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World's smallest snake 'thin as spaghetti' discovered

By Chris V. Thangham     Aug 3, 2008 in Environment
In one of the Caribbean islands, scientists discovered a new snake species, which is as thin as a spaghetti noodle. It measures an average of 10 centimetres (4 inches) in length.
The snake named “Leptotyphlops carlae” is the smallest known snake species in over 3,100 known varieties. It was discovered on the Caribbean island of Barbados by Dr. Blair Hedges, a biologist from the Penn State University in Pennsylvania.
Dr. Hedges found this snake beneath a rock in a threatened forest region. He claims this is the smallest a snake can evolve to be. He and his wife, a herpetologist, who study snakes and other reptiles, found other snakes from the same group but found only two females among them.
The snakes eat termites and produce a single, massive egg. Other snake species produce hundreds of eggs at once, whereas this variety produces only one. The newborn have half the adult’s body weight when they hatch.
This new discovery is described in the journal of Zootaxa.
This snake variety can be found only in the Caribbean regions. Previously scientists discovered this particular species but identified them wrongly as a different species. Specimens of this snake species are available at the London’s Natural History Museum and in the museum in Martinique.
Dr. Hedges was able to use DNA analysis to find out the differences between this snake species and others, and classify them separately as “Leptotyphlops carlae”.
The future for this newly discovered species looks bleak, because most (95%) of the Barbados region are becoming treeless and the remaining forest regions will also end up in a similar fate soon with growing population and tourism industry.
Because the snakes produce only one egg at a time, the chances of becoming extinct also increases with less regions to forage.
The reason the snake produces just one egg is to make the young ones grow quickly; too small a growth size with two eggs will not be enough body weight for them to survive on their own. With one egg, the size of the young one grows to half their parent’s weight. Thus, Dr. Hedges thinks this size will be the theoretical minimum limit in snakes.
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