Recently-described snake shows up in my bedroom

In 2008 a team of Ecuadorian and international herpetologists stopped to eat at Dona Marcia Pacheco’s roadside grilled-chicken restaurant in southeast Ecuador. The ever-vigilant herpetologists noticed a strange banded snake in a jar of alcohol in the restaurant. It was a distinctive species that none of them had ever seen before. Their scientific article explains: “After negotiating with the owner of the restaurant, the specimen was acquired and later determined to be a species of Siphlophis. However, it could not be keyed out to any known species. During a second joint herpetofaunal survey by the MECN [Museo Ecuatoriano de Ciencias Naturales] and the ARDRC-UTA [University of Texas- Arlington] of the upper Pastaza River drainage in March 2008, a second specimen was found alive at El Topo, in the province of Tungurahua.” El Topo is the community at the entrance to our Rio Zunac Reserve.

Siphlophis ayauma. Photo: Omar Torres-Carvajal, FaunaWebEcuador, bajo licencia CC (BY-NC 3.0).

Siphlophis ayauma. Photo: Omar Torres-Carvajal, FaunaWebEcuador, bajo licencia CC (BY-NC 3.0).

The species was published scientifically in 2014 and named Siphlophus ayauma. A few examples were later found in other places, always in the eastern Andes of the provinces of Tungurahua, Morona-Santiago, and Zamora in southeast Ecuador. Our herpetologist and reserve manager, Juan Pablo Reyes, sent me the article and said that this species might even occur where I live, above Banos in Tungurahua province.

A few evenings ago when I entered my bedroom I saw a long slender snake slowly moving on the floor. Since it looked vaguely like a coral snake, I was cautious, and carefully caught it without touching it. I put it in a plant pot to photograph, and sent the photos to Juan Pablo. He told me that it was in fact this newly-described Siphlophis ayauma!! Quite an exciting thing to find in my house…

Siphlophis ayauma, a recently-described species endemic to the eastern Andes of southeast Ecuador. This is the individual I captured in my bedroom. Click to enlarge. Photo: Lou Jost/EcoMinga.

Siphlophis ayauma, a recently-described species endemic to the eastern Andes of southeast Ecuador. This is the individual I captured in my bedroom. Click to enlarge. Photo: Lou Jost/EcoMinga.

References

Coleman M. Sheehy III, Mario H. Yánez-Muñoz, Jorge H. Valencia, Eric N. Smith (2014). A New Species of Siphlophis (Serpentes: Dipsadidae: Xenodontinae) from the Eastern Andean Slopes of Ecuador. South American Journal of Herpetology 9: 30-45.

Lou Jost

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