New Mindoro snake species named after National Scientist Angel C. Alcala

Published February 10, 2021, 11:53 AM

by Ellalyn De Vera-Ruiz

A new reed snake species discovered by scientists from the University of Kansas has been named after National Scientist Angel C. Alcala in honor of his invaluable contribution to the field of conservation biology.

(Reptile & Amphibian Database – Philippines FACEBOOK / MANILA BULLETIN)

Scientists from the University of Kansas who discovered the new snake species honored Alcala for his “numerous contributions on the systematics, biogeography, and ecology of amphibians and reptiles of the country, and in general, for his influential promotion of conservation and sustainable management of the archipelago’s terrestrial and marine biodiversity.”

The new species, Calamaria alcalai, was found to have a “longer tail” and “more subcaudal” scales than any other of its kind found in the Philippines.

The description of the new species of reed snake was published in the Philippine Journal of Systematic Biology on Feb. 8, 2021.

Scientists Jeffrey Weinell, Alan Leviton, and Rafe Brown said the new species differs from all other species genetically and by its distinctive combination of “meristic, mensural, and color pattern characters.”

“Notably, the new species has a relatively longer tail and more subcaudals compared to all other Philippine species of Calamaria, which likely explains why the new species was initially misidentified as a species of Pseudorabdion, inasmuch as tail length tends to be shorter in Calamaria species compared to Pseudorabdion species,” the journal read.

“The discovery of a new Calamaria from Mindoro, one apparently distantly related to other Philippine Calamaria (and initially misidentified as an unknown species of Pseudorabdion), highlights the importance of critically examining samples (determining species identity) of allegedly widely-distributed species collected during broad, comprehensive, regional biodiversity surveys,” the scientists said.

Moreover, the study found that Calamaria alcalai has a “potentially close relationship” to the widespread Sundaland species C. schlegeli.

Sundaland is the currently partially drowned continental landmass that encompasses Borneo, Sumatra, Java, and the Malay Peninsula.

This discovery suggests an additional Calamaria colonization of the Philippines from continental Asia, the study pointed out.

The study noted that Calamaria alcalai is currently only known from two nearby forested sites in Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro, and is likely endemic in the area.

“But if proper faunal inventory efforts on Mindoro are ever forthcoming, it will be interesting to determine if the new species’ distribution extends to the eastern half of the island, beyond the central mountain range that bisects this island from north to south,” it stated. 

In December 2020, scientists also discovered the Levitonius mirus, also known as Waray dwarf burrowing snake, in its native habitat on the islands of Samar and Leyte.