Scientists Discover Surprising New Species of Snakes


| LAST UPDATE 09/13/2021

By Sharon Renee
Hispaniolan vineboa new snake
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There's a lot of wildlife still waiting to be uncovered. Look no further than the unique snake species that was recently spotted in the Caribbean. From its striking appearance to its mysterious history, here's why the finding is leaving scientists baffled.

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Slithering quietly in the Dominican Republic's forest, naturalist Miguel Landestoy and his team of researchers from the Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo couldn't believe their eyes upon spotting the snake. And perhaps with good reason. The last time a new boa species was discovered was over a century ago - 1888, to be exact.

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As for what made the snake so perplexing? With large, animated eyes and a square-shaped snout, the Hispaniolan vineboa snake looked like nothing researchers had ever seen before. But perhaps even more striking? The Hispaniolan vineboa might just be the smallest species of boas in the world.

Hispaniolan vineboa snake species
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As the team reported, the longest Hispaniolan found measured roughly less than 1 meter. Contrarily, the shortest one found clocked in at approximately a half meter long. But the snake's unique features soon welcomed a new wave of questions: how had it not been discovered already?

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"The fact that an animal could have gone undetected for so long on this island that has a lot of people on it is pretty remarkable," R. Graham Reynolds, a herpetologist at the University of North Carolina, explained. "The last boa discovered on this island was documented over 100 years ago. Yet even though this species was able to elude discovery until now, what might be considered even more remarkable is this boa’s efforts to persist despite the accelerated rate of habitat loss."

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Unfortunately, as remarkable a species it may be, the Hispaniolan vineboa is in trouble: "Habitats where previously hidden boa species are found, such as the Hispaniolan Vine Boa... are dwindling," Reynolds warned. But while their entire existence might be at stake, the Hispaniolan - as detailed in the journal Breviora - offer a source of hope for the scientific community: "This discovery is further evidence that we still have much to learn about biodiversity in the region," Reynolds explained. "Our task now is to use their discoveries to recognize the value of wild places in the Caribbean and generate action in preserving natural habitats."