New Species Of Snake Can Strike Without Opening Its Mouth

ete Blake from Reptile Zone handles a western diamondback rattlesnake at Noah's Ark Zoo Farm on August 2, 2016 in Bristol, England.
Matt Cardy / Getty Images

Scientists recently discovered a venomous snake in Africa that can strike without ever opening its mouth.

It is a species of the stiletto snake family, and what makes this particular snake so unique is the fact that it has fangs sticking out of the sides of its mouth, The Independent reported. The snake can also make repeated sideways attacks and leap distances almost as long as its body.

Researchers were working in the untouched rainforests of Guinea and Liberia when they discovered the long, slender snakes, which are related to a group of mole vipers or burrowing asps. This specific species of the snake, however, was reportedly unknown to science before the discovery.

While the snakes are venomous, it is believed their bites would not kill a human. Nonetheless, a bite could cause serious tissue necrosis, which could lead to pain, swelling, blood loss and, in some severe cases, tissue damage. Bites on fingers could result in the loss of the digit if the bite is not treated, according to TheIndependent.

The Atractaspis branchi, also known as the Branch’s stiletto snake, was named in honor of the South African herpetologist Professor William Branch who passed away in 2017.

A team of researchers conducting surveys under the leadership of Dr. Mark-Oliver Roedel from Berlin’s Natural History Museum reportedly discovered three specimens of the snake in different areas of the forest. The first specimen was discovered at night along a steep bank of a creek in Liberia. The other two species were reportedly discovered in banana, manioc, and coffee plantations in southeastern Guinea not far from each other.

The skulls of these snakes are unusually shaped, which makes it nearly impossible to handle them in the typical way using two fingers behind the head.

“When handled, the snake first tried to hide its head below body loops; the head was bend down at an almost right angle and with fangs partly visible outside of the mouth. In this head position, the snake repeatedly tried to strike,” the researchers reported in the journal Zoosystematics and Evolution.

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The Independent reported that researchers said the discovery was not necessarily surprising, but they did say that they would need to collect more information about the new species to learn more about it.

While other species of the stiletto snake are known to Southern Africa, this particular species of the stiletto snake is believed to be local to the rainforests where it was discovered.