PHOTO IN THE NEWS: World's Smallest Snake Discovered

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August 3, 2008—A Barbados thread snake curls up on a U.S. quarter. The soil-burrowing reptile is one of a newly discovered snake species that is being called the world's smallest.

At about ten centimeters long (less than four inches), the new snake species was confirmed through genetic tests and studies of its physical features, said biologist Blair Hedges of Penn State university, who led the new study on the snake to be published tomorrow in the journal Zootaxa.

Hedges believes the Barbados thread snake may be at or near the smallest size possible for snakes, due to an evolutionary trade-off between size and reproductive strategy.

Any further miniaturization, he said, would prevent the snakes from producing offspring large enough to forage independently and consume insect larvae.

Nathan Kley, a biologist at Stony Brook University in New York, said it may be too soon to declare the Barbados thread snake the world's smallest.

Several closely related species are only fractions of an inch longer, and those species are known from only a few observations or museum specimens.

"The true natural size ranges for all of these species remains extremely poorly documented," Kley said.

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—Scott Norris

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