New Species of Sideways Stabbing Stiletto Snake Discovered

Posted on March 27, 2019

Branch's Stiletto Snake

A new species of stiletto snake has been discovered in the western part of the Upper Guinea forest zone. Stiletto snakes are known for their ability to attack and stab sideways. They have a fang sticking out of the corner of their mouths. The snakes can even stab and deliver venom when their mouths are closed.

The new species was discovered by a research team led by Dr Mark-Oliver Roedel from the Natural History Museum, Berlin. A report on the new species was published in Zoosystematics and Evolution. The species has been named Atractaspis branchi or Branch's Stiletto Snake. The name honors recently deceased South African herpetologist Prof. William Roy (Bill) Branch, a world leading expert on African reptiles.

Branch's Stiletto Snake inhabits rainforest and rainforest edges in the western part of the Upper Guinea forests. The researchers say it is likely endemic to the area which is a threatened region known for its biodiversity.

The researchers say in a statement, "The discovery of a new and presumably endemic species of fossorial snake from the western Upper Guinea forests thus is not very surprising. However, further surveys are needed to resolve the range of the new snake species, and to gather more information about its ecological needs and biological properties."

The toxicity of the new species is not described in the article. Stiletto snakes are not venomous enough to kill a human although some species can inflict tissue necrosis. Because of their sideways stabbing ability, the researchers say stiletto snakes cannot be handled using the standard approach of holding them with fingers behind the head.

Image: Mark-Oliver Roedel