Posted by: Loren Coleman on November 17th, 2007
According to cryptozoologist Chad Arment, an apparently previously ethnoknown cryptid viper has been discovered. The barta, a feared snake, is well-known to the indigenous people of Arunachal Pradesh.
Arment points out that the alleged “suicide” (see below) is probably a misunderstanding of behavior.
Protobothrops jerdoni is a known viper from India and Southeast Asia that may be related to the newly found snake.
The following report is dateline Itanagar, India:
A deadly hiss has emanated from the country’s easternmost state, Arunachal Pradesh.
A three-member team discovered what could be a new species of pit viper snake, from the remote Sango area in Papum Pare district of the state.
Herpetologist B.B. Bhatt from the state Forest Research Institute, Arunachal Pradesh, Pune-based herpetologist Ashok Captain and Kedar Bhide, a Mumbai-based wildlife documentary filmmaker told The Telegraph that two serpents belonging to the “new species” were caught after a one-year hunt.
Barta, as the local Nyishi tribesmen call the six-foot-something reptile, is the most-feared creature among the tribes in Arunachal Pradesh.
According to Nyishi folklore, sighting of a barta, meaning the deadliest of all the snakes, is a bad omen.
The finding of “a new species of pit viper snake”, however, has created a flutter among the country’s herpetologists.
“Going by the colour, count and patterns of the newly-found snakes which differ from Protobothrops kaulbacki, another species of pit viper snake spotted by Ronald Kaulback in the forests of Upper Myanmar in 1940, it can be said that it is probably a new species found never before in the forests.
Although at a glance they look similar to the snake found in Myanmar, their features differ from Protobothrops kaulbacki. The blood samples of the snakes have been sent for DNA tests to a Hyderabad-based laboratory this month. We are awaiting an official confirmation,” Bhatt told The Telegraph.
Bhatt, who has documented 76 of the 140 species of snakes found in Arunachal Pradesh, said the most striking feature of the newly-found species was its egg-producing capacity. It can lay a clutch of 20 to 30 eggs – a phenomenon hitherto unknown to scientists.
“This type of snakes are found at an altitude of above 1,000 meters and prey on frogs, fish and rats. But they are not known to lay eggs. Another striking feature are their pits, which are much larger than those of the other snakes of the pit viper family. The species has been so named because an organ in its body consists of pits. It is just behind the nostrils and covered with a temperature-sensitive membrane. Some pit vipers may also use these organs to find cool refuge from inhospitable daytime temperature,” Bhatt said.
The herpetologists caught a pair of snakes, a male and a female, but the reptiles chose to escape death at the hands of the humans and killed themselves by using their own fangs, much to the surprise of Bhatt who has been watching reptile behaviour for the last seven years in the forests of the Northeast and north India. According to Bhatt, this sheds new light on the strange behavioural pattern of the species, so long unknown to herpetologists.
“Pit vipers have long, hollow, erectile fangs that are folded back against the roof of the mouth except when the snakes are striking. Once the fangs are out, it becomes difficult to fold back those organs and unable to cope with the situation they might have killed themselves,” Bhatt explained. ~ by Atanu Choudhuri, “Herpetologists claim unique species of serpents in Arunachal Pradesh,” The Telegraph, Calcutta, India, November 16, 2007.