'Ghost snake' species discovered in Madagascar

Washington: Scientists have discovered a
'ghost snake' - a new species of elusive, pale grey reptiles
dwelling in Madagascar.
The researchers from the Louisiana State University (LSU)
Museum of Natural Science, the American Museum of Natural
History in the US and the Universite de Mahajunga in
Madagascar studied the snake's physical characteristics and
genetics, which verified that it is a new species.
They named it Madagascarophis lolo - which means ghost in
Malagasy.
The ghost snake, discovered at the Ankarana National Park
in Madagascar, is part of a common group of snakes called
Madagascarophis, or cat-eyed snakes, named for their vertical
pupils, which is often found among snakes that are active in
the evening or night.
Many of the cat-eyed snakes are found in developed areas
or degraded forests. However, the researchers found the ghost
snake on pale grey limestone rocks.
"None of the other snakes in Madagascarophis are as pale
and none of them have this distinct pattern," said Sara Ruane,
post-doctoral researcher at the LSU Museum of Natural Science.
The researchers found that the ghost snake's next closest
relative is a snake called Madagascarophis fuchsi, which was
discovered at a site about 100 kilometres north of Ankarana
years ago. Both were found in rocky, isolated areas.
"I think what's exciting and important about this work is
even though the cat-eyed snakes could be considered one of the
most common groups of snakes in Madagascar, there are still
new species we don't know about because a lot of regions are
hard to get to and poorly explored," Ruane said.
Researchers conduct their fieldwork during the rainy
season in Madagascar when snakes and their prey, such as
frogs, lizards and even other snakes, are most active.
The findings were published in the journal Copeia.

PTI