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Rare Discovery: Lolo the 'Ghost' Snake Found in a Lime Rock Formation in Madagascar

Sep 04, 2016 06:00 PM EDT
Researchers discovered a new snake species in Ankarana, Madagascar called the "Snake Ghost" due to its distinctively pale gray scale.
(Photo : Paulo Valdivieso/Creative Commons Image/Flickr)

Pale as gray and elusive as other serpents, a new snake was discovered one day just before dusk by researchers while on the search of finding a particularly rare snake specie inside Anakarana National Park in Madagascar, shared in a blog.

The researchers called it the "snake ghost" for its distinctively pale gray scale after it was picked from the tsingy, local term for the very sharp and pointy lime rock formation where the Ankarana National Park is famous for. The researchers from the Louisiana State University, the American Museum of Natural History and the Université de Mahajunga in Madagascar named the species Madagascarophis lolo (pronounced "luu luu"), meaning "ghost in Malagasy."

The ghost snake is part of the common group of snakes called Madagascarophis, or simply cat-eyed snakes, namesake for their vertical pupils like those in cats. This kind of pupil is unique among night-active snakes that are usually found in the developed areas or degraded forests. The newfound ghost snake, though, was discovered in the iconic pale gray limestone called Tsingy.

"None of the other snakes in Madagascarophis are as pale and none of them have this distinct pattern," said Sara Ruane, post-doctoral researcher at the LSU Museum of Natural Science and lead author of the paper, from Science Daily.

Malagasy master's student Bernard Randriamahatantsoa spotted the snake on a path after the group's hike, where they covered more than 17 miles in the rain-kissed field of Ankarana's park. The group explored the area during the rainy season for the snakes are best found under the circumstances.

The researchers returned to the U.S. for analysis and morphology of the new discovery. An extracted DNA from tissue samples of the ghost snake revealed how it is quite distinct from other snakes, although it bears a close resemblance to its relative, the Madagascarophis fuchsia, which has been previously found, too. To date, there are only five species of Madagascarophis found in the world

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