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.
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.