Saturday, 16 March 2013

Smallest snake in the world

Barbados Threadsnake

The photograph below shows L. carlae on a quarter dollar, a coin with a diameter of 24.26 mm (0.955 inches).

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

Barbados Threadsnake (Leptotyphlops carlae) is a species of blind threadsnake. It is the smallest snake species currently known to exist. This member of the Leptotyphlopidae family is found on 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. Hedges named the new species of snake in honor of his wife, Carla Ann Hass, a herpetologist who was part of the discovery team. Specimens of this species already existed in reference collections in the London Natural History Museum and in a museum in California.

L. carlae was described as the snake species with the smallest adults in the world. 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 imposed by natural selection, as young snakes need to attain a certain minimum size to find suitable food.

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). The snakes are said to be "as thin as spaghetti." L. carlae is thought to feed primarily on a diet of termites and ant larvae. 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.

Size of mother-to-offspring of large species of snakes compared to small species such as L. carlae

Small species of snake such as L. carlae have new-born offspring that are proportionately larger relative to adults, when compared to larger species of snake. This follows the biological trait that the smallest snakes tend to have offspring that are enormous relative to the adults by comparison to other species. The figure to the left demonstrates that 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. The scale relationship presented is only of offspring to adult of the same species, not comparing adults. Tiny snakes produce only one, massive egg, relative to the size of the mother, which may suggest that there is a size limit for snake species below which survival is difficult, for internal physiological or external competitive reasons.

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