In the mountains of Ecuador lurked a scaly creature with a white “collar” around its neck. For years, the distinctive animal had managed to go unnoticed or, when occasionally spotted, misidentified. Not anymore.
Researchers ventured into the Andes mountains of northwestern Ecuador in search of wildlife, according to a study published Dec. 7 in the journal Evolutionary Systematics. They were searching for a specific group of snakes known as coffee snakes.
In the cloud forest, the scientists found several snakes with a unique white pattern, the study said. They took a closer look at the animals and realized they’d discovered a new species: Ninia guytudori, or Tudor’s coffee snake.
Tudor’s coffee snakes can reach about 1 foot in length, researchers said. They have a “uniformly black” coloring with a white “collar” around their necks. This white band also connects to the snake’s lower lip, giving it the appearance of a “bridle.”
Photos show Tudor’s coffee snake. Its scales appear almost blackish-purple and slightly iridescent. The white band around its neck gives its face a disconnected look.
On its belly, the snake is “uniformly immaculate white,” the study said.
Researchers found Tudor’s coffee snakes moving along the forest floor at night and “hidden under rotten logs” during daytime. “When threatened, (the snakes) flatten the body and tail,” the study said.
A photo shows this flattening behavior which gives the snake the appearance of being wider than normal.
Tudor’s coffee snakes have been found at 11 sites in the Andes mountains at altitudes ranging from about 3,900 feet to about 5,500 feet, the study said. These sites span three provinces in northwestern Ecuador and include the province where the capital city of Quito is located.
Researchers said they named the new species after Guy Tudor, “an all-around naturalist and scientific illustrator.”
The new species was identified by its DNA, coloring, scale pattern and other physical features, the study said.
The research team included Alejandro Arteaga and Kyle Harris. Researchers also studied two other species of coffee snake in Ecuador.