New species of Grass Snake identified in UK

A grass snake - but which species? Photo: Essex Wildlife Trust

Scientists have discovered that a type of grass snake previously thought to be a subspecies is in fact a separate species, bringing the total number of native snake species in the UK to four.

The Senckenberg Research Institute in Germany led the study into the genetics of snake populations, that showed that the barred grass snake, Natrix helvetica, is actually a different species to the common or eastern grass snake, Natrix natrix. The newly distinguished barred grass snake is grey, not olive green like the N. natrix and does not have the same bright yellow collar. Both species are found in lowland areas to the south of Britain. Along its entire length the N. helvetica has black stripes, which on the common grass snake are barely noticeable.

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