New snake species found in a museum

Oct 25, 2012
Lifeless serpents, classified and ready to be coiled into alcohol-formol-mix-filled jars, are seen in a laboratory collection at the Butantan Institute in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Scandinavian scientists have discovered a new species of snake in a Copenhagen museum, which they have called the Mosaic sea snake, a Swedish university said.

Scandinavian scientists have discovered a new species of snake in a Copenhagen museum, which they have called the Mosaic sea snake, a Swedish university said on Thursday.

The new sea snake was found by chance by two research colleagues, Johan Elmberg of Sweden and Arne Rasmussen of Denmark, when they were examining formalin-filled jars of snakes at the Natural History Museum in Copenhagen.

They found two sea snakes with the same name on the label, which had been there since being sent to Denmark by collectors in the 1800s.

"But they looked different and didn't seem to belong to the same group of snakes," Johan Elmberg said in the statement from Kristianstad University in southern Sweden.

"After comparing the sea snakes with other similar species in other museums in Europe it was even more obvious that we had found a new distinct sea snake," he said.

The Mosaic sea snake, scientifically known as Aipysurus mosaicus, is named after its unusually patterned skin, which looks like a Roman floor mosaic.

It "never goes ashore and now that its identity is known it is apparent that it is relatively common in the sea in northern Australia and southern New Guinea," Elmberg said.

He said the presence of sea snakes was a good sign.

"Sea snakes are a good indicator of how the coral reefs and other precious ecosystems are doing. If there are snakes left in the environment it shows that the reefs are healthy and intact," he explained.

Unlike some other sea snakes which have strong venom, the Mosaic sea snake is "virtually harmless," Elmberg said, adding that the species is unusual in that it feeds on fish eggs, and therefore has only very small fangs.

Until now, the snake was thought to be a variation of a species called Aipysurus eydouxii. But molecular analysis showed the two were sister species distinct from one another.

Explore further: Sexual selection isn't the last word on bird plumage, study shows

Related Stories

New species of sea snake discovered

Feb 21, 2012

(PhysOrg.com) -- Scientists have discovered a new species of sea snake in the Gulf of Carpenteria, northern Australia, which is unique in having raised scales.

New scarlet snake found in Cambodia

Jul 16, 2012

A new species of snake which is scarlet with black and white rings has been discovered in Cambodia's rainforest, conservationists announced on Monday.

Snake venoms have not revealed all their secrets

Mar 23, 2011

For several decades, snake venoms have been used in pharmacology to make new drugs. But a French team of pharmacologists, clinicians, systematists and conservation biologists, headed by Nicolas Vidal of the ...

Recommended for you

Fruit flies crucial to basic research

30 minutes ago

The world around us is full of amazing creatures. My favorite is an animal the size of a pinhead, that can fly and land on the ceiling, that stages an elaborate (if not beautiful) courtship ritual, that can ...

Crete's mystery croc killed by cold snap

30 minutes ago

A man-eating crocodile that became an attraction on the Greek island of Crete last year after its mysterious appearance in a lake has died, probably of cold, an official said Monday.

Hunting for living fossils in Indonesian waters

1 hour ago

The Coelacanth (Latimeria menadoensis) was thought to be extinct for more than 60 million years and took the science world by storm in 1938 when it was re-discovered living in South Africa. This fish has ...

An elephant never forgets the way to the watering hole

3 hours ago

A study published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B tracked the movement of elephants across the African savannah. The elephants chose the shortest distances towards watering holes, pin-pointing the lo ...

A peek at the secret life of pandas

Mar 27, 2015

Reclusive giant pandas fascinate the world, yet precious little is known about how they spend their time in the Chinese bamboo forests. Until now.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.