Clarion Nightsnake: The Lost Species Re-Emerges In MexicoBy: Toni Matthews-El - May 20, 2014
A rare snake species once presumed “lost” forever has been rediscovered after a gap of nearly 80 years!
The Clarion nightsnake is a species of snake that was first discovered back in 1936 by American naturalist William Beebe. Clarion was the name of one of the Revillagigedo Islands, the place where he first spotted the reptile.
Unfortunately, subsequent trips back to Clarion failed to produce any more of the nightsnakes spotted by Beebe.
As time passed, it was assumed that there were was some form of error and that the Clarion nightsnake simply no longer existed. This even lead to the species being removed from taxonomic registries.
Not everyone was ready to give up on the Clarion nightsnake.
One such person was Daniel Mulcahy. Mulcahy works as a researcher for the National Museum of Natural History in Washington. He worked closely with Juan Martinez Gomez of the Ecology Institute in Mexico to try to find the lost snake species.
Gomez, who is said to be an expert on the Revillagigedo Islands, suggested that the pair of them set out under conditions that were similar to what Beebe would have experienced when he came across the Clarion nightsnake.
Knowing that the islands changed season to season meant it was possible that the snakes would be easiest to find if they were present during certain times of the year. They also knew that the snake would be mainly active during the night hours and its skin patterns allowed it to blend in with the rock formations of the islands.
Their calculations lead Mulcahy and Gomez to time their expedition for May. Thanks to “putting themselves in Beebe’s place”, the expedition was a success. Juan Alberto Cervantes, one of Gomez’s graduate students, was the one who spotted the lost snake. Cervantes has the distinction of being the first to do so since 1936.
DNA testing on the snake determined that it was indeed its own species, though it is closely related to Mexico’s Sonora-Sinaloa snakes. The Sonora-Sinaloa is native to a region of Mexico nearly 500 miles away.
Image via YouTube