A New Species of Venomous Snake Discovered: The Bandy-Bandy!
Australia has a reptuation for having some of the most lethal, venomous, sharp-teethed, bitey, stingy animals on the planet! And Cockatours has found a specimen of the the most recently discovered species in Australia, once more confirming that reputation! A new species of venomous snake called a bandy-bandy has been discovered. With 5 bandy-bandy species already in the genus Vermicella in Australia, the latest discovered in 2018 (Vermicella parscauda), makes it six.
Bandy-bandy’s are elusive snakes which burrow frequently and are primarily active at night. Their diet consists entirely of blind snakes, which also burrow, but feed on the eggs and larvae of stinging bull ants. Bandy-bandy venom is a potentially potent neurotoxic venom, which in large individuals may be dangerous. They are black and white banded and it’s hypothesized this is to create a ‘flicker fusion’ effect which dazzles predators so they can escape.
On a 2018 Cape York Tour…
Upon leaving a tour site where Cockatours clients spend the evening watching the sunset and having a BBQ, Cockatours guide and Cape York ecologist ‘Rossy’ made a bold claim to his clients:
“Folks, we’re heading back to camp now, and it’s a prime time to see snakes. Tonight, I feel we’re definitely gonna see a few, it’s just right, and when we do, I’ll show you and teach you about them!”
He wasn’t wrong, and on the trip home that night, clients learnt about a whopping FOUR species of sensational snakes; the black whipsnake, slaty-grey snake, carpet python and the newest species of snake in Australia, the bandy-bandy. Driving home, Rossy was visibly peaking in the driver’s seat, eyes voraciously scanning the road. All of a sudden, the tour truck Zeus came to a skidding halt, and within seconds the handbrake was on and he was out the door, to pin a snake no one on the truck could even see. The size of a large earthworm, he had spotted in between the corrugations a black and white banded serpent; the bandy-bandy.
Everyone had recently read the Cape York paper, with the news of the new species on the front page. Our excitable leader Rossy, came onto the bus, with the snake’s head gently surrounded by his fingers. “Folks I’m pretty bloody sure this is the new species you’ve all read about”. Luckily, he was on a fellow ecologist’s capture permit for this snake. After taking the GPS location, he bagged it and took it back to camp. Here he excitedly called his colleague (at 10pm) with the news! The snake would end up being a client of Cockatours, travelling home on the truck, double-bagged and in a plastic container! Was this going to be a significant scientific discovery?!
Within weeks DNA confirms the new species of Bandy-Bandy; 1 of 2 intact specimens found in Australia
Rossy’s colleague at James Cook University Townsville, Stewart Macdonald, promptly travelled to Cairns to pick it up. Stewart would return to JCU to examine the morphology and run a genetic (DNA) analysis to confirm if it was the new species. In Australia, only 7 specimens of V. parscauda have been found, however, only 1 was completely intact. Road equipment had damaged the others.
The specimen Cockatours found was alive and perfectly intact, a significant scientific find and the second intact specimen found. Furthermore, the DNA analysis confirmed it was the new species, Vermicella parscauda. Another bandy-bandy, Vermicella annulata, also exists in Cape York. However, V. parscauda is more closely related to V. intermedia and V. multifasciata from Western Australia and the Northern Territory, which also occupy monsoon habitats.
Thanks to the awesome Cockatours clients of the second Cape York tour in 2018, we were able to contribute to a significant scientific research program!
More information on the new bandy-bandy species can be found here:
- The Scientific Paper describing the new species
- University of Queensland Press Release
- Sci-news Release