Snake Species Dubbed Ghost Snake Discovered in Madagascar

Posted on September 4, 2016

Ghost snake in Madagascar

Researchers have discovered a new species of snake in Madagascar. The pale grey snake has been named the Ghost Snake. The snake was also given the name for its elusive nature. The snake was discovered on a recently opened path in Ankarana National Park in northern Madagascar in February 2014.

The scientific name for the snake is Madagascarophis lolo. Lolo is pronounced "Luu Luu" and it means ghost in Malagasy. It was named by scientists from LSU Museum of Natural Science, the American Museum of Natural History and the Université de Mahajunga in Madagascar.

The snake belongs to the Madagascarophis or cat-eyed snake group. These snakes are named for their vertical pupils. Genetic analyses revealed that the ghost snake's next closest relative is a snake called Madagascarophis fuchsi.

Sara Ruane, post-doctoral researcher at the LSU Museum of Natural Science and lead author of the paper, says in a statement, "None of the other snakes in Madagascarophis are as pale and none of them have this distinct pattern. I think what's exciting and important about this work is even though the cat-eyed snakes could be considered one of the most common groups of snakes in Madagascar, there are still new species we don't know about because a lot of regions are hard to get to and poorly explored. If this commonly known, wide group of snakes harbors this hidden diversity, what else is out there that we don't know about?"

The researchers discovered the snake after hiking over 17 miles in the rain. It was a difficult search but the researchers say it was worth the effort. Ruane says, "It was really tough. It was a lot of work, but the payoff was big. Snakes are hard to find under the best of circumstances. They are pretty elusive."

A research paper on the newly discovered snake can be found here in the journal, Bio One.

Photo: Sara Ruane, LSU