Researchers Unearth New Coral Snake Species, Expanding Biodiversity Insights

Researchers Unearth New Coral Snake Species, Expanding Biodiversity Insights

The zoology department at Mizoram University has made an exciting discovery, unveiling a new species of coral snake in the state. Named Sinomicrurus gorei after the British India doctor Gore, the finding is credited to Professor HT Lalremsanga and his team, including research scholar Lalbiakzuala, alongside external researchers.

Referred to locally as ‘Rulṭhihna,’ this coral snake earned its name due to its remarkable resemblance to a traditional Mizo amber necklace known as ‘Ṭhihna,’ shared Lalremsanga. The breakthrough occurred during an investigation into the skeletal and DNA (nuclear and mitochondrial gene 5) aspects of coral snakes in Mizoram.

The details of this discovery are chronicled in a study titled ‘Reappraisal of the systematics of two sympatric coral snakes (Reptilia: Elapidae),’ which was recently published in the British science journal, Systematics & Biodiversity (Taylor & Francis Group) on January 10.

Lalremsanga noted that globally, nine Sinomicrurus coral snake species have been identified, with only Sinomicrurus macclellandi previously documented in Northeast India. Until now, Sinomicrurus gorei was often considered the same species as Sinomicrurus macclellandi due to their close resemblance.

“Since 2008, I have suspected that Sinomicrurus gorei is a distinct species. However, other researchers disagreed, possibly due to insufficient examination of data and various parameters,” explained Lalremsanga. Recent research, however, conclusively demonstrated that Sinomicrurus gorei is indeed a distinct species, displaying unique patterns and distinct scales, hemipenis, DNA, and skull characteristics based on CT-Scan analysis.

The study also highlighted differences in reproduction, with Sinomicrurus macclellandi laying 6-14 eggs at a time, while Sinomicrurus gorei only lays up to three eggs. Moreover, the distribution patterns of the two species in Mizoram vary, with Sinomicrurus macclellandi primarily inhabiting hilly or elevated areas, while Sinomicrurus gorei is found in both low-lying and hilly regions.