A newly discovered snake from Madagascar has been dubbed Madagascarophis lolo, which roughly translates to “Ghostly Cat-Eyed Snake from Madagascar”.
The new species of cat-eyed snake was discovered by a joint American-Malagasy team lead by Sara Ruane. The reptile's official description was published in the September 2016 issue of Copeia, the journal of the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists. “Lolo” (pronounced “luu luu”) is the Malagasy word for “ghost”.
According to members of the international research team, “This name refers to the ghostly pale gray color of the holotype, and that M. lolo has eluded discovery for so long at Ankarana, arguably one of the better surveyed sites in Madagascar.”
Credit goes to master's student Bernard Randriamahatantsoa for spying the snake on a recently opened path within Ankarana National Park. The researchers were in the process of exploring the spectacularly eroded limestone Tsingy rocks (above) in February of 2014. Although the park is well-traveled, the rocks themselves are extremely difficult and dangerous to traverse... for humans, at least. If you're a small gray snake, on the other hand, it's an ideal habitat.
The Ghost Snake, like its relatives in the Madagascarophis genus, is rather diminutive – specimens rarely exceed one meter (about 3.3 feet) in length. They do sport large eyes with cat-like, vertical pupils indicating their adaptation to nocturnal and crepuscular (dawn or twilight) activity. During daylight hours, the snakes conceal themselves from sight in the underbrush.
Ghost Snakes share another attribute with their cousins: they're mildly venomous. Scientists studying the species believe their venom on its own isn't enough to subdue their prey, so they augment its assumed debilitating effects with python-like constriction.
New species in the animal kingdom aren't discovered every day, especially those of the higher Orders, so the announcement of the Ghost Snake's existence is kind of a big deal. Herpetophiles itching to know more can review the research team's report, “The Cat-eyed Snakes of Madagascar: Phylogeny and Description of a New Species of Madagascarophis (Serpentes: Lamprophiidae) from the Tsingy of Ankarana” (whew!), at their leisure. (via Sci-News and PhysOrg)