Barbados threadsnake

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Barbados threadsnake
Leptotyphlops carlae.jpg
An adult Barbados threadsnake on an American quarter dollar
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Leptotyphlopidae
Genus: Leptotyphlops
Species: L.carlae
Binomial name
Leptotyphlops carlae
Hedges, 2008[1]
Synonyms

Tetracheilostoma carlae - Adalsteinsson et al., 2009

The Barbados threadsnake (Leptotyphlops carlae) is a species of blind threadsnake. It is the smallest snake species currently known to exist.[1] This member of the Leptotyphlopidae family is endemic to the Caribbean island of Barbados.

The snake was first described and identified as a separate species in 2008 by S. Blair Hedges, a biologist from Pennsylvania State University.[2] Hedges named the new species of snake in honor of his wife, Carla Ann Hass, a herpetologist who was part of the discovery team.[3] Specimens already existed in reference collections in the London Natural History Museum and in a museum in California, but they had been incorrectly identified to belong to another species.[1]

At the time of publication, August 2008, L. carlae was described as the snake species with the smallest adults in the world.[4][5] The first scientific specimens taken by the research team were found under rocks in a forest. The snake is thought to be near the lower size limit for snakes, as young snakes need to attain a certain minimum size to find suitable food.[5]

Description[edit]

Leptotyphlops carlae

The average length of Leptotyphlops carlae adults is approximately 10 cm, (4 inches), with the largest specimen found to date measuring 10.4 cm (4.09 inches).[1] The snakes are said ((by Bella Lombardozzi)) to be "as thin as spaghetti."[this quote needs a citation] The photograph above shows L. carlae on a quarter dollar, a coin with a diameter of 24.26 mm (0.955 inches).

L. carlae is thought to feed primarily on a diet of termites and ant larvae.[5] Threadsnakes are oviparous, laying eggs to reproduce. The female of this snake species produces only one large egg at a time. The emerging offspring is about half the length of the mother.[5]

The size of mother-to-offspring of large species of snakes (left) compared to small species such as L. carlae (right).

Small species of snake such as L. carlae have relatively large new-born offspring compared to adults. The offspring of the largest snakes are only one-tenth the length of an adult, whereas offspring of the smallest snakes typically are one-half the length of an adult (see figure below). Tiny snakes produce only one, massive egg—relative to the size of the mother—which may[vague] suggest that there is a size limit for snake species below which survival is difficult, for internal physiological or external competitive reasons.[citation needed]

Geographic range and habitat[edit]

L. carlae is believed to be endemic only to the island of Barbados in the Caribbean. Two recent specimens of the snake were collected near a small remnant of a secondary forest in the east-central area of Barbados. This area is the oldest part of Barbados, the first to emerge from the ocean, and the only part that is not covered by a Pleistocene reef cap.[1]

Secondary forests similar to where the specimens were found are likely to be a sufficient habitat for this species. As Barbados is extremely densely populated and now largely deforested, the suitable habitat for L. carlae is probably no more than a few square kilometers.[1]

Conservation status[edit]

Little is known about the ecology, abundance, or distribution of this species.[1] Essentially, Barbados has no original forest remaining, however, this native species very likely requires a forest habitat for survival since it evolved in the presence of forests.[1] Based on the small number of known specimens and its distribution apparently being restricted to eastern Barbados, the continued survival of the species is a concern.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h S. Blair Hedges (August 4, 2008). "At the lower size limit in snakes: two new species of threadsnakes (Squamata: Leptotyphlopidae: Leptotyphlops) from the Lesser Antilles" (PDF). Zootaxa 1841: 1–30. Archived from the original on 13 August 2008. Retrieved 2008-08-04. 
  2. ^ Will Dunham (August 3, 2008). "World's smallest snake is as thin as spaghetti". Reuters UK. Archived from the original on 2 September 2008. Retrieved 2008-08-04. 
  3. ^ Alice Turner (August 3, 2008). "World's Smallest Snake Discovered on the Caribbean Island of Barbados". eFluxMedia. Archived from the original on 6 August 2008. Retrieved 2008-08-04. 
  4. ^ Catherine Brahic (August 3, 2008). "World's smallest snake discovered". New Scientist. Archived from the original on 1 September 2008. Retrieved 2008-08-03. 
  5. ^ a b c d Barbara K. Kennedy. "World's smallest snake found in Barbados". Penn State University. Archived from the original on 5 September 2008. Retrieved 2008-08-03. 

External links[edit]