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An individual of the new rat sake species, Elaphe urartica, from Armenia. Credit: Boris Tuniyev

From PeerJ:

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

May 28, 2019

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) actually comprises two different species and includes a cryptic species — dubbed Elaphe urartica — 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…

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