Welcome back, Clarion nightsnake. This subtly beautiful creature, found only on the Mexican island of Clarion, was first described in 1936 based on a single specimen. When later teams failed to find another on the island, it was struck from the scientific record in 1955.
Now the Clarion nightsnake is officially a species again. Daniel Mulcahy of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History couldn’t resist taking a closer look at the lone specimen, which resides in the museum’s collection. The snake’s darker colour and distinctive pattern of spots made him suspect that it was distinct from its mainland relatives, but tests on its fusty DNA were inconclusive.
To solve the mystery, Mulcahy joined Juan MartÃnez-GÃ³mez of Mexico’s National Institute of Ecology in Veracruz and his team on a journey back to the nightsnake’s island home. Guided by the notebooks of the snake’s original discoverer, legendary naturalist William Beebe, they found 11 snakes that matched Beebe’s description. DNA tests then confirmed that the Clarion nightsnake is genetically distinct from the slithering creatures on the mainland of Mexico, and thus now worthy of its own Latin name: Hypsiglena unaocualrus.