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: Male monkey filmed caring for dying mate (w/ Video)

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

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

Male monkey filmed caring for dying mate (w/ Video)

Apr 18, 2014

(Phys.org) —The incident was captured by Dr Bruna Bezerra and colleagues in the Atlantic Forest in the Northeast of Brazil.  Dr Bezerra is a Research Associate at the University of Bristol and a Professor ...

Orchid named after UC Riverside researcher

Apr 17, 2014

One day about eight years ago, Katia Silvera, a postdoctoral scholar at the University of California, Riverside, and her father were on a field trip in a mountainous area in central Panama when they stumbled ...

In sex-reversed cave insects, females have the penises

Apr 17, 2014

Researchers reporting in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on April 17 have discovered little-known cave insects with rather novel sex lives. The Brazilian insects, which represent four distinct but re ...

Fear of the cuckoo mafia

Apr 17, 2014

If a restaurant owner fails to pay the protection money demanded of him, he can expect his premises to be trashed. Warnings like these are seldom required, however, as fear of the consequences is enough to ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Biologists help solve fungi mysteries

(Phys.org) —A new genetic analysis revealing the previously unknown biodiversity and distribution of thousands of fungi in North America might also reveal a previously underappreciated contributor to climate ...

Making graphene in your kitchen

Graphene has been touted as a wonder material—the world's thinnest substance, but super-strong. Now scientists say it is so easy to make you could produce some in your kitchen.