These days we are hearing more and more about random snake attacks happening sometimes in the most unlikely of places. It can feel a bit like a roll of the dice to leave the house with these things slithering around and showing up in odd locations. But sometimes, a snake sighting on the internet, or through social media can be a good thing. And that’s exactly what happened recently when a new species of snake was identified on Instagram. Congrats social media, you win.
This latest snake finding happened in India and started innocently enough. Virendar Bhardwaj, a graduate student, was trying to keep from being too bored during the Covid-19 lockdowns and decided to photograph a bunch of different wildlife that was living around his house in the Himalayas. He uploaded them to his Instagram account @himalayan_xplorer and one of the pictures caught the attention of a scientist who studies this very thing. Check out the original snake post from Bhardwaj:
According to Mongabay, Zeeshan A. Mirza who works for the National Centre for Biological Sciences in Bengaluru noticed that one of the snake pictures that was uploaded to Instagram didn’t match any known species that he was aware of. This led to Mirza and his team reaching out to Bhardwaj for more information and the latter was able to track down a couple of more snakes of this kind in his area. Through an identification process they found that though it was related to a version of the kukri snake which is supposedly popular in the region, this one was different than others that have been scientifically identified. They named the new species Oligodon churahensis after the region where it was found.
As part of the paper published in Evolutionary Systematics by Mirza and his colleague Harshil Patel, they describe the finding as unsurprising, saying that this region of the Himalayas hasn’t been explored in great detail around these kinds of species. There is some chance that other, unidentified snakes and creatures are alive and well in this region. Heck, a single upload of a snake onto Instagram led to a new scientific finding and identification. It sure wouldn’t seem like this would be a one-off kind of thing. And as part of the paper too, the researchers were quick to encourage others to snap off pictures of their findings as well. Sometimes simple explorations around the home can unearth all manner of new creatures. And with the interconnectivity of social media, it’s never been easier to reach experts in a specific field.
Frankly, this kind of snake discovery is much better than some of the other examples we’ve heard about lately. Those include a guy who ended up with plastic surgery in a very unfortunate place following a snake bit he got while sitting on a toilet. And then there was the landlord who tried keeping his tenants out of the house with a snake used as a lock. Or there was the snake so huge that a crew needed to use a forklift to get it up off the ground. Identifying a new snake through social media is the best of all of these.