Scientists identify deadly new snake species in Asia

snake species asia, suzhen's krait
The new krait species Bungarus suzhenae © Dr Li Ding

Researchers have discovered a deadly new snake species in Asia, which has been named Suzhen’s krait after the mythical figure of Bai Su Zhen – a snake goddess who saved a lot of human lives

The new krait species, Suzhen’s krait, was discovered in Southwestern China and Northern Myanmar.

The team behind the discovery are Dr Zening Chen of Guangxi Normal University, PhD candidate Shengchao Shi, Dr Li Ding from the Chengdu Institute of Biology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Dr Gernot Vogel of the Society for Southeast Asian Herpetology in Germany and Dr Jingsong Shi of the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology at Chinese Academy of Sciences.

How did they discover this snake?

In 2015, Chinese herpetologist Mian Hou was bitten by a black-and-white banded krait. He explained: “It hurt around the wound, and the skin around it turned dark.”

This authors of this study figured out that the bite was actually different from when the krait B. multicinctus attacks. The krait B. multicinctus bite happens without clear symptoms or pain around the wound.

Why is this discovery important?

Because kraits are highly lethal, understanding their species diversity and geographic distribution is essential for protecting human life.

When humans have enough information about a deadly snake, they can development better treatments for the venom. This is similar to why humans study animal diseases which could tragically jump to humans (as seen with COVID-19) or why humans keep a close watch on conditions of drought for big cats who may forage for water close to villages.

Who is Bai Su Zhen?

The researchers decided to name the new species Bungarus suzhenae, aka Suzhen’s krait, after the mythical figure of Bai Su Zhen – a powerful snake goddess from the traditional Chinese myth ‘Legend of White Snake’.

snake species asia, suzhen's krait
Illustration of the Legend of the White Snake, Xin Wang, Chongqing museum of natural history

The legend says that, after thousands of years of practicing magic power, the white snake Bai Su Zhen transformed herself into a young woman and fell in love with the human man Xu Xian. Together, they ran a hospital, saving lots of human lives with medicine and magic. However, this love between goddess and human was forbidden by the world of the gods and, eventually, Bai Su Zhen was imprisoned in a tower for eternity.

Since then, the Chinese people regard her as a symbol of true love and good-heartedness.


Read the full study here.


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