Discovering a new species of a snake may seem like a relatively obvious task. However, a researcher found a new species after they had been kept for years.
A graduate research assistant at the University of Kansas Biodiversity Institute, Jeff Weinell, has found a new species of snake but it had been hidden in plain sight for years. The discovery came from three snakes that had been recovered on field missions between 2006 and 2012. However, it took until now to identify them as a new species.
After researching the three snakes, Weinell found that they belonged to a new snake genus called Levitonius while being a new snake species called Levitonius Mirus. Latin aside, the snakes are known as the Waray dwarf burrowing snake, and they are inhabitants of the islands of Samar and Leyte in the Philippines.
Despite coming from an island which has over 100 different species of snakes, this new species has some unique features. The snakes have a long and narrow skull, a luminous colour and have very few vertebrae. On top of that, they are small and appear to only grow to a maximum of 6.7 inches in length.
An example of the species can be seen below:
Weinell explained to CNN how they discovered the species:
I sequenced DNA from a bunch of specimens of that group, and this one was actually misidentified as belonging to (Pseudorabdion). When I got the DNA results back, at first I thought it was just an error on my part or contamination from the samples.
It turned out that Weinell’s findings were correct and the snakes appear to be a miniaturized genus, and it is much smaller than its closest relatives. The size of the animal allows it to eat earthworms and it may have evolved for this particular function.
While the discovery is of a small snake, those who are afraid of snakes may still be concerned about miniature slithery creatures hiding in plain sight.
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