Persian dwarf snake consists of 6 species, scientists discover

November 23, 2015

The Persian dwarf snake is wrongly classified as one species, scientists say. New research shows it is composed of six different species, a finding which might be important for the conservation of the snake.

The Persian dwarf snake or Eirenis persicus lives in an area stretching from southern Turkey to the northeast of Pakistan. Mahdi Rajabizadeh, a former PhD student of Ghent University professor Dominique Adriaens, decided to investigate its biodiversity.

Together with researchers from six other countries, he examined 30 male and 30 female specimens, based on extensive field expeditions and museum specimens. The scientists used advanced techniques such as geometric morphometrics, molecular phylogeny and ecological niche modeling.

Six different species

The research, which was published in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, revealed that the Persian dwarf snake is not a single species at all. It is composed of 6 different species, wrongly classified as the species Eirenis persicus. A molecular clock analysis revealed that the divergence and diversification of the E. persicus species group mainly correspond to Eocene to Pliocene orogeny events subsequent to the Arabia-Eurasia collision.

The six species are Eirenis nigrofasciatus, Eirenis walteri, Eirenis angusticeps, Eirenis walteri, Eirenis mcmahoni and Eirenis occidentalis. Except for E. occidentalis, which is a completely new discovery by the researchers, these species were already described between 1872 and 1911. However, during the last half of the previous century, herpetologists considered them as a single species with some difference in color and pattern, because the overall morphology is quite similar.

Importance of taxonomy

The findings might be important for the conservation of the snake. Mahdi Rajabizadeh is a member of the IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC), a science-based network of more than 10,000 volunteer experts from almost every country of the world. "Eirenis persicus was not listed in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species", he says, "because it was regarded as a species with a great distribution range. But each of the 6 newly identified species within the Persian dwarf snakes must be put on the Red List, since each of them actually has a limited distribution."

The research of Mahdi Rajabizadeh puts emphasis on the importance of taxonomy and indicates that, without sophisticated taxonomy in a changing world, we may lose species we did not identify yet.
-end-


Ghent University

Related Conservation Articles from Brightsurf:

New guide on using drones for conservation
Drones are a powerful tool for conservation - but they should only be used after careful consideration and planning, according to a new report.

Elephant genetics guide conservation
A large-scale study of African elephant genetics in Tanzania reveals the history of elephant populations, how they interact, and what areas may be critical to conserve in order to preserve genetic diversity of the species.

Measuring the true cost of conservation
BU Professor created the first high-resolution map of land value in the United states.

Environmental groups moving beyond conservation
Although non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have become powerful voices in world environmental politics, little is known of the global picture of this sector.

Hunting for the next generation of conservation stewards
Wildlife ecology students become the professionals responsible for managing the biodiversity of natural systems for species conservation.

Conservation research on lynx
Scientists at the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) and the Leibniz Institute for Molecular Pharmacology (Leibniz-FMP) discovered that selected anti-oxidative enzymes, especially the enzyme superoxide dismutase (SOD2), may play an important role to maintain the unusual longevity of the corpus luteum in lynxes.

New 'umbrella' species would massively improve conservation
The protection of Australia's threatened species could be improved by a factor of seven, if more efficient 'umbrella' species were prioritised for protection, according to University of Queensland research.

Trashed farmland could be a conservation treasure
Low-productivity agricultural land could be transformed into millions of hectares of conservation reserve across the world, according to University of Queensland-led research.

Bats in attics might be necessary for conservation
Researchers investigate and describe the conservation importance of buildings relative to natural, alternative roosts for little brown bats in Yellowstone National Park.

Applying biodiversity conservation research in practice
One million species are threatened with extinction, many of them already in the coming decades.

Read More: Conservation News and Conservation Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.