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New grass snake identified in the UK New grass snake identified in the UK
(25 days later)
A new type of snake has been identified in the UK, bringing the total number of species to four. A new type of snake has been identified in the UK after genetic testing re-classified its native grass snakes.
Scientists say the barred grass snake, Natrix helvetica, is actually a different species to the common or eastern grass snake, Natrix natrix. Scientists say the common or eastern grass snake, Natrix natrix, is actually called the barred grass snake, Natrix helvetica.
Before, it was thought the grass snake was one species with several subspecies that looked slightly different. Grass snakes are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act making it illegal to injure or kill them.
The others native to the UK are the smooth snake and the adder, which is venomous. The other two snakes native to the UK are the smooth snake and the adder, which is venomous.
Grass snakes are a protected species under the Wildlife and Countryside Act so it is a criminal offence to injure or kill them. The barred grass snake is normally found in lowland regions in the south of England. The snakes can be more than a metre (3ft) long, are found near water and eat mainly amphibians like frogs and newts.
Both types of grass snake are normally found in lowland regions in the south of England. The snakes can be more than a metre (3ft) long, are found near water and eat mainly amphibians like frogs and newts. The newly distinguished snake is grey, not olive green like the N. natrix and does not have the same bright yellow collar.
The newly distinguished barred grass snake is grey, not olive green like the N. natrix and does not have the same bright yellow collar.
The snake is also found in Switzerland, Italy and France and also has been seen in western Germany.The snake is also found in Switzerland, Italy and France and also has been seen in western Germany.
Along its entire length the N. helvetica has black stripes, which on the common grass snake are barely noticeable.Along its entire length the N. helvetica has black stripes, which on the common grass snake are barely noticeable.
The Senckenberg Research Institute in Germany led the study into the genetics of more than 1,600 grass snakes.The Senckenberg Research Institute in Germany led the study into the genetics of more than 1,600 grass snakes.
Professor Uwe Fritz said: "We discovered that the barred grass snake, previously considered a subspecies, is in fact a distinct species.Professor Uwe Fritz said: "We discovered that the barred grass snake, previously considered a subspecies, is in fact a distinct species.
"We now have to pay close attention to which species of grass snake is involved in each case, in order to be able to assess whether one of them may be more threatened than previously thought.""We now have to pay close attention to which species of grass snake is involved in each case, in order to be able to assess whether one of them may be more threatened than previously thought."
Correction 31 August 2017: This story has been updated to clarify that following genetic testing the total number of snake species in the UK remains at three, but the former 'grass snake' has a new name.