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New Kind of Snake Found in Bizarre Place

Inside another snake
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 28, 2018 7:51 AM CST
Updated Dec 30, 2018 4:16 PM CST
File photo of a coral snake. The new species was found inside a coral snake, decades ago.   (Getty/JasonOndreicka)

(Newser) – Scientists have introduced a new species of snake—a whole new genus, in fact—to the world. It's called Cenaspis aenigma, which National Geographic explains translates to "mysterious dinner snake." That speaks to the first unusual aspect of the discovery: Scientists found the never-before-seen snake inside another snake. It seems a Central American coral snake in the Mexican state of Chiapas dined on its 10-inch-long counterpart, and the smaller snake was still largely intact when researchers dissected the coral snake. The second unusual part of the discovery? Scientists actually found the snake 42 years ago. They knew it was unusual, but instead of writing up a study, they preserved the snake in a museum. A team led by herpetologist Jonathan Campbell of the University of Texas has now finally done the study, reports Science Alert.

"This provides evidence of just how secretive some snakes can be," says Campbell. "Combine their elusive habits with restricted ranges and some snakes do not turn up often." The researchers suspect the new type of snake is of the burrowing variety and lives mostly underground. They also don't think it's extinct, but merely hard to find. The snake has an unusually elongated skull, 14 teeth likely used to chomp on insects, markings on its underbelly (most snakes have them where they can be more readily seen), and unusual reproductive parts, per Popular Mechanics. On the latter point: Unlike most snakes, this one's sexual organ has no spines and looks, in the words of Nat Geo, "like some kind of otherworldly honeycomb." (The site's link has an artist's rendering of the snake.) Scientists now hope to find a live one to learn more about how it lives. (Read more snakes stories.)

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