A new scientific publication by the Conservation Biology Research Group, Department of Biology, University of Malta in collaboration with the NGO BICREF reports the first two records of the Brahminy blindsnake Indotyphlops braminus (Daudin, 1803), representing a new alien species in Malta. This species, native to Indo-Malayan region, has over the years broadened its distribution through anthropogenic international transportation of goods.
Its unique parthenogenic reproductive strategy increases its potential for fast population expansion, becoming invasive. The two specimens analysed in this study were identified through external morphology and molecular genetics as part of the ongoing conservation research, possible through the BioCon Innovate Research Fund for Excellence awarded to Prof. Adriana Vella. These sequences were compared to other genetic data available for I. braminus from other locations, where it was found that the mitochondrial DNA variation for this species is very low at a global scale.
This small burrowing non-venomous snake rarely comes to the surface, and the habitat it lives in allows easy undetected transportation of specimens between different locations mostly between areas associated with plant nurseries, golf courses, compost deposits, agricultural farms and gardens including domestic gardens, botanical gardens and parks.
The detection of an established population of I. braminus in Malta adds on and highlights this species’ recent expanding range across various Mediterranean countries. A better control strategy on exotic species importations should be in place to prevent costly eradication management of invasive species. Application of risk analysis on any potential bio-invasion associated with pet, crop, plant, tree species importation and their associated pathogens and pests has been increasingly advocated due to globalisation of trade in biological resources.
For this purpose, in Malta, the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP) 2012-2020 highlights four measures (BI1 to BI4) toward preventing the introduction of alien species that may be invasive and also have early detection and control mechanisms in place to control their invasiveness (ERA, 2012).
However, due to its habitat preferences and also its reproductive biology, extra care must be taken to detect the Brahminy blindsnake which can easily go unnoticed and establish populations wherever it is unintentionally transported to.
The publication, First records of the Brahminy blindsnake, Indotyphlops braminus (Daudin, 1803) (Squamata: Typhlopidae) from Malta with genetic and morphological evidence is authored by Adriana Vella, Noel Vella, Clare Marie Mifsud and Denis Magro and may be accessed online.
For further details, contact Prof. Adriana Vella.