Graham Reynolds, biology faculty at UNC Asheville, discovers new species – the Silver Boa

Graham Reynolds

Graham Reynolds

UNC Asheville assistant professor of biology, Graham Reynolds, recently led a team from Harvard’s Museum of Comparative Zoology in the discovery of a new species of boid snake during an expedition to a remote corner of the Bahamian Archipelago. The team has named the new species the Silver Boa, Chilabothrus argentum and will publish its findings in a paper this May in the journal Breviora.

Significantly, this is the first new species of boa discovered in situ in the Caribbean since the 1940s and brings the total known species of West Indian boas to 12. This new boa species is considered critically endangered and is one of the most endangered boa species globally.

“We found this species on its way to extinction, and now we have the opportunity to intervene on their behalf so that doesn’t happen,” said Reynolds.

The team, led by Reynolds as a Harvard Postdoctoral Fellow, first found the species in July 2015 during nocturnal surveys for reptiles on a pair of uninhabited islands. Its silver color and distinct shape suggested something new and genetic data from tissue samples, analyzed when they returned to Harvard, confirmed that it was a new species. On that first trip, they found six animals, including one that crossed directly over Reynolds’ head while he slept one night.

Robert Henderson, curator emeritus of herpetology at the Milwaukee Museum of Natural History, and one of the world’s experts on boas, said: “Worldwide, new species of frogs and lizards are being discovered and described with some regularity. New species of snakes, however, are much rarer. Graham Reynolds and his co-authors have not only discovered and described a new species of snake, but even more remarkable, a new species of boa. That’s rare, exciting, and newsworthy. The beautiful Bahamian Silver Boa, already possibly critically endangered, reminds us that important discoveries are still waiting to be made, and it provides the people of the Bahamas another reason to be proud of the natural wonders of their island nation.”

Reynolds led a second expedition to the islands in October 2015, directly after Hurricane Joaquin. That expedition yielded an additional 14 captures despite the hurricane damage and loss of most of the leaves off of the trees.

The animals were measured and sampled, as well as permanently marked with internal electronic tags so that they will be easily identifiable. Conservation measures are being put into place with the cooperation of local organizations such as the Bahamas National Trust, with the hope of protecting these animals and to prevent them from going extinct not long after having been discovered.

Reynolds also plans more surveys, incorporating the research into his zoology classes and undergraduate research projects at UNC Asheville.

“It’s a tangible example of what a species is, how we describe them, and how we define them,” Reynolds said, adding that his own motivation for studying the evolution, ecology and conservation of reptiles and amphibians in the southeastern United States and Caribbean stems from his undergraduate experience, where he first worked on a tropical island through an undergraduate research project.

Reynolds, an Asheville native and graduate of Carolina Day School, earned his BA in biology from Duke University and his Ph.D. in ecology and evolutionary biology from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. His research program uses genetic data, both lab-generated and simulated in silico, pairing modern genetic and statistical methods with natural history and field research.

His fieldwork takes him to swamps and mountaintops around the southeast, as well as all over the Caribbean – from the Bahamas to Puerto Rico, Hispaniola, Central America and beyond.

Reynolds also is the co-editor of the books “The Amphibians of Tennessee” (University of Tennessee Press, 2011) and “The Reptiles of Tennessee “(University of Tennessee Press, 2013).

For more information, contact Assistant Professor of Biology Graham Reynolds at greynold@unca.edu.

-Submitted by UNCA News Services

Columbus

Suspect identified after fatal shooting in Columbus

News

Collision on Lynn Rd. leads to traffic standstill

Columbus

One dead, another injured in Columbus shooting

News

Suspect in custody after shooting at Ashley Meadows apartments

Community

PEDALING FOR A PURPOSE: 14th Annual Climb to Conquer Cancer

Community

Landrum welcomes new police officer, establishes new historical board

Community

Registration for Senior Games, SilverArts is open

Community

Hoax active shooter call reported at  Polk County High School

Campobello

Man wanted after drugs, guns found in Campobello shed

News

Riders on horseback discover body along River Road 

Community

Tryon greenlights soliciting contractors for major infrastructure overhaul

Community

Polk BOC receives PCHS medallions, declares April Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Community

Landrum man pleads guilty after pit bulls fatally attack neighbor’s pony

Community

Two critically injured after motorcycle collides with SUV in Mill Spring

Community

Landrum City Council discusses funding for parks, police

Community

Landrum City Council presents candidates for Rail and History Museum Board

News

Single vehicle accident on I-26 claims life of Tennessee man 

Arts

Earl Scruggs Music Festival announces 2024 lineup

Community

Home saved after structure fire on Lanier Drive

Community

Mooresville man arrested on drug, stolen gun charges in Sunny View

News

Former CEO of Washburn Law dies in car crash 

Community

Landrum High School alumni wins town council seat in Irmo

News

Polk County primary election results

Community

Polk Board of Commissioners declares April Isothermal Community College Month