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Scientists Discover New Species of Snake, About the Size of a Pencil, Hiding in Plain Sight

Photo: CNN

Photo: CNN

Scientists have discovered a new species of snake that had practically been hiding in plain sight all this while.

Scientists have discovered a new species of snake that had practically been hiding in plain sight all this while.

Jeff Weinell, a graduate research assistant at the University of Kansas' Biodiversity Institute, was studying three snakes who had been rescued during field missions between 2006 and 2012. All three snakes had been at the university since then. However, recently, when Weinell was studying them, he found that the snakes belonged to a species that was previously not known.

It turns out, the reptiles belong to a new snake genus called Levitonius and a new snake species called Levitonius mirus.

The findings of Weinell and other scientists were published last week in the peer-reviewed journal Copeia.

The snakes are also known as Waray dwarf burrowing snake. According to research, these snakes are inhabitants of the islands of Samar and Leyte in the Philippines. The islands are home to over 100 species of snakes.

The snakes have a long and narrow skull, are highly iridescent, likely thrive on earthworms and have very few vertebrae. The snakes have been described as a miniaturized genus. Weinell said in his study that the Levitonius mirus reaches a maximum of 6.7 inches in length and is about the size of a pencil.

The three specimens at the university are the only ones that have been found till date, Weinell told CNN.

This year, a new species of green pit viper was found in the forests of western Arunachal Pradesh. Interestingly, it has been named Trimeresurus salazar, after Salazar Slytherin, the infamous founder of one of the houses in Hogwarts, the magical school in the books of Harry Potter.

As fans will remember, the colour of Slytherin house was green and the logo that of a snake. Salazar himself was a parselmouth wizard, or capable of speaking with serpents in JK Rowling’s hit work of fiction.

The discovery was published in a new paper in Zoosystematics and Evolution and the study has been led by researchers of the National Centre for Biological Science of Bangalore, India. The paper specified that “the specific epithet is a noun in apposition for JK Rowling’s fictional Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry’s co-founder, Salazar Slytherin."

T salazar shares several similarities with T septentrionalis, T insularis and T. albolabris of the same genus Trimeresurus which is a group of venomous pit vipers mostly found in the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia and China.

first published:December 27, 2020, 15:35 IST