West Bengal, India
School of Natural Sciences
For thousands of years, India has been known as the “Land of Snakes” with iconic species like the Indian Cobra (Naja naja), the infamous King Cobra (Ophiophagus hannah), and Indian Python (Python molurus) dominating herpetologists’ wish-lists when they visit. Being a tropical country and covering several very distinct biogeographical regions, India is home to more than 300 species of snakes. The diversity and abundance of venomous snakes also has earned India the unfortunate title of “Snakebite Capital of the World,” with each year almost 50,000 people losing their lives due to snakebite. India has a unique diversity of venomous and nonvenomous snakes living in close proximity to humans. While the biology of India’s pitvipers has been relatively neglected by scientists, they are represented by members of at least six distinct lineages with 23 currently described species. Many more species await description; thus, we can truly say this land is a pitviper paradise. In my presentation I will discuss the present and future diversity of India’s pitvipers and the threats they face at this challenging time in their history, ranging from widespread use of pesticides to climate-change induced melting of the Himalayan glaciers.