JAKARTA, Indonesia – Researchers scouring through swamps in the heart of Borneo island have discovered a new species of snake that can change its skin color, the conservation group World Wide Fund for Nature announced Tuesday.
The ability to change skin color is known in some reptiles, such as the chameleon, but scientists have seen it very rarely with snakes and have not yet understood this phenomenon, the fund said in a statement.
"I put the reddish-brown snake in a dark bucket," said Dr Mark Auliya, a German reptile expert and a consultant for the fund. "When I retrieved it a few minutes later, it was almost entirely white."
Reptiles typically change color to camouflage themselves from predators.
The half-meter long poisonous snake was discovered in wetlands and swamped forests around the Kapuas river in the Betung Kerihun National Park, on the Indonesian part of Borneo island last year.
Scientists named their find the "Kapuas Mud Snake" and speculated it might only occur in the Kapuas river drainage system.
The WWF, the international group formerly known as World Wildlife Fund, said that since 1996 some 361 new animal and plants species have been discovered on the island of Borneo, which Indonesia shares with Malaysia and Brunei, underscoring its unparalleled biological diversity.
But it said that widespread logging has left Borneo with only half of its forest cover, down from 75 percent in the mid 1980s. It did not say whether the Kapuas river region was under immediate threat.