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As you can see, this specimen of Leptotyphlops carlae is small enough to hang out on a US quarter. Scientists are still working out why this snake associates itself with coinage.

But seriously, this snake was discovered by Blair Hedges, an evolutionary biologist at Pennsylvania State University, who is famous for also having discovered the world’s smallest gecko in 2001 and the world’s smallest frog in 1993 .

How does he do it?

According to Hedges, it is mostly a matter of luck.

“I turned a small rock and found it hiding underneath,” he claimed in a recent press report. However, the fact should not be discounted that Hedges himself is barely larger than a nickel.

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No, but seriously….

The scientific report on this new species of Leptotyphlops, a rather specious and widespread genus of non-venomous blind snakes many of which look like earthworms, will be available tomorrow at the earliest. For now all we have is press reports. (I have to ask myself: How many of these have I mounted on a fish hook and didn’t even realize it?)

Hedges reckons his latest discovery could be as small as snakes get. The organs of small reptiles only leave enough room in their body cavities for them to lay single eggs. Any smaller, and the species would be unlikely to survive.

*

Right. At at some point, the blood vessels get too small to carry whole blood cells, and it must be hard to make lungs work and so on. One thing that may be important here is that there are species that actually exist at the lower limit (but not the upper limit) of body size.

More, I hope, in the near future when the report comes out.

Comments

  1. #1 Stephanie Z
    August 3, 2008

    Isn’t it just the cutest little thing…no, not Hedges.

  2. #2 Coturnix
    August 3, 2008

    Ah, the laws of scaling: why Macrauchenia is possible and Mothra is not, why a midge is possible and this snake is the smallest it can get.

  3. #3 The Science Pundit
    August 3, 2008

    He’s an Evolutionary Biologist? Does that mean that he rejects the biblical account of creation??

    But seriously, I have to agree with Bora here. I’m fascinated by the laws of scaling. I’m curious if the physical limitation of egg-laying (as well as blood vessels/cells, etc.) is the ultimate bottle-neck, or if there are environmental factors limiting smallness. For example, one limitation on insect size is the ability to get oxygen to all its organs. But if you increase the level of oxygen in the atmosphere, you can get larger insects (like the fossilized giant dragonflies). I’m wondering if there are some environmental conditions that could be changed to allow for even smaller snakes. (Perhaps if they were aquatic?)

  4. #4 Ian
    August 4, 2008

    Enough about Hedges already. What’s Benson up to now that their business has gone up in smoke?

  5. #5 carr2d2
    August 4, 2008

    awww….it’s adorable! it makes my little corn snakes look like anacondas.

  6. #6 themadlolscientist, FCD
    August 6, 2008

    Enough about Hedges already. What’s Benson up to now that their business has gone up in smoke?

    Very punny. The next sound you hear will be me simultaneously ROFLingMAO and gagging until I barf my last 5 meals.

  7. #7 froggsong
    December 30, 2008

    “Very punny. The next sound you hear will be me simultaneously ROFLingMAO and gagging until I barf my last 5 meals.”

    THAT has me rofl… Funny stuff…

    So, I’ve seen pics of the smallest lizard and the smallest snake, so where’s a pic of th smallest frog?

  8. #8 Akshay Dange
    May 31, 2009

    I have info of the same snake present in INDIA too.
    For safety reasons i cant give location name in here.
    please reply me on my email ID with title”snake”

  9. #9 Eduardo
    August 31, 2009

    Hello, today I found one on my backyard, a snake of 8 or 9 centimeters, and it looks like the one of the pic. someone knows how to recognize if this snake is a Leptotyphlops carlie? or a baby snake of other kind.

  10. #10 Yolotzin SC
    November 15, 2009

    encontre una serpiente Leptotyphlops carlae vagando en minatitlan veracruz mexico y quisiera saber de donde son nativas?,si son venenosas? y de que se alimentan? por que tengo intencion de conservarla ya que investige y parece que es una de las espécies mas pequeñas del mundo….

  11. #11 Christian
    March 9, 2012

    Encontre una en mi jardin, en guadalajara jalisco mexico.que me recomiendan.