A team from Harvard’s Museum of Comparative Zoology discovered the silver boa (Chilabothrus argentum) in a remote corner of the Bahamian Archipelago called the Conception Island Bank — and the team says it’s one of the most critically endangered boas in the world.

  • Like all members of the Boidae family, to which it belongs, the Bahamian silver boa or Conception Bank silver boa is a nonvenomous, constricting snake.
  • In a paper published last month in the journal Breviora describing the new species, the team writes that the snake should not only be listed as critically endangered based on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List criteria but that it is “one of the most endangered boid snakes globally.”
  • Conservation measures are now being developed with local organizations, including the Bahamas National Trust, in order to protect the snake and prevent it from going extinct.

There are now 12 known species of West Indian boas.

A team from Harvard’s Museum of Comparative Zoology discovered the silver boa (Chilabothrus argentum) in a remote corner of the Bahamian Archipelago called the Conception Island Bank. Like all members of the Boidae family, to which it belongs, the Bahamian silver boa or Conception Bank silver boa is a nonvenomous, constricting snake.

In a paper published last month in the journal Breviora describing the new species, the team writes that the snake should not only be listed as critically endangered based on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List criteria but that it is “one of the most endangered boid snakes globally.”

“We found this species on its way to extinction, and now we have the opportunity to intervene on their behalf so that doesn’t happen,” Graham Reynolds, a professor at the University of North Carolina, Asheville who led the team that made the discovery in 2015 while he was a Harvard Postdoctoral Fellow, said in a statement.

Reynolds knew he had stumbled on something new the first time he laid eyes on the silver-colored, distinctly shaped boa in July 2015. During a subsequent trip to the islands in October 2015, Reynolds and team found 14 more individuals, which they sampled, measured, and tagged.

Conservation measures are now being developed with local organizations, including the Bahamas National Trust, in order to protect the snake and prevent it from going extinct. Reynolds said that he is planning on conducting further surveys.

Robert Henderson, curator emeritus of herpetology at the Milwaukee Museum of Natural History and one of the world’s experts on boas, said that while new species of frogs and lizards are being discovered and described with some regularity, new species of snakes are a much rarer find. (Henderson was not involved in the discovery of the silver boa.)

“Graham Reynolds and his co-authors have not only discovered and described a new species of snake, but even more remarkable, a new species of boa. That’s rare, exciting, and newsworthy,” Henderson said in a statement.

“The beautiful Bahamian Silver Boa, already possibly critically endangered, reminds us that important discoveries are still waiting to be made, and it provides the people of the Bahamas another reason to be proud of the natural wonders of their island nation.”

Graham Reynolds. Photo via UNC-Ashville.
Graham Reynolds. Photo via UNC-Ashville.

CITATION

  • Reynolds, R. G., Puente-Rolón, A. R., Geneva, A. J., Aviles-Rodriguez, K. J., & Herrmann, N. C. (2016). Discovery of a Remarkable New Boa from the Conception Island Bank, Bahamas. Breviora, 549(1), 1-19. doi:10.3099/brvo-549-00-1-19.1
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