The story begins on a steamy night in Myanmar in 2008, when a group of scientists was conducting field research. While studying the pitviper population in the Southeast Asian region, they came across a colorful creature that caught their attention. The green, scaly animal was perched gracefully on a 20-foot tree.
When the scientists managed to capture the creature, they carefully preserved it for a museum collection. What they didn't expect, however, was that this animal was actually a completely new species, never before recorded in the scientific literature. This was revealed in a new study published October 20 in the journal Zootaxa.
Several previous studies had concluded that this python from Myanmar had "significant genetic differences" compared to other previously known species, the researchers said. However, no one had studied it in detail.
Intrigued, the researchers took a close look at 25 preserved samples of the snake. They realized that they had actually discovered a new species that had been overlooked, known as Trimeresurus uetzi, better known as the Uetz python.
The new species was named in honor of Peter Uetz, who is known as the Editor of the "Reptile Database" website and has provided invaluable assistance to reptile experts.
Uetz's python is a type of snake that has a "grass-green or dark green body color," as described by the research team. It has a "long and slender body" that can reach about 2.7 feet in length. Female Uetz pythons have "green-gold" eyes, while males have copper-colored eyes, as well as "relatively short" genitalia with a "deeply branched" structure known as a hemipenis.
Photographs show bright green snakes nesting in tree branches or coiled on the ground. Most of the body is lime green with faint brown stripes visible on the sides. The photos were taken in 2022 and 2023, study co-author Tan Van Nguyen told McClatchy News.
Uetz's pythons are often found at different times of the day and night, and are usually found perched on trees, shrubs, branches, bushes, or even on the ground, according to the study's findings. Their main habitat is in areas with hot and humid conditions.
Despite being found in museum collections, Nguyen emphasized that Uetz's pythons are "still easily encountered" and often live near human settlements. Furthermore, although the new species is venomous, there has been no in-depth research on the type of venom it possesses.
The research team involved in the discovery now consists of Gernot Vogel, Tan Van Nguyen and Patrick David. According to the research, the new species has been identified in six regions covering most of Myanmar's central interior. The new species was identified based on criteria such as geographic region, eye color, scale color pattern, genital structure, and DNA analysis.