Snake Barfs New Species

12/01/2009

For a biologist, discovering a new species is a dream come true.  The chances of it happening are very slim.  So imagine the surprise of Dr. Andrew Marshall of York University in the U.K. when he happened upon a snake in the forests of Tanzania while studying monkeys--and then watched as the snake regurgitated a still-living lizard that until then was undescribed by science. 

New Chameleon
While it sounds odd, it's actually totally normal for a snake to barf up a recent meal if it feels threatened.  The snake would rather lose its lunch than be slowed down by it and become a meal itself.  The real oddness is that the lizard was still alive.  The snake was a venomous twig snake, yet the lizard appeared to have survived being envenomated.  On top of that, the snake must have literally just finished swallowing the lizard moments before Dr. Marshall stumbled upon it, otherwise it would have suffocated or been partially digested.  And of course, the fact that it happened to be an undiscovered species of lizard is pretty odd too.

He named the new species Kinyongia magomberae, which means "the chameleon from Magombera" after the forest in which it was discovered.

Photograph: Andrew Marshall/African Journal/PA from http://www.guardian.co.uk


David Mizejewski is a naturalist with the National Wildlife Federation. His goal is to inspire others to appreciate the wonders of nature. Meet David >
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