Researchers scouring the Chocoan forest in northwestern Ecuador have discovered an unknown species of blunt-headed vine snake, what they're formally calling Imantodes chocoensis. And it's pretty neat — it's got an absolutely huge set of eyes, a head the size of a penny, and a long, stringy body that's proportioned very weirdly. The nocturnal Imantodes live in trees and hunt frogs and lizards.
The snake was discovered by Omar Torres-Carvajal from Museo de Zoología QCAZ, Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador. His finding increases the number of blunt-headed vine snake species to seven.
These snakes, which tend to live in an area around Mexico and Argentina, differ from other species in having a very thin body, a disproportionately slender neck, bug-like eyes, and, of course, a blunt head.
A tree-dwelling snake, they use the weight of their lower bodies to fling their heads and upper bodies from branch to branch — which likely explains their odd proportions. When hunting, they press the lower third of their bodies against a branch for support to free their heads and their upper body — what allows them to snatch their prey. They're also mildly venomous.
Interestingly, DNA analysis — which proved that it was a never-seen-before species — indicated that its closest living relative lives in the Amazon on the other side of the Andes. Torres-Carvajal theorizes that the their common ancestor was cut in two after the rise of the Andes mountains.
Details of the finding can be found in the journal ZooKeys.
Images: Omar Torres-Carvajal.