The rim rock crowned snake (Tantilla oolitica), the rarest snake in North America, was just seen for the first time in four years. Sadly, the elusive snake was discovered dead after apparently choking on a huge centipede.
A hiker in Key Largo, Florida Keys’ John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park discovered the opposing species. The snake and its centipede were sent to researchers at the Florida Museum of Natural History, who researched the pair after informing park authorities of the find.
Coleman Sheehy, research co-author and head of the herpetology division at the Florida Museum, stated in a statement, “I was shocked when I first viewed the photographs.
“Samples that perished while consuming prey are incredibly rare, and given how uncommon this species is, I never would have expected discovering something like this. We were all completely shocked.
The scientists set out to determine the precise cause of this unfortunate snake’s demise, and they published their findings in the journal Ecology.
They developed a 3D model (below) using CT scans of the entangled couple to do a “digital autopsy” to determine why this conflict was lethal. By using this technique, the scientists were able to examine the snake’s gullet without having to dissect the animal, which may have jeopardized subsequent research.
The centipede’s deadly bite most likely caused the snake’s minor wound on its side, which was discovered through investigation. Although it hasn’t been verified, it’s frequently hypothesized that snakes that hunt centipedes may have some immunity to their strong venom.
In any case, it appeared that the bite had resulted in some internal bleeding, but it wasn’t the final blow. The results of the scans also showed that the snake’s trachea had been severely compressed by its swallowed prey. The snake looks to have suffocated as a result of this cutting off its oxygen supply.
This little species of non-venomous snake is native to southern Florida and was given its name from the geological structure known as the Miami Rim Rock. Even if the individual has seen better days, the discovery of this latest specimen is extremely thrilling because it belongs to an endangered species whose numbers are drastically decreasing.
Infrastructure development, which is eliminating its natural habitat among pine rockland ecosystems, is mostly to blame for this decline. Just 2% of the original pine rocklands exist now outside of the Everglades due to ongoing urbanization, which poses serious problems for an already elusive species.
“We are unable to confirm whether they are still present in Florida’s peninsula. Although their habitat has essentially been obliterated, the absence of evidence is not proof of its disappearance, according to Sheehy.