“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.
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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.