New species of venomous snake registered from Northeast

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According to experts, the discovery of a new venomous snake means a lot with regard to public health in a populous country like ours.

According to experts, the discovery of a new venomous snake means a lot with regard to public health in a populous country like ours.

Meghalaya, the land of the mythical evil spirit that takes the form of a giant serpent called U Thlen, has yielded a new-to-science, venomous green snake.

Recorded simultaneously in Mizoram, the snake has been named Maya’s Pit Viper after the deceased mother of an Army officer, one of seven authors of a study on it. The name of the pit viper, recognised as  Trimeresurus mayaae, is also believed to allude to  maya, meaning the supernatural powers, or the illusion related to local legends.

The study was published in the recent edition of PLOS One, a peer-reviewed open access scientific journal published by the Public Library of Science since 2006.

Jayaditya Purkayastha, a herpetologist from the wildlife research group Help Earth and a lead author of the study, said the new species was relatively common in Meghalaya, Mizoram and even in Guwahati.

But the snake used to be referred to as either the Pope’s Pit Viper ( Trimeresurus popeiorum) or Gumprecht’s Green Pit Viper ( Trimeresurus gumprechti) until it was observed closely at the Umroi Military Station near the Meghalaya capital of Shillong, where it was first seen in October 2020.

“Initially, the snake measuring about 750 mm in length looked very similar to Pope’s Pit Viper but the colour of the eyes was different. A little more investigation revealed this snake and the Pope’s Pit Viper have very different hemepenis, the copulatory organ,” Mr. Purkayastha said.

He collaborated with Colonel Yashpal Singh Rathee of the military station and H.T. Lalremsanga of Mizoram University’s Department of Zoology, who also recorded the same species in Mizoram. Zeeshan Mirza of the Bengaluru-based National Centre for Biological Sciences carried out an in-depth genetic analysis to get a better picture. The result supported the theory that the snake is a new species. 

“In a country where around 1.2 million people have lost their lives owing to snakebite and many more have lost their limbs in the last two decades, a discovery of a new venomous snake means a lot in the context of public health”Mr. Jayaditya PurkayasthaHerpetologist

“In a country where around 1.2 million people have lost their lives owing to snakebite and many more have lost their limbs in the last two decades, a discovery of a new venomous snake means a lot in the context of public health,” Mr. Purkayastha told  The Hindu.

“Venom is a complex protein, mostly typical to a species and thus unravelling a new species will help understanding its venom and its impact on human life and perhaps will help save lives,” he added.

Others who contributed to describing the new species are Lal Biakzuala and Lal Muansange of Mizoram University and Siddharth Dalal of Umroi.

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