The Ghost Snake

ghostsnake01Slithering out of the rocky outcrops along the back country of Madagascar, this strange and unique creature enters the roster of new animals recently discovered by science. Now you see it now you don’t, and they say Bigfoot is elusive!

Earlier this year in Madagascar, researchers were hiking for 17 miles in the pouring rain looking for a particular species of snake. They were reaching the Ankarana Park entrance when one of them, Bernard Randriamahatantsoa saw another, more mysterious snake lying on some pale grey limestone Tsingy rocks. (Photo right courtesy of Sara Ruane.)

This new snake belongs to a group of snakes called Madagascarophis, so named for the cat-eyed shape of their pupils, which are vertical. This trait is often seen in snakes that are most active starting around twilight and continuing throughout the night.

Scientists named the new snake Madagascarophis lolo because lolo means “ghost” in the Malagasy language.

ghostsnakechrisjraxworthyamermusnathisLead author and post-doctoral researcher at LSU Museum of Natural Science, Sara Ruane said, “None of the other snakes in Madagascarophis are as pale and none of them have this distinct pattern.” (Photo left by Christopher J. Raxworthy of the American Museum of History.)

Ruane and her colleagues conducted morphological and genetic analyses on the samples taken from M. lolo, back in the US. DNA results showed that this new snake was similar to Madagascarophis fuchsi, which was previously found living in another section of Madagascar amongst rocky outcroppings. But M. lolo was definitely a new species unto itself.

Ruane added, “All of the analyses we did supported that this is a distinct species despite the fact that we only have this one individual.” (Photo below right of Tsingy Rock in Madagascar. No wonder it’s easy to lose things in there!!)

tsingyrockShe also mentioned, “I think what’s exciting and important about this work is even though the cat-eyed snakes could be considered one of the most common groups of snakes in Madagascar, there are still new species we don’t know about because a lot of regions are hard to get to and poorly explored. If this commonly known, wide group of snakes [Madagascarophis] harbors this hidden diversity, what else is out there that we don’t know about?”

Bigfoot for one. You see what the difference is here, though? They got good DNA evidence themselves. So there is no question in their minds where it came from, how it was handled, nor what creature produced it.  That is the kind of evidence we need to prove once and for all that our big hairy friends exist.


In the meantime, it’s nice to know that this beautiful snake, so mysteriously named, has been added to the roster of animals known to science. It definitely gives me hope that one day, Bigfoot will be there too.

Til the next time!


One comment

Leave a Reply