New Species Of Venomous Snake Found In Queensland

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New Species Of Venomous Snake Found In Queensland AAP

A new species of venomous snake has been found in Queensland, however, it may already be on the brink of extinction.

The snake, called the Vermicella Parscauda, was found in Weipa near Rio Tinto's bauxite mining operations and is in the bandy bandy snake family.

Bryan Fry, a biologist at the University Of Queensland, found the snake on a loading wharf simply by chance.

He detailed the new discovery in a paper published in the international journal Zootaxa and told The Today Show this morning that they were in the area looking for a completely different species of snake.

"We were actually out looking for sea snakes and when we came back into the dock that night, there is a little snake at the end of the concrete dock," he said.

"We recognised it immediately as a bandy bandy, which is a burrowing snake. We were trying to figure out why is this snake hanging out on a concrete boat ramp, but we noticed that we were right next to Rio Tinto's big ship loader where they were putting all the bauxite mine on.

"It had crawled out from a pile of rubble there. We found a couple more in the wild."

Only six of these snake species have been found and Professor Fry believes that they could all be living in the mining area, which isn't a good thing.

"It is very unique, relative to all of the other bandy bandies, and it reinforces how little we really know about our biodiversity and how much we might be losing through short-term economic activities," he said.

"You can only dig a hole in the ground one time, but if you lose your biodiversity, that is forever, and the reason that we should care about this is that these kinds of animals, venomous animals, are a rich source of natural compounds.

"For example, if you know of anybody taking high blood pressure medication, odds are they are taking Captopril or one of its derivatives. That is a modified snake toxin developed 40 years ago, but remains today a $10 billion year market for that one compound.

"It is up there with aspirin and being one of the top 20 drugs of all time. So that is why we should care about these enigmatic little animals, that they could actually be worth more in the long term than the mining activities that are threatening their existence."

The snakes grow to be about 30-40cm long and have thin white bands along their bodies.

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