New Species Dwarf Boa Found in Andes Cloud Forest Patch, Scientists Say “Shouldn’t Be There”

A new species of dwarf boa was discovered by scientists in an Andes patch of cloud forest, which, according to the scientists, is not where it should be.

A new small species of dwarf boa was discovered by scientists in the Amazon of Ecuador. These tiny reptiles only measure about a foot long.

A small, curled-up snake was discovered by Alex Bentley, the field station’s research coordinator, in a cloud forest patch, an upland forest where clouds can be seen peeking through the treetops in the eastern Andes.

A picture of the snake was sent to Bentley’s coworkers, including graduate student Omar Entiauspe-Neto from the Brazil’s Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul and Butantan Institute.

A Dwarf Boa that Shouldn’t Be There

Entiauspe-Neto claimed that they were taken aback right away because it wasn’t supposed to be there. The document detailing the species in the European Journal of Taxonomy is done by Entiauspe-Neto, who is listed as the paper’s corresponding author, Bently, and several other colleagues.

Although other dwarf boas were identified in other parts of the West Indies and South America, this one was the first to be discovered in the area. Entiauspe-Neto claims that the closest known match in Ecuador is “radically different” from the dwarf snake in Bentley’s photograph and lives west of the Andes.

The snake resembled a specimen found in the Ecuadorian Museum of Natural Sciences quite a bit, despite not being a known species of dwarf boa.

Entiauspe-Neto claimed that the scientific community is typically reluctant to recognize a new species based on a single specimen due to the possibility that there may be some kind of variation. They were reasonably certain the recently discovered dwarf boa was indeed a new species after obtaining those two specimens.

Tropidophis Cacuangoae

The researchers concluded that they had discovered a brand-new species of animal by comparing the physical traits and genetic makeup of the mystery snakes with those of other known species. In honor of Dolores Cacuango, an Indigenous activist who supported women’s rights and established Ecuador’s first bilingual schools with instruction in both Spanish as well as the Indigenous language Quechua, the new dwarf snake the scientific name Tropidophis cacuangoae.

Relation to Boa Constrictor

The T. cacuangoae, like its fellow dwarf boas, is distantly related to the larger boa constrictor, but they share some important characteristics.

Both of them have thick bodies, and their skeletons still contain remnants of hip bones from the ancestors of snakes that had legs. And rather than using venom to kill their prey, they squeeze them to death by obstructing blood flow and inducing cardiac arrest.

Diet and Bleeding Eyes Behavior of a Dwarf Boa

While dwarf boas primarily eat small lizards, 10-foot-long boa constrictors will hunt larger animals like wild pigs. Dwarf boas have developed a peculiar defense strategy because they lack the size advantage of true boa constrictors. When threatened, the dwarf boas curl into a ball and bleed from their eyes.

Entiauspe-Neto believes that this behavior, which is also observed in horned lizards, is a part of a larger constellation of death feigning that is observed throughout the animal kingdom.

He stated that the majority of predators prefer to consume live prey. A predator, such as an eagle, will not feed on a dwarf boa if it is coiling up and bleeding from its eyes because it is very likely to believe the snake is sick or about to die. By doing this, the predator will avoid catching whatever caused the snake to appear ill.

Also Read: Highly Venomous Eastern Brown Snake Caught in Australia Airport as Temperatures Rise to 98 Degrees 

Endangered by Habitat Loss

Although predators are a threat, habitat loss may already be putting the newly discovered species of dwarf boa in danger. It has a relatively small range, according to Entiauspe-Neto. Entiauspe-Neto believes it may be in danger of extinction, but the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has not yet officially evaluated this, CNN reports.

Reports from A-Z Animals show that IUCN assessments have determined that the majority of snakes in the Tropidophis genus are endangered or vulnerable, but a small number are listed as of least concern. One or two haven’t been spotted in more than a century and are thought to be extinct. The genus is extremely challenging to study due to its highly secretive nature.

Related Article: Areas in Louisiana and Texas are Critical Habitats for Rare Burrowing Snakes, Feds Say 

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