Discovery of a Foot-Long Dwarf Boa in the Ecuadorian Amazon

In the Ecuadorian Amazon, scientists have discovered a new kind of miniature boa that even snake-averse people would find adorable. Very few of these reptiles exceed a foot in length.

While exploring a section of cloud forest, an upland forest where clouds seep through the trees, Alex Bentley, research coordinator of the Sumak Kawsay In Situ field station in the eastern foothills of the Andes, came upon a little, coiled-up snake.

He shared a picture of the snake with his coworkers, one of which being Omar Entiauspe-Neto, a Ph.D. student at Brazil’s Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul and Butantan Institute.

Discovery of a Foot-Long Dwarf Boa in the Ecuadorian Amazon
Discovery of a Foot-Long Dwarf Boa in the Ecuadorian Amazon

It came as a shock to scientists, including Entiauspe-Neto, the corresponding author of the study identifying the species in the European Journal of Taxonomy.

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Dwarf boas are common in other parts of South America and the West Indies, but Bentley was the first to record one in the area he explored. Entiauspe-Neto claims that the closest known match to the species in Bentley’s photo may be found west of the Andes in Ecuador and that it appears “radically different” from the one in the photo.

The snake didn’t match any dwarf boa species we know of, but it had a lot of characteristics with a specimen from the Ecuadorian Museum of Natural Sciences.

“We’re usually afraid to describe new species based on only a single one because there’s a chance that there might be some sort of variation,” Entiauspe-Neto said. “Once we had those two specimens, we were fairly sure they were a new species.”

The researchers established that they had discovered a new species of snake by comparing the mystery snakes’ phenotype and genetic sequence to those of previously described species.

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The species, Tropidophis cacuangoae, was named after Dolores Cacuango, an Indigenous activist and pioneer in Ecuador’s push to establish the country’s first bilingual schools, where Spanish and Quechua were taught side by side.

Final Thoughts

Scientists have found a new kind of small boa in the Ecuadorian Amazon that is so cute it might make even snake haters smile. However, only a small fraction of these reptiles reach lengths of a foot or more.

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