Researchers at the University of Texas at Arlington are celebrating after finding a new species of snake, but it's how they made their exciting discovery that's really turning heads.
Dr. Jonathan Campbell and his team traveled to a remote part of Mexico, accessible only by horseback, to catalogue and look at different kinds of reptiles that lived in the area.
A family they befriended had recently killed a coral snake that wandered onto their property. Eager to preserve to it, he went to collect it.
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"At that point, I noticed it had something in it's belly," said Campbell, a Professor of Biology at UTA. "So I dissected another snake out. And much to my surprise, it was something I was totally unfamiliar with. I thought I knew most of the snakes in that area. But with a little bit of research, we were certain it was a new species."
The scientific community has agreed with them, publishing their discovery in a recent scientific journal.
They gave the small, eight-inch long snake the scientific name cenaspis aenigma, which translates to "mystery dinner snake." Campbell said they're still working on a common name.
"It's always very exciting to think that you're holding in your hand something that no one else has ever seen," said Campbell. "I was sent a Wikipedia account of it. The description has been out for less than a month and it already has its own account -- so it's not doing too badly I guess."
Campbell and his team have visited that same part of Mexico multiple times since making the discovery. But to this day, they have yet to find a live one.
He said part of the difficulty in finding it -- he believes the snake spends most of its life underground.
"Maybe it's not surprising that we haven't found another one," said Campbell. "But I think they're still there. And I'm looking forward to having someone write a paper down the line telling me what the live ones look like and where they were found."