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New Thailand Snake Species – Trimeresurus (Popeia) phuketensis

New Thailand snake species - Trimeresurus Popeia phuketensis

Similar to the beautiful viper in coloring, but the Pope's viper in size. This is the holotype snake for the new species.

I was at the Queen Saovabha Snake Farm in Bangkok (the Red Cross Snake Farm) on Sunday and was talking to the snake guy that does the presentation in English on various Thailand snakes. He mentioned that a new snake species was described from Phuket called the Trimeresurus phuketensis. Wow, how cool was that?

He said it is in general appearance like the Trimeresurus venustus, but larger and with brownish scales that make up a pattern of stripes – not well defined, but defined enough to call them stripes. The venom wasn’t supposed to be very strong, but in size the snake is supposed to be similiar to Pope’s Pit Viper – a rather large green viper that often also has stripes.

I’ve yet to see one of these newly described snakes – but will be on the lookout. Perhaps their range is outside Phuket, but, as Phuket is an island, it might only be established there. Or, maybe it started elsewhere and was only recently established in Phuket after having been started elsewhere.

The snake has been described in the Russian Journal of Herpetology by Montri Sumontha, Kirati Kunya, Olivier S. G. Pauwels, Awat Nitikul, Suwit Punnadee.

Here is the MCOT news about it:

NAKHON RATCHASIMA, Dec 23 – Thai researchers have discovered a previously unknown species of pitviper on the southern resort island of Phuket and will unveil it next week at Nakhon Ratchasima Zoo, also known as the Korat Zoo, in this northeastern Thai province.

Commonly known as ‘Phuket pitviper,’ the new species, Trimeresurus (Popeia) phuketensis sp. nov., was discovered in a rain forest on the southern resort island on Oct 5, 2009, according to Kirati Kunya, a member of the research team.

The researchers studied and examined the species for two years after its discovery to ensure that the serpent was indeed a new species. The discovery and research later was printed in an international journal, Mr Kirati added.

The new species was described and named for its habitat.

The Phuket pitviper differs from other pitvipers as its body has distinct and clearly-seen pattern with more and more dense scales. The toxicity of its venom was not strong but is the same as other pitvipers.

The zoo is scheduled to show this world’s new species of serpent to the public during the New Year celebrations. (MCOT online news)

About Vern Lovic

All posts by Vern Lovic. Amateur herpetologist roaming about Thailand on field herping trips to find cobras, kraits, coral snakes, and other snakes native to Thailand. Thailand has over 200 snake species with many of them venomous.

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All posts by Vern Lovic. Amateur herpetologist roaming about Thailand on field herping trips to find cobras, kraits, coral snakes, and other snakes native to Thailand. Thailand has over 200 snake species with many of them venomous.

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One Response to “New Thailand Snake Species – Trimeresurus (Popeia) phuketensis”

  1. Boris says:

    Yeah, pretty cool. I think there is allot more species of reptiles and amphibians to be described in Thai rain forests, but it takes time. You could live in a certain place for decades and than suddenly find a new species. Trimeresurus phuketensis could have been a species (possibly even one of the mentioned above) that lived on mainland, than somehow ended up on the island of Phuket (could be by mans hand or simply a colonizing act like floating on a branch, or something like that, OR it evolved when Phuket became and island). What I’m trying to say is this could be a classic example of allopatric speciation (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allopatric_speciation).
    New species of snake-always great news for us snake lovers! :)

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