Scientists discovered striking new species of snake in Paraguay

The extreme rarity of this species led the authors to consider it "Endangered".


In a new study, scientists reported the discovery of new snake species in Paraguay. The newly discovered snake is non-venomous and beautiful. It belongs to the genus Phalotris, which features 15 semi-subterranean species distributed in central South America.

This group of snakes has coloration with red, black, and yellow patterns.

The discovery is made by scientists of the Paraguayan NGO Para La Tierra with the collaboration of Guyra Paraguay and the Instituto de Investigación Biológica del Paraguay. They say the species can only be found in the famous tourist destination of Laguna Blanca.

One of the scientists involved, Jean-Paul Brouard, found an individual of the new species of the snake while digging a hole at Rancho Laguna Blanca in 2014. Along with his colleagues Paul Smith and Pier Cacciali, he named it Phalotris shawnella.

Phalotris shawnella
Phalotris shawnella Credit: Jean-Paul Brouard

The new Phalotris snake has a good look. It can easily be distinguished from other related species in its genus because of its red head combined with a yellow collar, a black lateral band, and orange ventral scales with irregular black spots.

Only known from three individuals, it is native to the Cerrado forests of the department of San Pedro in east Paraguay. Its known distribution in that department comprises two sandy soil locations, Colonia Volendam and Laguna Blanca.

Due to its extreme rarity, this new species of snake is considered ‘Endangered,’ suggests the conservation categories of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). It means it is in imminent danger of extinction in the absence of measures for its protection.

Distribution map of Phalotris shawnella
Distribution map of Phalotris shawnella Credit: Jean-Paul Brouard

Scientists noted“This demonstrates the need to protect the natural environment in this region of Paraguay. Laguna Blanca was designated as a Nature Reserve for 5 years but currently has no protection at all. The preservation of this site should be considered a national priority for conservation.”

Journal Reference:

  1. Paul Smith, Jean-Paul Brouard, Pier Cacciali. A new species of Phalotris (Serpentes, Colubridae, Elapomorphini) from Paraguay. DOI: 10.3897/zse.98.61064


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