Slithering Through Sea Routes: New Snake Species Finds its Way to Gujarat Port City
Ahmedabad: Naturalists Harshil Patel, Raju Vyas and Bhautik Dudhatra could barely contain themselves when they first discovered the stripe bronze back snake species (Dendrelaphis caudolineatus), a member of the colubrid snake genus Dendprelaphis, in a bustling industrial complex in Gujarat’s Surat city.
According to amphibian and reptile experts, this is the first record of the species spotted in the country, which is typically found in the biogeographical region of South East Asia – ‘Sundaland’.
“The colubrid snake genus Dendrelaphis comprises 45 species of which 11 currently exist in India. A member of this genus, Dendrelaphis caudolineatus (stripe bronzeback snake) was once considered a wide-ranging species in Southeast Asia, the Philippines and the Indo-Australian Archipelago until Van Rooijen and Vogel (2012) resolved taxonomy of this species complex. Now, its range is restricted from Southern Thailand to Sundaland (Peninsular Malaysia, Sumatra, Billiton and Borneo),” Harshil Patel, one of the three researchers, told News18.
Patel, Raju Vyas and Bhautik Dudhatra, who hail from Gujarat, authored a research paper on the discovery, titled “Might Dendrelaphis caudolineatus (Gray, 1834) (Squamata: Colubridae) present in India?”. The paper was published in the peer-reviewed international journal – Zootaxa.
According to Patel, a specimen of the bronze back snake was also found in February 2017 and rescued by a snake rescuer from another urban industrial complex in Surat’s Udhana area.
“It was not in good health when it was rescued. We deposited the specimen to the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS). This snake species is native to Sundaland and has not been reported from Indian Subcontinent or Northern Western Ghats,” he said.
Experts believe that the snake species may have accidentally found its way to the port city from Southeast Asia through sea trade routes.
“India imports a lot of its timber for construction and furniture from Malaysia followed by Myanmar and Indonesia. Half of this comes through Gujarat’s ports. The location from where this specimen originates is near an industrial complex and it is possible that the specimen was transported with some industrial cargo from Southeast Asia. Many snake species, including members of genus Dendrelaphis are known to disperse away from their native ranges by means of maritime trade routes,” Raju Vyas, co-author of the paper, said.
“Based on morphological comparison and colour pattern, the identity of this specimen was confirmed as a male of Dendrelaphis caudolineatus,’’ said Patel.