Scientists Rediscover 80-Years-Lost Nightsnake In Mexico

It's back. After nearly 80 years lost, the Clarion nightsnake — an 18-inch nocturnal snake species — has been rediscovered. (Photo courtesy of Daniel Mulcahy)According to the Smithsonian Institution,
Posted at 12:47 PM, May 20, 2014

It's back. After nearly 80 years lost, the Clarion nightsnake — an 18-inch nocturnal snake species — has been rediscovered. (Photo courtesy of Daniel Mulcahy)

According to the Smithsonian Institution, naturalist William Beebe first discovered the Clarion nightsnake in 1936 while visiting the Mexican island of Clarion. But when other scientists attempted to find the snake, they were unable to confirm its existence, "leading them to negate the validity of Beebe's findings." (Photo courtesy of Daniel Mulcahy)

But National Museum of Natural History researcher Daniel Mulcahy wasn't convinced. After reviewing the museum's information on the snake and running DNA tests on Beebe's single specimen, Mulcahy decided to search for the missing reptile. (Photo courtesy of Juan Martínez-Gómez)

According to the BBC, Mulcahy and a researcher from the Mexican Institute of Ecology visited Clarion Island, "where their team identified 11 snakes matching Beebe's description."

The outlet reports the team ran several DNA tests, which showed the snakes they found were "genetically distinct" from those found on the mainland. 

Geekosystem explains how a snake species could go unnoticed for nearly 80 years. "The elusive snakes have dark brown skin, live on lava rock near the water, and, as their name implies, only venture out at night — so it's easy to understand how their camouflage and reclusive habits could keep them away from biologists' eyes."

Mulcahy says he owes the rediscovery to scientists' data collection practices. ​"The rediscovery of the Clarion nightsnake is an incredible story of how scientists rely on historical data and museum collections to solve modern-day mysteries about biodiversity in the world we live in." (Via Smithsonian Institution)

The team will continue to study the species, in the interest of preserving the snake. According to Discovery, invasive feral cats threaten the species' existence. "The cats prey upon the nightsnake's main food source, an island lizard."

The discovery was published in the May 16 issue of PLOS ONE.