A new species of snake was hiding in plain sight

A new species of snake was hiding in plain sight

For almost a decade and a half, the specimen has been preserved in a museum.

Researchers in the US have announced the discovery of a new species of miniature snake that was ‘hiding in plain sight’.

Tiny ‘pencil-sized’ snakes live in the Philippines. They are three to four times smaller than their nearest relatives in the Elapoidea clade, have iridescent scales, a long narrow skull and the fewest number of vertebrae of any snake on the planet. These snakes feed mainly on earthworms. The new species is named Levitonius mirus.

It turns out that all this time the new species was hiding in plain sight: in 2006, researchers brought the first specimen of such snake to the U.S., and then some more were found. All of them were kept in the collection of the Institute of Biodiversity of the University of Kansas and were thought to be poor specimens of another species.

Later, institute researcher Geoff Weinell suspected a mistake. His team carried out DNA analysis, computed tomography and other studies and described the new species. Their work is published in the scientific journal Copeia.