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Stomach Discovery

An Elusive Serpent

UTA researchers document a new species of snake

A snake

Herpetologists at UTA have described a previously unknown species of snake that was found inside the stomach of another snake more than four decades ago. Their discovery represents an entirely new genus as well.

The snake has been named Cenaspis aenigma, which translates from Latin as “mysterious dinner.” It is detailed in a recent paper—“Caudals and Calyces: The Curious Case of a Consumed Chiapan Colubroid”—in the Journal of Herpetology. The paper was co-authored by Jonathan Campbell, professor of biology; Eric Smith, associate professor of biology; and Alexander Hall, who earned a doctorate in quantitative biology in 2016.

Utilizing the vast resources of UTA’s Amphibian and Reptile Diversity Research Center for comparative purposes, the researchers made CT scans of dozens of specimens of snakes. The biologists believe that Cenaspis is likely a burrowing snake that feeds on insects and spiders. Campbell believes that Cenaspis is not extinct but has eluded capture due to its burrowing lifestyle and other habits.

“This provides evidence of just how secretive some snakes can be,” Dr. Campbell told National Geographic, which ran a story about the discovery late last year. “Combine their elusive habits with restricted ranges, and some snakes do not turn up often.”

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