Alejandro Arteaga holds an Atractus zgap.

Alejandro Arteaga holds an Atractus zgap.

Photo by: Alejandro Arteaga

Alejandro Arteaga

Three New Species of Snakes Discovered in Graveyards and Churches in Ecuador

A team of scientists led by Alejandro Arteaga, grantee of The Explorers Club Discovery Expeditions and researcher at Khamai Foundation, discovered three new cryptozoic (living underground) snakes dwelling under graveyards and churches in remote towns in the Andes region of Ecuador.

September 16, 2022

It was an exploration that led to the most unexpected of places.

First published in the journal, Zookeys, Arteaga and his team named the small brown color-patterned snakes in honor of institutions or people supporting the exploration and conservation of remote cloud forests in the tropics.

The Discovery Ground Snake (Atractus discovery) was found underground in a small graveyard. Two additional new species were found near an old church and inside a small school. Destruction of the snake's native forest habitat may have forced them to relocate to these people-less areas according to Arteaga's findings.

Atractus discovery was named to honor The Explorers Club Discovery Expedition Grants initiative, a program seeking to foster scientific understanding for the betterment of humanity and all life on Earth and beyond. The grant program supports researchers and explorers from around the world in their quest to mitigate climate change, prevent the extinction of species and cultures, and ensure the health of the Earth and its inhabitants.

Atractus zgap was named in honor of the Zoological Society for the Conservation of Species and Populations (ZGAP), a program seeking to conserve unknown but highly endangered species and their natural

Atractus michaelsabini was named in honor of Michael Sabin, grandson of American philanthropist and conservationist Andrew Sabin. Through conservation organization Re:wild, the Sabin family has supported field research of threatened reptiles and has protected thousands of acres of critical habitat throughout the world.

“The discovery of these new snakes is only the first step towards a much larger conservation project,” says Arteaga. “We have already started the process of establishing a nature reserve to protect the ground snakes. This action would not have been possible without first unveiling the existence of these unique and cryptic reptiles, even if it meant momentarily disturbing the peace of the dead in the graveyard where they lived.”

A graveyard in Ecuador.

A graveyard in Ecuador.

Photo by: Alejandro Arteaga

Alejandro Arteaga

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