New snake family identified in Israel

Photo (c): David David, TAU

Researchers from the Tel Aviv University have stated that the identification of a new family of snakes in Isreal is a rare development in modern science.

An international research team consisting of researchers from Finland, the US, Belgium, Madagascar, Hong Kong and Israel, including Prof. Shai Meiri of TAU’s School of Zoology, published a paper in January 2023, on the discovery of the Micrelapidae family in the journal Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. They stated that they believe the new family includes three species. One is found in Isreal and neighbouring countries and the other two can be found in East Africa.

The researchers claim that about 50 million years ago, the Micrelaps snakes diverged from the rest of the evolutionary tree of snakes. They believe the snakes have evolved independently since then, as a separate and distinct family. The features of the snake are black and yellow rings around the small body.

The researchers examined the snake’s morphology and particularly its skull with the help of a special high-resolution magnetic imaging, called micro-CT.  Deep genomic sequencing was also applied to the reptile’s DNA, that take millions of years to show a change. A comparison of DNA to other snake families that Micrelaps might belong to, was also made. They discovered that the Micrelaps have some unique genomic elements, not found in any of the other groups.

Photo (c): David David, TAU


Author: Sylvia Jacobs

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