A new species of a snake family that can attack with its mouth closed has been discovered in Africa.
According to The Independent, the new species lives in the Upper Guinea forest in the countries of Guinea and Liberia, in areas that are largely rainforest and jungle. The areas, they note, have not been fully explored.
“The discovery of a new and presumably endemic species of fossorial snake from the western Upper Guinea forests thus is not very surprising,” researchers reported in their study, found in the journal Zoosystematics and Evolution.
“However, further surveys are needed to resolve the range of the new snake species, and to gather more information about its ecological needs and biological properties,” they wrote.
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Stiletto snakes attack their prey in a different way from better-known snakes, such as rattlers, according to Science Daily.
Instead of opening their jaws wide to plunge venom deep into whatever they wish to kill, stiletto snakes have a fang that sticks out from the corner of their mouths.
The ability of stiletto snakes to stab with their mouths closed means they are difficult for humans to handle in the common way of holding a snake behind its head.
“When handled, the snake first tried to hide its head below body loops; the head was bend down at an almost right angle and with fangs partly visible outside of the mouth. In this head position, the snake repeatedly tried to strike,” the researchers reported.
“Either it tried to move slowly away from the human observers or it abruptly coiled and uncoiled, often jumping distances equaling almost its entire body length,” the report on the new species said.
Three snakes were collected. One was found near a “rocky creek in a lowland evergreen rainforest in Liberia.” The others were found in plantations in southeastern Guinea.
The bite of a stiletto snake is not lethal to humans, but a bite on a finger, if left untreated, could result in the loss of the digit.
The team of researchers that found the new species was led by Dr. Mark-Oliver Rödel from the Natural History Museum in Berlin.
The new species, Branch’s stiletto snake, was named in honor of South Africa researcher William Branch, an expert on African reptiles.
More than 20 subspecies of stiletto snakes were known to exist before this latest discovery, Newsweek reported. Most species are found in sub-Saharan Africa.
For many Americans, snakes are prevalent much closer to home, leading experts to warn homeowners to be vigilant.
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