8 out of 17 snake species across the globe have gone into a death spiral - some species have shrunk nearly 90 percent in the past decade. Scientists are scrambling to understand why.

According to BBC News:

For reasons that are not entirely clear, some populations shrank in number abruptly around 1998.

Writing in the journal Biology Letters, the researchers describe the findings as "alarming" but say much more work is needed to understand the causes.

"This is the first time that data has been analysed in this way, and what we've shown is that in different parts of the world we seem to have this steep decline in a short period," said project leader Chris Reading.

"It surprised us when we realised what we were looking at," he told BBC News.

"And we don't have a clue what it was about that period of time (around 1998)."

Some have suggested that a fungal pandemic may be to blame, or perhaps weather conditions in 1998 (it was an El Nino year). But the snake decline remains a mystery.


Read the whole story via BBC News

AP Photo by Mark Gilliland

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