If you were walking along and happened to come across one of these little snakes, you would probably mistake it for an earthworm. The Barbados threadsnake (Leptotyphlops carlae) was officially identified relatively recently, in 2008, by S. Blair Hedges from Pennsylvania State University and is currently the smallest known snake species in the world. It is endemic to the island of Barbados and lives on the oldest part of the island where there is still secondary forest. Unfortunately, Barbados has been mostly deforested and populated by humans, so this snake may only have a little over a square mile of suitable habitat left to sustain it and could be considered critically endangered. Very little is known about it yet, but it has been discovered that the species can come in different sizes. Threadsnakes only lay one egg at a time and the smaller snakes will have hatchlings that are proportionally larger than the hatchlings of larger snakes.
Barbados threadsnakes generally only reach a length of 4 inches and feed on termite and ant larvae that they seek out underground. They are completely blind and hunt using scent trails. This snake is so small possibly because of island dwarfism. It may have evolved to fill the predatory niche of a centipede, which would normally prey on termites and ants. It is thought that the Barbados threadsnake may be the minimum size that is possible for a snake to still be able to produce offspring.
Let’s hope that in the coming years, more will be learned about this fascinating little animal and conservation measures will be taken to protect it and redevelop its habitat. It would be a shame to lose something so special when we have only just begun to get to know it.
1.Hedges, S. Blair. “At the lower size limit in snakes: two new species of threadsnakes (Squamata: Leptotyphlopidae: Leptotyphlops) from the Lesser Antilles.” Zootaxa 1.30 (1841): 2008.
2.Kennedy, Barbara. “World’s Smallest Snake Found in Barbados.” Penn State News. Pennsylvania State University, 3 Aug. 2008. Web. 02 May 2015. <http://news.psu.edu/story/184803/2008/08/03/worlds-smallest-snake-found-barbados>.