A close up of the new Conception Bank silver boa.   Image Credit Graham Reynolds
A close up of the new Conception Bank silver boa. Image Credit Graham Reynolds

A group of university biologists surveying a remote island in the Bahamas have stumbled upon a new and possibly extremely rare new snake species.

The slithery addition to the Boidae (boa) family is described in this week's edition of the journal Breviora.

Its Latin name is Chilabothrus argentum, argentum being Latin for 'silver.' Graham Reynolds says it's a beautiful new species of Silver Boa and he told VOA that "finding a new boa is extremely rare, especially in a well-studied region like the Caribbean."

The University of North Carolina biologist also told VOA the snake is likely to be highly endangered and efforts are already being made to ensure its survival in the wild.

New species evolved in isolation

"As soon as we saw the first specimen," Reynolds says, "we knew it was something different- we just didn't know how different."

His team, which included biologists from Harvard, Massachusetts, and Puerto Rico, was instantly struck by "the coloration, body shape, head shape, and body size [which] were all different-looking than the hundreds of other boas of the other species we have seen."

The proof came when genetic tests came back from a Harvard lab, confirming that the silver boa was in fact a different species that - just like Darwin's Finches on the Galápagos islands - had been evolving in isolation for several million years.

An island of snake catchers

But the snakes aren't alone on the island. It's also full of non-native feral cats, and Reynolds told VOA he's "confident" they're eating his new species.

Right now his team is doing more research, "trying to document the presence of cats using camera traps and identify ways to remove them from the island."

Reynolds and his team are also providing data to the Bahamas National Trust in the hopes that they can quickly establish a conservation program.

This new boa is just one of the hundreds, perhaps thousands of new species that are discovered every year.