The last time a crowned rock snake was seen was in 2018. There are only 26 specimens in the world and one died of suffocation.
It is said that rock crowned serpent it is the rarest snake in North America.
Not only does this little snake spend most of its life underground, hiding in crevices or burrowing under rocks, but they are known to exist in only about 26 individuals all over the planet. These survivors are restricted to the remnant rocky pine and hardwood lands of South Florida.
Until very soon, no one knew what he was eating the elusive rock snake (Tantilla oolitica), although it was first described in 1966. In fact, no one had seen her dead or alive since 2018.
But that period of absence is over. A visitor to John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park came across dead rock, crowned serpent while walking a trail in Key Largo, reports ScienceAlert.
Even more incredibly, the snake’s corpse was frozen in time after it choked to eat giant centipede.
“I was blown away when I first saw the pictures,” said Coleman Sheehy, curator of the herpetological collection at the Florida Museum, where the specimen now resides.
“Extremely rare are specimens which die while eating prey, and considering how rare this species is, I would never have expected to find anything like it. We were all completely stunned,” he says ScienceAlert.
ONLY 26 EXAMPLES IN THE WORLD
Other species of crowned snakes also eat giant centipedes and other potentially dangerous prey, including scorpionsbut this is the first food record of any kind for this particular species.
The lifeless individual found in Cayo Largo measured just over 20 centimeters longand although the giant Caribbean centipede (Scolopendra alternans) it was trying to swallow was young, the predator had eyes much larger than its throat.
just a little 50 millimeters of the serpent’s food entered her throat before she drowned; there were others 23 millimeter centipede.
“We managed to do it digital autopsywhich allowed us to examine the centipede and the snake, including their wounds and gut contents, without having to pick up a scalpel,” explains Jamie Gray, Museum of Evolutionary Morphology, says ScienceAlert.
Gray and his colleagues suspect it was suffocation finally killed the snake.
The CT scan, the first of its kind, shows that the carnivore’s trachea was pinched right where the centipede was at its widest. The tourniquet is what likely cuts off the individual’s air supply.
Poisoning was another possibility that researchers believe.
A wound from the centipede’s venomous claws was found on the predator, but apart from some internal bleeding, the centipede’s claws appeared to have caused little damage of the serpent, reports ScienceAlert.
The snake probably developed some level of resistance to its prey’s venom, like other snake species that tend to feast on giant centipedes.
YOUR HABITAT HAS BEEN DESTROYED
Since 1975, the state of Florida has listed the rock snake as endangered, and on the mainland, the species is particularly endangered.
Urban sprawl stretching from West Palm Beach to Miami left only 2 percent of the rock habitat of snake pine outside the Everglades, shows ScienceAlert.
No one has seen the snake in this region for many years. Key Largo may be one of the last remaining havens for herpetologists to explore.
“We can’t say for sure if they are still present in Florida or not.” Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, but their habitat basically is destroyedSheehy says.
Scientists hope the findings will give us a better understanding of the anatomy and diet of a species teetering on the brink of extinction, he says. ScienceAlert.
In 2007, the International Union for Conservation of Nature listed the rock snake as an endangered species. It has not yet received federal conservation status in the United States.