Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Short Sharp Science

New species of viper gets pretty name and low profile

Flora Graham, deputy editor, newscientist.com
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(Image: Tim Davenport/WCS)

What would you like for Christmas, little girl? How about a brand new species of horned viper, named after you.
That's what Tim Davenport of the Wildlife Conservation Society gave his 7-year-old daughter this year, after discovering the striking black-and-yellow snake in Tanzania. Matilda's horned viper, more formally known as Atheris matildae, is 0.6 m long and sports a set of horn-shaped scales above its eyes.
The viper's exact location is being kept under wraps, because its new-found status could make it a tempting target for exotic poachers. Because of its small range of a few square kilometres, and the threat to its habitat from industry, its discoverers predict that the snake will soon be classified as critically endangered.
However, Matilda's horned viper is already benefiting from its new-found fame. As well as establishing a small captive breeding colony in Tanzania, the researchers have ensured that the snake can make online friends via its new website.


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