Bhupathy’s shieldtail: New species of shieldtail snake discovered in Western Ghats
Scientists have discovered a new species of shieldtail snake named Bhupathy’s shieldtail from the Western Ghats in Tamil Nadu. It is presently only known to exist in Anaikatty hills of Tamil Nadu which is dominated by deciduous type of vegetation.
Bhupathy’s shieldtail was named in honour of Dr Subramanian Bhupathy who was a noted Indian herpetologist. Scientifically it is named Uropeltis bhupathyi. It differs from other members of its group as it has a broader and longer head. It also has more number of scales on its belly. The news species is facing threats from habitat loss, road traffic and possible fungal infection that leads to deformed heads. It has been categorised it as ‘data deficient’ in IUCN Red list of threatened species as of now.
At present, there are 45 known species of shieldtail snakes around the world, of which 30 are endemic to India and 15 to Sri Lanka. The name ‘shieldtail’ derives from their heavily keeled tails that terminate in disk-like shields or multiple spines in most species.
They are small sized snakes, typically 25 to 50 cm in length. They live in loose soil among plant roots or under decaying vegetation. They are non-venomous, inoffensive. They come in a variety of colors, mostly dark shades of grayish black or brown. They have short head and mouth and feed on earthworms and arthropods.