Writing in the open access journal ZooKeys, researchers described the discovery of a new variation of a blunt-headed vine snake in the Chocoan forests in northwestern Ecuador.
Blunt-headed vine snakes, found throughout Central and South America, are different from all other New World snakes in having a very thin body, disproportionately slender neck, big eyes, and a blunt head, the researchers said.
The new species, found in the Tumbes-Choco-Magdalena hot spot that lies west of the Andes and named Imantodes chocoensis, increases the number of species in this group of snakes to seven.
DNA data suggests its closest relative is a species that inhabits the Amazon on the other side of the Andes, researchers said.
"One possible explanation for the disjunct distribution between the new species and its closest relative is that the uplift of the Andes fragmented an ancestral population into two, each of which evolved into a different species, one in the Choco region and the other in the Amazon," said Omar Torres-Carvajal of the Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Ecuador.
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