New Species of Shieldtail Snake Discovered in India

A new species of snake, named the Khaire’s black shieldtail ( Melanophidium khairei ), has been discovered in India.

New Species of Shieldtail Snake Discovered in India

The Khaire’s black shieldtail ( Melanophidium khairei ). Image credit: David J. Gower et al.
The Khaire’s black shieldtail is described in a paper recently published in the journal Zootaxa by an international team of scientists led by Dr. David Gower of the Natural History Museum, London, UK.
According to the team, this new species belongs to Melanophidium , a genus of non-venomous shieldtail snakes.
All previously known species of the genus – Melanophidium bilineatum , M. punctatum , M. wynaudense — are found in southern India in the Western Ghats: in the Peermede Hills, Kerala, and the Anamalai Hills, Tamil Nadu.
The newfound species occurs in southern Maharashtra, Goa, and northern Karnataka. It is the most northerly member of the genus.
“It resembles Melanophidium punctatum in being piebald and punctate — and it was previously misidentified as M. punctatum , but in many scalation characters it more closely resembles M. wynaudense ,” Dr. Gower and co-authors said.

New Species of Shieldtail Snake Discovered in India

The Khaire’s black shieldtail ( Melanophidium khairei ). Image credit: David J. Gower et al.
The Khaire’s black shieldtail is the fourth species described in the genus, and the first for 144 years.
Both the specific and common names of this species honor Neelimkumar ‘Anna’ Khaire, Director of the Snake Park in Pune, India, for his contribution to the conservation of snakes.