kukri: Instagram post leads to discovery of snake species | Bengaluru News – Times of India

BENGALURU/MANGALURU: Researchers and herpetologists have discovered a species of Kukri snake, the Oligodon churahensis, in Himachal Pradesh.
The team that worked on the finding comprised Zeeshan A Mirza of the National Centre for Biological Sciences (Bengaluru), Virendar K Bhardwaj of Guru Nanak Dev University (Amritsar) and Harshil Patel of Veer Narmad South Gujarat University (Surat).
The story behind the discovery was an unusual one, Zeeshan said.
Virendar, a master’s student, was back home in Chamba because of the lockdown. He was exploring his backyard, photographing and uploading pictures of what he had found on Instagram. They included images of snakes, lizards, frogs and insects.
“I saw one of these images in his search feed and discussed the photo with Harshil. I then contacted Virendar and inquired about the snake, which belonged to a group of snakes commonly called Kukri as they bear teeth that are curved like that of the Nepali dagger Kukri. The snake which Virendar found was similar to the Common Kukri snake (Oligodon arnensis), however it differed in several aspects,” Zeeshan said.
The photo was uploaded by Virendar on June 5, 2020, and after extensively surveying the area by the end of the month, he found two snakes which were enough to start their identification. The work was delayed as labs were not functional for a long time and visiting a natural history museums was not possible.
After labs resumed work, molecular data (DNA) for the species was generated which confirmed that the species was indeed different from the Common Kukri snake. A joint paper was submitted in the first week of August 2021 and was published in the recent issue of the international journal Evolutionary Systematics. The new species has been named Oligodon churahensis, after the Churah Valley in Himachal Pradesh.

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Sagar Biswas

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