Commonly known as fishing snakes, the Synophis genus has been expanded with as many as three new species following a research in the Andean cloud forests of Amazonian Ecuador and Peru.
Although they are commonly known as fishing snakes, these reptiles most likely do not eat fish. Their diet and behavior are poorly known. So far, it has only been reported that one species feeds on lizards.
The fishing snakes have long been known to live in cloud forests on both sides of the Andes of Colombia and Ecuador. Yet, it seems they have waited all along to make an appearance. The new species described herein, along with a recent description of one species from southwestern Ecuador, has duplicated the number of species of fishing snakes from four to eight over the span of several months.
For the experts: The discovery of three new species of Synophis snakes from the eastern slopes of the tropical Andes in Ecuador and Peru is reported. All previous records of S. bicolor from eastern Ecuador correspond to S. bogerti sp. n., which occurs between 1000–1750 m along a large part of the Amazonian slopes of the Ecuadorian Andes. In contrast, Synophis zamora sp. n. is restricted to southeastern Ecuador, including Cordillera del Cóndor, between 1543–1843 m. Synophis insulomontanus sp. n. is from the eastern slopes of the Andes in central and northern Peru, between 1122–1798 m, and represents the first record of Synophis from this country. All three new species share in common a large lateral spine at the base of the hemipenial body. A molecular phylogenetic tree based on three mitochondrial genes is presented, including samples of Diaphorolepis wagneri. Our tree strongly supports Synophis and Diaphorolepis as sister taxa, as well as monophyly of the three new species described here and S. calamitus. Inclusion of Synophis and Diaphorolepis within Dipsadinae as sister to a clade containing Imantodes, Dipsas, Ninia, Hypsiglena and Pseudoleptodeira is also supported.