Virendar Bhardwaj uploaded this photo of a snake in his backyard in India. It was later found to be an undescribed species. Screenshot from Instagram Photo by Virendar Bhardwaj.
Many people use social media hoping to get discovered as singers, actors, and comedians. Now a new species of snake in India has used social media to get discovered. More accurately, people who study snakes discovered the new species on social media.
Virendar Bhardwaj, a master’s student at Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, took pictures of the snakes, lizards, frogs, and insects around his house in Chamba, India and uploaded the photos to Instagram. He lives in the part of India that is near the Himalayan mountains.
Zeeshan A. Mirza, a herpetologist from the National Centre for Biological Sciences in Bengaluru, in southern India, saw a picture of a snake that Virendar posted on Instagram. Zeeshan did not recognize the snake. Virendar helped Zeeshan and another scientist, Harshil Patel, find two of the snakes in the wild. The scientists took DNA samples from the snakes and measured their body parts. They found that this type of snake was an undescribed species.
They wrote a scientific paper describing the species and named it Oligodon churahensis, after the Churah Valley in Himachal Pradesh, a mountainous state in the western Himalayas where the species was discovered.
Here is the newly described snake:
A newly discovered snake in the Himalayas, Oligodon churahensis. Photo by Virender Bhardwaj (Mirza et al 2021).
“It is quite interesting to note that how an image from Instagram led to the discovery of such a pretty snake that was unknown to the world,” Zeeshan Mirza told Mongabay. “Exploration of your own backyard may yield species that are perhaps undocumented. Lately, people want to travel to remote biodiversity hotspots to find new or rare species, but if one looks at their own backyard, one may end up finding a new species right there.”
Liz Kimbrough wrote about the discovery of the new snake for Mongabay: