A new species of grass snake has been identified in Europe. This barred grass snake is scientifically named as Natrix Helvetica and was identified following genetic analysis of more than 1,600 grass snakes, including specimens stored in scientific museum. After this new finding, the number of European grass snakes species has increased to four.
The grass snakes are non-poisonous reptiles and are found in large numbers in Europe. In fact, they are among the widespread snakes in Europe.
According to Uwe Fritz, Director of the Senckenberg Natural History Collections in Germany, the newly identified “barred grass snake is widely distributed throughout Great Britain, Switzerland, Italy and France, and also occurs in the western part of Germany.”
Fritz says the team “studied two areas where different genetic lineages of the grass snake come into contact” and “discovered that the barred grass snake, previously considered a subspecies, is in fact a distinct species (Natrix helvetica).” Researchers closely examined two “contact zones” of grass snakes—of located in Rhine region and other extending from Central Germany down to the southern Balkans. Scientists consider such contact zones as natural laboratories for evolution simply because these zones allow the study of speciation and hybridization.
According to Fritz, the new finding shows that old collections in museums can be highly valuable.
The detailed findings of the study have been published in the journal Scientific Reports.