Persian Dwarf Snake is Actually Six Species Say Scientists

Posted on December 2, 2015

Eirenis persicus

Scientists have determined that the Persian dwarf snake has been incorrectly classified as a single species. It is actually six different species. The photograph above shows four of the species: Eirenis persicus (A), Eirenis angusticeps (B), Eirenis walteri (C) and Eirenis nigrofasciatus (D).

The snakes inhabit an area that stretches from southern Turkey to the northeast of Pakistan. Mahdi Rajabizadeh, a former PhD student of Ghent University professor Dominique Adriaens, investigated the snake's biodiversity with researchers from six other countries. They examined 30 male and 30 female specimens. The study using geometric morphometrics, molecular phylogeny and ecological niche modeling revealed that there are six different species that had been classified as the Persian dwarf snake species, Eirenis persicus.

The six species are Eirenis nigrofasciatus, Eirenis walteri, Eirenis angusticeps, Eirenis walteri, Eirenis mcmahoni and Eirenis occidentalis. The researchers say all six of the species need to be put on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Rajabizadeh says in a statement, "Eirenis persicus was not listed in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species because it was regarded as a species with a great distribution range. But each of the 6 newly identified species within the Persian dwarf snakes must be put on the Red List, since each of them actually has a limited distribution."

A research paper on the findings was published here in the journal, Zoological Journal of the Linnaean Society.

Photo: Photos of (A & D) are taken by F. Heidary; (B) by R. Masroor; (C) by R. Nazarov.