and are utterly harmless to humans, unlike some of their counterparts. Potentially the best part of the entire discovery is being able to name the newfound snakes. They have named them: A. discovery, a snake classified by its small eyes and a yellow belly with a black line, A. michaelsabini, a snake classified by its larger belly and named after Michael Sabin, who has protected thousands of acres of habitat, and A. zgap, classified by its yellow belly with no line.
Arteaga and his team must be ecstatic about their recent finding. Not only do each of these snakes contribute to the world of science, but they prove there's lots more that awaits us in the wilderness. Stay tuned as Arteaga and his team continue to make further forays into the reptile world.