News Release 

New snake species in Europe named after a long-forgotten Iron Age kingdom

The description of a new rat snake species from eastern Turkey, Elaphe urartica, has been published in the journal PeerJ

PeerJ

An international team of scientists identified the snake and its range, which includes Turkey, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Iraq, Iran, and Russia including a small region extending into the corner of Europe. Based on the genetic and morphological data, the researchers were able to say that the Blotched Rat Snake (Elaphe sauromates) is actually comprised of two different species and includes a cryptic species that has been named after the old kingdom of Urartu.

The kingdom, forgotten for over a thousand years, flourished between the 9th and 6th centuries BCE in the region of today's Armenian Highlands, centered around Lake Van in Turkey, where this new snake species occurs. The name was chosen out of respect for the original scientific name of the Blotched Rat Snake proposed by the famous Prussian natural historian of the 19th century, Peter Simon Pallas.

The name Elaphe sauromates refers to Sarmatians, a confederation of nomadic peoples who inhabited vast areas of the recent range of the Blotched Rat Snake between the 5th century BCE and 4th century CE. According to Daniel Jablonski and David Jandzik, lead scientists of the project from the Comenius University in Bratislava, Slovakia, these snakes are very rarely observed in the field and are mostly distributed in geopolitically complicated regions. As a result, the material for their study was collected for over 17 years and required a broad international collaboration.

The new snake species is a member of large-bodied snakes of an iconic genus Elaphe, which is very popular with snake hobbyists. The discovery and analysis of the biogeographical history of this new snake fills in an important piece of the Eurasian biota evolutionary puzzle.

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Images:

An individual of the new rat sake species, Elaphe urartica, from Armenia

Image credits: Boris Tuniyev

Full Media Pack including image: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/15CN1uA0yJly6maLbPIM1VfK3fXlVLq7K?usp=sharing

EMBARGOED until 28 May 2019: 7 am EST; 12 midday UK local time; 11 am GMT (i.e. the date of publication)

Link to the Published Version of the article (quote this link in your story - the link will ONLY work after the embargo lifts): https://peerj.com/articles/6944 your readers will be able to freely access this article at this URL.

Citation to the article: Jablonski D, Kukushkin OV, Avc? A, Bunyatova S, Kumluta? Y, Ilgaz Ç, Polyakova E, Shiryaev K, Tuniyev B, Jandzik D. 2019. The biogeography of Elaphe sauromates (Pallas, 1814), with a description of a new rat snake species. PeerJ 7:e6944 https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.6944

About:

PeerJ is an Open Access publisher of seven peer-reviewed journals and a preprint server. PeerJ's mission is to help the world efficiently publish its knowledge. All works published by PeerJ are Open Access and published using a Creative Commons license (CC-BY 4.0). PeerJ is based in San Diego, CA and the UK and can be accessed at peerj.com

PeerJ is the peer-reviewed journal for Biology, Medicine and Environmental Sciences. PeerJ has recently added 15 areas in environmental science subject areas, including Natural Resource Management, Climate Change Biology, and Environmental Impacts. peerj.com/environmental-sciences

PeerJ has an Editorial Board of over 1,900 respected academics, including 5 Nobel Laureates. PeerJ was the recipient of the 2013 ALPSP Award for Publishing Innovation. PeerJ Media Resources (including logos) can be found at: peerj.com/about/press

Media Contacts

For the authors:

Daniel Jablonski, email: daniel.jablonski@balcanica.cz
David Jandzik, email: davidjandzik@gmail.com

For PeerJ: email: press@peerj.com , https://peerj.com/about/press/

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