Jeff Weinell, a KU graduate research assistant at the Biodiversity Institute, is lead author of a paper describing Waray Dwarf Burrowing Snake as both a new genus and a new species, in the peer-reviewed journal Copeia. Credit: University of Kansas To be fair, the newly described Waray Dwarf Burrowing Snake (Levitonius mirus) is pretty great at hiding. In its native habitat , Samar and Leyte islands in the Philippines, the snake spends most of its time burrowing underground, usually surfacing only after heavy rains in much the same way earthworms tend to wash up on suburban sidewalks after a downpour. So, it may not be shocking that when examples of the Waray Dwarf Burrowing Snake were collected in 2006 and 2007, they were misidentified in the field—nobody had seen them before. The specimens spent years preserved in the collections of the University of Kansas Biodiversity Institute and Natural History Museum, overlooked by researchers who were unaware they possessed an entirely new genus of snake, even after further examples were found in 2014. But that changed once Jeff Weinell, a KU graduate research assistant at the Biodiversity Institute, took a closer look at the specimens’ genetics using molecular analysis, then […]

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