Slither Over and Make Room! Another Snake Species–and Genus–Is Found

A recent CNN article highlighted a fascinating new find by scientists: a brand-spanking-new species of snake. Levitonius mirus, the Waray dwarf burrowing snake, is found only on two islands in the Philippines. This elusive, diminutive creature—only about as long as a pencil—has among the fewest vertebrae of any snake species in the world. Its iridescent scales make it one of the more striking as well.

The snake’s “discovery”—it has never been found in the wild, only identified by preserved specimens--happened almost by accident. The lead scientist had been studying another genus, which this snake had been misidentified as. DNA analysis, however, proved the tiny snake had been miscategorized, and the scientist was able to describe a new genus and species altogether. Its name, the article notes, derives jointly from another researcher of snakes in the Philippines, Alan Leviton, and the Latin word for “extraordinary”, which aptly fits such an unexpected find.

The snake’s discovery further underscores the need for biodiversity collections so that researchers can tease out the subtle differences as well as similarities between all manner of flora and fauna.

Welcome, Levitonius mirus! We’re glad to add you to our knowledge of the wonders of our planet.

Gulliver’s Amphibian Travels? Among Other Rare Species in Bolivia, Scientists Discover the Tiniest Frog

We didn’t get to this story during the holiday season, but we’re happy to note that researchers continue to find previously unknown plant and animal species on our wondrous planet. Among the notable recent discoveries in the Bolivian Andes’ Zongo Valley—including orchids and a variety of butterflies--was the Lilliputian frog (its name taken from Jonathan Swift’s prose satire), a creature no more than one centimeter long but still undeniably winsome. These minute amphibians proved quite challenging to locate, as their size and camouflage-coloring made scientists have to track them by sound--and they would fall silent just as researchers approached! Other newly-found species of interest to those who love reptiles and amphibians are the devil-eyed frog, the Bolivian flag snake (named for the colors that parallel those of the country’s banner), and the mountain fer-de-lance. Welcome tidings for the new year!

Holiday Greetings (and a Word of Warning)

This recent CNN report about people seeking pets during the pandemic and getting scammed is both heartbreaking and infuriating. But it is something that all those who desire animal companions should be aware of. There are predators in our world, and most are not of the scaly variety….

RARN itself recently fell victim to a scammer who adopted, then resold, one of the animals we had placed in the person’s care. Needless to say, all of us at RARN were horrified but by the time it was discovered, it was too late to do anything. We have redoubled our efforts to ensure no animal we adopt out is going to anyone but the individual or rescue organization that signs the paperwork, and that each one will get the best personal attention possible. We hope we never, EVER have to lose sleep again over the fate of one of our placements.

But enough gloom and doom….

Despite the dismal and lonely prospects this winter, RARN wishes everyone the joy of contemplating a brighter future with an animal companion. (Of course, we are partial to the squamous or amphibian sorts, but all are wonderful!) If you are thinking of adopting a reptile, do call our president Sabine Bradley, at (323) 301 3360, as changes happen frequently in our intakes and placements.

And if you have the means, please remember us in your end-of-year donations. We appreciate every one!

May your holidays be pleasant, healthy, and safe, and we'll see you in 2021!

Speaking in Tongues: Ze Frank’s Hilarious and Informative YouTube Reptile Post

Many of you may already be familiar with the always-on-point, superbly comical YouTube videos by American performance artist and perennial funnyman Ze Frank. If not, or if you’ve happened to miss his recent video about the mysteries of lizard and snake tongues, you are in for a treat! True aficionados of reptiles, of course, will note that he doesn’t go as in-depth as he could…but he does manage to transmit quite a bit of information in a 10-minute comedy routine!

And on that note: RARN wishes all a safe and happy (if, er …scaled-down) Thanksgiving!

They’ve Grown Accustomed To Our Face….

We’ve long suspected this! A recent study sheds light on a phenomenon studied in humans, primates, and other mammals, but only recently examined in the reptilian world: a focus on a creature’s interest in engaging with faces. It appears that those in the genus Testudo (i.e., turtles) exhibit a fascination with (or at least, a preference for) faces—just like we humans do! The preference is assumed to have some kind of evolutionary advantage, though more research needs to be done to tease out what that might be. This seems to be the case even with the Testudo species that are anti-social, that is, those that do not grow up or congregate with others of their kind.  The trait “predates the bonds of parental care.” In other words, turtles don’t need face time. Turtles just seem to like faces!

Which leads to the question: Would turtles, given the necessary opposable digit, hang out on Facebook?