Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Blind pink snake discovered in Madagascar

A pink worm-like snake has been rediscovered in Madagascar more than 100 years after it was first found. The snake, which is blind and measures about ten inches long, is described in the February 1, 2007 edition of Zootaxa, a leading taxonomic journal.

The snake was captured during a 2005 expedition in the arid northern part of the country. It was collected by Vincenzo Mercurio from the Forschungsinstitut und Naturhistorisches Museum Senckenberg in Germany and described as a new species by Dr. Van Wallach from the Museum of Comparative Zoology Harvard University.

"The finding of this new typhlopid species indicates, once more, that most of the Malagasy herpetofauna is highly secretive, and in general difficult to be detected. It is amazing that the genus Xenotyphlops remained unconfirmed for more than one century, despite the many field surveys conducted in Madagascar," wrote the authors. "More surprising was that the newly found individual belonged to a different species."

The snake, named Xenotyphlops mocquardi, is one of 15 blind snakes species known from Madagascar. Blind snakes live underground or beneath a layer of rocks, sand, or leaves and rarely emerge from their hideouts. They have poor eyesight and rely primarily on smell and heat detection to locate their prey consisting of insects and insect larvae.

Xenotyphlops mocquardi, Photo by Vincenzo Mercurio
The authors said they hope the snake's habitat is incorporated into a planned protected area.

"We hope that more individuals of Xenotyphlops mocquardi will be found in the future," they wrote. "Taken into consideration the high reptile endemism detected at the latter locality... it is suggested that Montagne des Fran├žais / Ambodivahibe should be included in the forthcoming protected area network for the safeguard of his rocky forested slopes and of the dry bushy savannah hosting an unique herpetofauna."

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