Lost Species of Nightsnake Rediscovered in Mexico

Posted on May 20, 2014

Clarion Nightsnake


A lost species of nightsnake has been rediscovered in Mexico. The Clarion nightsnake (Hypsiglena ochrorhyncha unaocularus), a nocturnal snake species, was first discovered in 1936 by William Beebe. It then disappeared for nearly 80 years. The snake has been rediscovered by National Museum of Natural History researcher Daniel Mulcahy. An 18-inch Clarion nightsnake is pictured above.

The Clarion nightsnake lives on black lava rock habitat near the waters of Sulphur Bay. The snake is found exclusively on the Mexican island of Clarion. The snakes are brownish black in color and have a characteristic series of darker spots on their head and neck. One reason the snake has not been seen in 80 years is because its home on Clarion is extremely remote and only accessible by military escort. The snake's nocturnal behavior and its dark color on black lava rocks also make it hard to find.

Mulcahy says in a statement, "The rediscovery of the Clarion nightsnake 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. 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."

A research paper on the nightsnake is published here in PLoS One.

Photo: Daniel Mulcahy