New Colorful Snake Sports Horns

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(Matilda's horned viper; Credit for all images: WCS’s Director of Tanzania, Tim Davenport)

Meet Matilda's horned viper, a new snake discovered in a remote part of Tanzania, East Africa.

Matilda, technically known as Atheris matildae, was named after the daughter of Tim Davenport, who is the Wildlife Conservation Society's Director of Tanzania and also co-authored a paper about the snake, published recently in the journal Zootaxa

As you can see from the vivid pics, this snake's body is colored a striking black and yellow. The new species measures 2.1 feet in length and has horn-like scales above its eyes.

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No one seems to really know why snakes like this have horns, although there's been a lot of speculation. The horns could help to protect the eyes, or they might be used in visual displays, with maybe the best-horned snake getting his or her preferred mate. Perhaps they serve a variety of functions.

Davenport and his team aren't too concerned with that issue now, though. They are instead concerned that this new species could be of interest to illegal pet collectors. That's why the researchers are keeping the exact spot of the snake's habitat a secret.

But they've revealed that the area is only a few square miles big and is already severely degraded from logging and charcoal manufacture.

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Davenport and his colleagues anticipate that the species will be classified as critically endangered and have already established a small captive breeding colony for it.

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