A research team from Rhodes University and the Port Elizabeth Museum has discovered a new species and genus of snake, and have named them in honour of two reptile scientists (herpetologists) from the Eastern Cape.
Psammophylax is the genus (similar to your surname) name of widespread African snakes commonly referred to as skaapstekers or “sheep‐stabbers”.
They are so named for the erroneous belief that they commonly bite and kill sheep.
The spotted skaapsteker, Psammophylax rhombeatus, is the most southerly distributed species of the genus, and is one of the most commonly encountered snakes in the Eastern Cape, and more specifically, East London.
Past studies focused on these snakes and their relatives, relied on only one representative from each species of Psammophylax.
More recently, a group of herpetologists, led by PhD candidate Chad Keates, conducted one of the most thorough genetic studies of the genus to date.
Their research focused on the evolutionary history of the group and used both genetics and head structure to delve into the relationships among the species.
The samples used in the study were sourced from all over Africa, with groups such as the Okavango Wilderness Project (National Geographic) being essential to the acquisition of several samples that were difficult to obtain.
Increased sampling in east Africa resulted in the recovery of a new species of skaapsteker from Tanzania.