Leptotyphlops : World’s smallest known snake
The snake named Leptotyphlops carlae, as thin as a spaghetti noodle, rests on a U.S. quarter in this undated handout image. Scientists have identified the world’s smallest snake — a reptile about 4 inches (10 cm) long and as thin as spaghetti that was found lurking under a rock on the Caribbean island of Barbados.
An American evolutionary biologist has discovered the world’s smallest known snake — small enough to curl up on a U.S. quarter — on the island of Barbados.
Blair Hedges of Penn State discovered the snake, which just under four inches (10 cm) in length as an adult, in a fragment of forest on the eastern side of Barbados.
Genetic material from the snake, along with physical characteristics such as its unique color patterns and scales, provided evidence the snake was indeed a new species of threadsnake, now dubbed Leptotyphlops carlae.
“Snakes may be prevented by natural selection from becoming too small because, below a certain size, there may be nothing for their young to eat,” Hedges said.
The Barbados snake, like its relatives, likely feeds primarily on the larvae of ants and termites.
L. carlae only produces one offspring at a time, in this case a single slender egg. In addition, its young are giants relatively speaking. In general, the hatchlings of the smallest snakes are one-half the length of an adult, while the largest snakes have hatchlings that are only 1/10th the length of an adult.
“If a tiny snake were to have two offspring, each egg could occupy only half the space that is devoted to reproduction within its body,” Hedges said. “But then each of the two hatchlings would be half the normal size, perhaps too small to function as a snake or in the environment.
The finding doesn’t surprise Hedges, who explains unique organisms are often found on islands where species can evolve over time to fill the little nooks and crannies that are available as places to live, or to consume perhaps foodstuffs and other resources, unoccupied by other organisms.