The scientific paper was written by Zeeshan A. Mirza from NCBS, Vishal Varma from WII and Patrick Campbell from NHM and published in the international journal Zootaxa
Zeeshan said the snake, known as black-bellied coral snake (Sinomicrurus nigriventer), was described by British naturalist Col. Frank Wall in 1909 as a variety of McClelland coral snake (Sinomicrurus macclellandi) from Kasauli, Himachal Pradesh. The species was not considered a valid species and was considered a variant of the McClelland coral snake. However, a specimen on the street collected by Vishal Varma in 2019 near Solan changed the views of scientists about the species. DNA data of the newly acquired specimen showed that it is different from all other species of coral snakes in the genus and especially from the only one differs from the species known from India.
He compared the snake’s scaling data with specimens from the collection of the Natural History Museum and the Zoological Collection of the University of Copenhagen. The results demonstrate the uniqueness of the snake from Himachal Pradesh. It is currently known that the snake is common in Solan and Shimla in Himachal Pradesh. The Himachal Pradesh Forest Service is very supportive and has provided the necessary support to carry out the work.
“Most of the work on Himachal Pradesh’s herpetofauna was done in the British era, and many species were identified only by external features, which is not enough to identify cryptic species. The biodiversity of the western Himalayas is said to be a subset of the eastern Himalayas. However, we disagree and hope to show that the diversity of the western Himalayas is also different than that of the coral snake, ”said Zeeshan.
Zeeshan Mirza works with state students to document the diversity of reptiles, amphibians and arachnids. He and his colleagues have worked on the study of reptiles in the country. He has described over 43 new species in science, including snakes, lizards, tarantulas and scorpions.