New species of snake found in another snake's belly

Scientists discovered and now described a previously unknown species of snake. Oddly though, they didn't collect this snake in the wild but rather found it inside the belly of another snake. The University of Texas at Arlington biologists have given the snack snake the official name of Cenaspis aenigma ("mysterious dinner snake.") From National Geographic:

This species has unique features that separate it from its relatives, including the shape of the its skull, the covering of its hemipenis—its reproductive structure—and the scales under its tail.

In 1976, in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas, palm-harvesters working deep in one of the region’s forests found a Central American coral snake—a vibrantly-colored species with neurotoxic venom. When researchers obtained it, they found that its last meal was another smaller serpent.

This ten inch-long, male snake was something special, as it didn’t match any known species, so the specimen was preserved in a museum collection. The research team returned to the area at least a dozen more times over several decades, but never found a living representative of the odd snake species.

More in the scientific paper: "Caudals and Calyces: The Curious Case of a Consumed Chiapan Colubroid" (Journal of Herpetology)

(image: rendering of Cenaspis aenigma by Gabriel Ugueto)