A new species of snake has been discovered in the UK

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A new type of snake has been discovered and reclassified in the UK.

Natrix Helvetica, a new barred snake, is said to be a different species to the common grass snake, Natrix natrix. 

The new snake for years was considered part of the same family as N.natrix, both of which are commonly found across lowland areas in southern England.

But after researchers in Germany discovered the new N.helvetica was in fact genetically distinct, it is now considered the fourth species to live in the UK.

The newly distinguished barred grass snake is grey with black stripes, not olive green like its the N.natrix and does not have the same bright yellow collar.

Natrix Natrix: The olive green barred grass snake is commonly found in lowland areas in southern England(Melita Vamberger/Senckenberg Research Institute)

The research team at Senckenberg Research Institution studied the genetic makeup of more than 1,600 grass snakes, including those held as museum artefacts.

They found that the two species had different genetic lineages, which means any attempt to cross breed would lead to reproductive barriers. 

Lead researcher, Professor Ewe Fritz, told the BBC: “We discovered that the barred grass snake, previously considered a subspecies, is in fact a distinct species. 

“We now 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.”

Under UK legislation, the grass snake is protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act making it a criminal offence to injury or kill the animals. 

Following the latest classification, the total number of snake species living in the UK is now four. 

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