Pregnant ‘bronze’ creature snoozing on bushes in Vietnam turns out to be new species

Naturally camouflaged, a bronze-colored creature slept several feet off the ground on a bush in Vietnam. The animal went undisturbed until passing scientists spotted it — and discovered a new species.

Researchers ventured into the nighttime landscape of Ninh Thuan province and Binh Thuan province in 2017 and 2018, respectively, according to a study published July 18 in the journal Zootaxa. They were searching for tree-dwelling reptiles.

Snoozing on the bushes, researchers found several “medium-sized” snakes, the study said. At first glance, the creatures looked like a known snake species. Looking closer, researchers realized they’d captured a new species: Dendrelaphis binhi, or Binh’s bronzeback snake.

Binh’s bronzeback snakes range in size from about 2.5 feet to just over 3 feet, the study said. They have a “bronze-brown” coloring on their backs and a lighter whitish underside. Their eyes are “large” with partially orange irises.

Photos show a Binh’s bronzeback snake perched on a bush. Its coloring helps it blend in with the foliage.

A Binh’s bronzeback snake perched on a bush.

A Binh’s bronzeback snake perched on a bush.

Researchers found three Binh’s bronzeback snakes sleeping on one bush, the study said. Another pregnant snake was found carrying three eggs. The animals were about 3 to 6 feet off the ground in a brush-filled coastal area.

The new species was recognized as distinct based on its scale pattern and the shape of its genitalia, researchers said. DNA analysis found the new species had about 8% genetic divergence from other known species.

The new species was named “in honor of Dr. Ngô Văn Bὶnh, a Vietnamese herpetologist who passed away suddenly in 2023 at the age of 49 by a serious stroke,” researchers said.

Binh’s bronzeback snakes were found in the southern Vietnamese provinces of Binh Thuan and Ninh Thuan, about 200 miles northeast of Ho Chi Minh City, according to the study. Still, researchers said that “further studies are needed to understand the (snake’s) complete distribution range.”

The research team included Sang Ngoc Nguyen, Vu Dang Hoang Nguyen, Manh Van Le, Luan Thanh Nguyen, Thi-dieu-hien Vo, Ba Dinh Vo, Jing Che and Robert Murphy.

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