When staff at the Reptile House in London Zoo thought they had an unidentified species of cobra on their hands, they turned to an expert in snake species identification- Dr Wolfgang Wüster of the University of Wales, Bangor’s School of Biological Sciences for assistance.
Dr Wüster, who has been involved in the identification of three other new snake species, agreed with keepers at the Zoo that this spitting cobra species was different to the red spitting cobra which it was originally thought to be, and to any species already identified, in its shape, size and markings. Having conducted DNA analysis on a small sample of scale, Dr Wüster confirmed that this was a new species.
The snakes had been given to London Zoo as part of an illegal pet trade confiscation, so it was not clear from where they originated. Detective work by Dr Wüster, in collaboration with the well-known Zimbabwean herpetologist Donald Broadley, established that they came from specific areas in Egypt, the Sudan, Chad, Niger and Eritrea. As the majority of documented specimens came from southern Egypt and the Sudan, an area once called Nubia, they have now been classified as Naja nubiae or Nubian Spitting Cobras. The snakes are still at London Zoo, and have bred since being there.
Dr. Wolfgang Wüster | alfa
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