Levitonius mirus manages to hide quite well. This is a new species of snake that scientists have only recently been able to identify. In its natural habitat, in the Philippine archipelago of Samarra and Leiti, this creature spends most of its life underground and only rises to the surface during rains, like the worms found on sidewalks after rains.
It is therefore not surprising that when specimens of this species of snake were collected in 2006 and 2007, they were accidentally assigned to another species of snake. In 2014, new specimens of the above species were added to this collection. They have been kept for years at the University of Kansas Institute for Biodiversity and the Museum of Natural History. During this time, scientists had no idea that they were researching a whole new genus in the snake subclass.
One day, when Jeff Weinell, a graduate and junior researcher at the University of Kansas, was observing the samples at the Institute for Biodiversity, he decided to conduct molecular analysis and then send the samples to the University of Florida for computed tomography. Today, Waynele is the lead author of a paper published in the journal Copeia that discusses a completely new species and genus of snakes.
“At first, I was just interested in studying the group of snakes that used to belong to these specimens,” Weinel said. “It was at this time that I began writing my doctoral dissertation at the University of Kansas. I was trying to gather enough data on snakes of different species and genera to decide which one I wanted to study the most. “I made a connection between them. So I made a list of all the specimens we had in the museum and that belonged to this group, and I started studying their DNA sequence from the tissues that were most useful,” he added.
As soon as Weinel received the results of the molecular research, he realized that these snakes did not belong to the Pseudorabdion group at all, although their classification was not an easy task: the Philippine archipelago is particularly distinguished by its biodiversity. At least 112 species of snakes live here, representing 41 genera and 12 families.
In addition to Brown, Weinell was working on a new paper with Daniel Palluhi of the University of Florida and Cameron Schiller of the University of Oklahoma. According to Brown, the paper highlights the importance of creating biodiversity collections in research institutes and universities.
“In this case, ‘expert field biologists’ misidentified or specimens. The same thing has been repeated for years – scientists thought these were already common species of snakes and did not pay much attention to them,” Brown said.
The discovery of this species “indicates that we still have a lot to learn about reptiles in the Southern Philippines, which requires a detailed study of their micro-habitats,” said Marité Bonachita-Sangula, a biologist at the Saturnino Urio University Biodiversity Informatics and Research Center.
“Innovative Filipino herpetology (a field that studies reptiles) authored by Walter Brown and Enhel Alcala has shown biologists from the 1960s to 1990s how important it is to focus on species-specific microhabitats,” says Gam.
He also added that the disappearance of different species habitats is a fairly common problem in the Philippines today if their area is reduced as a result of anthropogenic land use. These include, for example, deforestation or the use of land for agricultural purposes.
“This news and what we will learn about these little creatures in the future will help us plan nature conservation activities properly, which will help protect endemic species in the Philippines. This applies to species that, like Levitonius mirus, are very rare.” Explains a Filipino scientist. “Now we desperately need an effective land use management strategy to protect not only celebrity species such as eagles and longfoots, but also the lesser-known, almost unnoticed animals and their habitats. , He says.