17/09/2012 - Newly discovered snake says „No to overexploitation!“
Frankfurt, 17.09.2012. Scientists of the Senckenberg Research Institute in Frankfurt, Germany have discovered a new snake species in the highlands of western Panama. The scientific name of the conspicuously colored reptile Sibon noalamina means „no to the mine.“ It was chosen to call attention to the fact that the habitat of this harmless snail-eating snake is severely threatened by human interventions. The researchers alert that other species of amphibians and reptiles which were discovered in the region during the last years share the same fate. The study was published today in the scientific journal „Zootaxa“.
The snake Sibon noalamina is completely harmless for humans, yet has a pugnacious name. The light and dark-ringed reptile at first sight resembles a well-known and widespread species of snail-eater. However, closer examination revealed the non-venomous snake to represent a hitherto unknown species.
The second part of the scientific name is Spanish and translates to „no to the mine.“ Representative of other recently discovered species that probably only occur in the Tabasará mountains, Sibon noalamina stands with its name against overexploitation of nature and for the conservation of the highland rainforests of western Panama.
Like all representatives of the genus Sibon, the new species belongs to the so-called snail-eaters. Apart from snails and slugs, these nocturnal animals feed on other soft-bodied prey like earthworms or amphibian eggs. Instead of defending themselves with bites, the non-venomous colubrids deter potential predators with their appearance: With its alternating light and dark rings, Sibon noalamina mimics the contrasting warning coloration of the venomous coral snakes.
The snake inhabits the mountain range known as Serranía de Tabasará in the Comarca Ngöbe-Buglé, an autonomy territory established in 1997 for the indigenous peoples Ngöbe and Buglé. Here, the extreme poverty among the population has a share in the highest deforestation rate within Panama: more than one-fifth of the Comarca’s forests were lost in the 1990s alone. Moreover, the region’s enormous ore deposits – especially the copper deposit in the Cerro Colorado area – are in the focus of mining companies.
As the exclusive home of several amphibian and reptile species only known from – i.e., endemic to – this mountain range, the Serranía de Tabasará is a little biodiversity hotspot of its own, although still largely unexplored.
These photos are – given mention of the copyright – approved for press publications through the Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung.
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