U students discover new viper species

This week, a team of biologists including U student Evan Buechley announced the discovery of a new viper species. In 2013, doctoral students Buechley and Mark Chynoweth were traveling with Ethiopian and Kenyan colleagues through Ethiopia’s Bale Mountains National Park, when they spotted a large snake slithering into the undergrowth. Buechley photographed the viper, now known as Bitis harenna and newly described in the journal Zootaxa. These photos are the only known evidence of the snake in the wild, and prompted scientists to re-examine a similar museum specimen, which was previously thought to have been a related species with unusual color patterning. The discovery highlights the incredible biodiversity of the Bale Mountains and the Harenna Forest, an “absolute global biological gem,” according to Buechley, and the need for conservation of the ecological hotspot, currently threatened by deforestation.
Evan Buechley, 505-614-7231, ebuechley@gmail.com
Mark Chynoweth, 716-860-6790, chynoweth.mark@gmail.com