New coffee snake species discovered in Ecuador’s cloud forests

Found by biologist Alejandro Arteaga, this species lives in coffee plantations and is endemic to northwestern Ecuador

Researchers of Khamai Foundation and Liberty University have discovered a new species of coffee snake endemic to the cloud forests of northwestern Ecuador.

The new species is named Ninia guytudori, in honor of naturalist Guy Tudor, in recognition of the impact he has had on the conservation of South America’s birds through his artistry. Photo by Alejandro Arteaga.

Biologist Alejandro Arteaga first found the snake in Ecuador’s Pichincha province, while looking for animals to include in a book on the Reptiles of Ecuador.

“This is species number 30 that I have discovered, out of a target of 100,” he says.

Ninia guytudori from Santa Lucía Cloud Forest Reserve, Pichincha province. Photo by Jose Vieira

Like other coffee snakes, Tudors’s Coffee-Snake often inhabits coffee plantations, especially in areas where its cloud forest habitat has been destroyed. It is endemic to the Pacific slopes of the Andes in northwestern Ecuador, where it lives at elevations of between 1,000 and 1,500 m above sea level.

While it faces no major immediate extinction threats, some of its populations are likely to be declining due to deforestation by logging and large-scale mining.

Photo by Jose Vieira

The researchers hope that its discovery will highlight the importance of preserving the cloud forest ecosystem, and focus research attention on human-modified habitats that surround it such as coffee plantations and pastures.

Photographs of some specimens of Ninia guytudori: top, from Santa Lucía Cloud Forest Reserve, Pichincha province. Bottom, from Río Manduriacu Reserve, Imbabura province. Photos by Jose Vieira

The name of the new snake species honors Guy Tudor, “an all-around naturalist and scientific illustrator with a deep fondness for birds and all animals, in recognition of the impact he has had on the conservation of South America’s birds through his artistry,” the researchers write in their paper, which was recently published in Evolutionary Systematics.

“We are trying to raise funds for conservation through the naming of new species. This one helped us protect Buenaventura Reserve.

Research article:

Arteaga A, Harris KJ (2023) A new species of Ninia (Serpentes, Colubridae) from western Ecuador and revalidation of N. schmidti. Evolutionary Systematics 7(2): 317-334. https://doi.org/10.3897/evolsyst.7.112476

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