New venomous snake found in northern Vietnam

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A white-head Burmese viper or Azemiops kharini. Photo courtesy of Nguyen Thien Tao, Vietnam National Museum of Nature

A group of Vietnamese and Russian scientists have discovered a new venomous viper in northern Vietnam provinces to the east of the Red River, the Vietnam National Museum of Nature has announced on its website.

Nguyen Thien Tao, Nikolai L. Orlov and Sergei A. Ryabov introduced the white-head Burmese viper in the June 28 issue of the Russian Journal of Herpetology an international journal devoted to amphibians and reptiles.

The new venomous viper species belongs to genus Azemiops and is named Azemiops kharini after Vladimir Kharin, a Russian zoologist who has contributed a lot to the research of reptiles and fish in Asia.

It is found in Cao Bang, Lang Son and Vinh Phuc provinces at an altitude of around 800-1,800 meters.

The viper, 759-980 millimeters long, has a white head with two black vertical stripes, smooth dorsal scales and a short tail. It has 183-199 row of ventrals, 186-201 trunk vertebrae on its body and 46-51 caudal vertebrae on its tail.  

It lives in areas with bamboo thickets and tree ferns interspersed with open zones with deep leaf litter near the trunks of fallen trees, and ferns and crevices in limestone rocks, said the journal. It often feeds on rodents living in swift and montane streams.

This is the second species of the Azemiops genus after Fea's viper (Azemiops feae) which is found in northern Vietnam to the west of Red River, and the 60th poisonous snake species in Vietnam, Tao of the Vietnam National Museum of Nature said.

More than 210 snake species have been discovered in Vietnam up to now, he said.

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