New species of color-shifting snake discovered in Vietnam

At first glance, the animal has a dark complexion, but when light hits it, the scales shimmer between hues of blue and green, according to CNN. The snake also has small, ridged scales that spread out instead of overlapping, unlike any other known snake species.
At first glance, the animal has a dark complexion, but when light hits it, the scales shimmer between hues of blue and green, according to CNN. The snake also has small, ridged scales that spread out instead of overlapping, unlike any other known snake species.

Credit: Smithsonian and the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology

Credit: Smithsonian and the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology

A never-before-seen iridescent snake with scales that shift color under light has been discovered in Vietnam, according to reports.

Scientists conducting biodiversity research in the jungles of Southeast Asia were baffled when they stumbled upon the strange reptile in 2019 and soon determined it was in fact a new species.

»NOVEMBER: Bizarre snake-like worm invades Georgia

At first glance, the animal has a dark complexion, but when light hits it, the scales shimmer between hues of blue and green, according to CNN. The snake also has small, ridged scales that spread out instead of overlapping, unlike any other known snake species.

The discovery by a team from the Smithsonian and the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology was first reported Monday in the journal Copeia.

“That was a really exciting moment,” said Aryeh Miller, a researcher at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. “The specimen looks very different. So different, in fact, that we didn’t know immediately what it was.”

Found slithering around Vietnam’s northern Ha Giang province, the odd snake was believed to be an underground dweller because its eyes didn’t respond to bright light.

»MORE: Agriculture officials issue warning on seed packages from China

Scientists said the snake likely belongs to a unique and rare family of reptiles called Achalinus, of which there are only 13 known species, including six that are indigenous to Vietnam.

“In 22 years of surveying reptiles in Vietnam, I have collected only six odd-scaled snakes,” said Truong Nguyen, vice director of the Institute for Ecology and Biological Resources at the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology, in the Smithsonian blog. “This is one of the most poorly studied groups of reptiles.”

The creature was given the scientific name Achalinus zugorum, which honors the Smithsonian’s retired curator of reptiles and amphibians, CNN reported.

The creature was brought back to the Smithsonian where scientists sequenced its DNA amid hopes that it might shed more light on snake evolution. The studies are expected to be completed soon, and the snake will be flown back to Vietnam and reintroduced to the wild.

In Other News