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Snake long thought extinct found on Mexican island

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
5/21/2014 (3 years ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Clarion nightsnake discovered on one of the Revillagigedo Islands

The Clarion nightsnake, a species of snake that had been "lost" for almost 80 years has been re-discovered on a remote Mexican island. The snake was rediscovered on one of the Revillagigedo Islands, more than 400 miles off Mexico´s Pacific coast.

Performing DNA analysis, researchers established the long, dark spotted snake as its own species and see where it had come from.

Performing DNA analysis, researchers established the long, dark spotted snake as its own species and see where it had come from.

Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
5/21/2014 (3 years ago)

Published in Green

Keywords: Clarion nightsnake, Revillagigedo Islands, extinct


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The only previous spotting of the species was made by American naturalist William Beebe in a 1936. During his visit to Clarion, one of the four Revillagigedo Islands, Beebe returned with one snake preserved in a glass jar.

Further visits failed to uncover any more nightsnakes. There were no further sightings reported over the years from the island, which is inhabited only by a small detachment of Mexican marines.

Starvation never takes a vacation --

In time, the single preserved sample was assumed to be a labelling error and the snake was largely struck from taxonomic registries.

A researcher for the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, Daniel Mulcahy, suspected it might still exist. Juan Martinez Gomez of Mexico´s Ecology Institute and Mulcahy set out to find it.

The Clarion night snake was spotted last year on the Pacific island of Clarion by researchers from the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C., which announced the discovery on its Web site this week.

"The rediscovery of the Clarion night snake 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," Mulcahy said.

Gomez, an expert on the Revillagigedo Islands, says that the islands change a lot from season to season. Both men timed the expedition last May to replicate Beebe´s steps as they looked for the snake, which blends in with the island´s rock formations and is largely active at night.

Both used Beebe´s original field notes as a guide. "Basically, following those directions, we essentially put ourselves in his place," Martinez Gomez said.

Graduate student Juan Alberto Cervantes was the first to spot one of the snakes for the first time since 1936.

Performing DNA analysis, researchers established the long, dark spotted snake as its own species and see where it had come from.

"Proper identification is the first step toward conserving this snake, and we plan to continue monitoring this species to learn more about the role it plays in the delicate Clarion Island ecosystem," Mulcahy said.

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