Scientists discover ‘ghost snake’ in Madagascar

Scientists discover ‘ghost snake’ in Madagascar

New York, Sep 3 (IANS) A new species of snake discovered in Madagascar by a team of researchers has been named “ghost snake” for its pale grey colour and elusiveness.

The ghost snake was found within the Ankarana National Park in northern Madagascar in February 2014.

The snake is part of a common group of snakes called Madagascarophis, or cat-eyed snakes, named for the vertical pupils often found among them. They are active in the evening or night, the researchers said.

“None of the other snakes in Madagascarophis are as pale or have this distinct pattern,” said lead author Sara Ruane, post-doctoral researcher at the Louisiana State University’s Museum of Natural Science, US.

The team studied the snake’s physical characteristics that includes counting all of the scales on its belly, its back, including how many scales touch the eye and the number of scales on the upper and lower lips.

They also extracted DNA from tissue samples of the ghost snake and the previously found Madagascarophis fuchsi, also found in Madagascar, several years ago.

They compared three genetic markers shared across the species of Madagascarophis to determine how similar the new snake was to those previously known ones.

“All of the analyses we did supported that this is a distinct species despite the fact that we only have this one individual,” Ruane said.

The findings were published in the journal Copeia.

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