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HomeZoology BlogsPARKER'S PAPUAN MYSTERY SNAKE, AND A LEGLESS LIZARD OF OZ?

PARKER’S PAPUAN MYSTERY SNAKE, AND A LEGLESS LIZARD OF OZ?


 

Reconstructing (utilizing a classic drawing of a black-headed python)
the potential look of two very distinctive Australian thriller snakes(?) with
magenta-coloured heads and yellow our bodies that have been allegedly encountered in c.1999
(© Dr Karl Shuker)

In his guide A Information to the Snakes of Papua New Guinea (1996), famend British
snake skilled Mark O’Shea devoted a complete web page to an enigmatic,
still-unidentified, however seemingly extremely venomous PNG snake of aquatic
way of life that he has dubbed Parker’s snake, in honour of Australian
herpetologist Fred Parker, who had first introduced this mysterious serpent to
scientific consideration in his personal guide The
Snakes of Western Province
(1982). Each researchers have sought it within the
subject, however with out success, regardless of particularly visiting the Western Province
village of Wipim the place it apparently killed three youngsters (see under). Between
them, nevertheless, they’ve collected some useful data from the native
folks, who, unsurprisingly, tremendously concern this reptile.

In his guide, Parker had reported the speedy
deaths of three younger women allegedly bitten by this snake whereas bathing within the
Ouwe Creek close to Wipim throughout 1972-73. Different experiences of it from additional afield
have additionally occurred, however with none attributed deaths. Primarily based upon eyewitness
descriptions and different native testimony, Parker’s snake is a particularly
venomous but additionally very uncommon aquatic snake measuring not more than 6.5 ft lengthy,
yellowish-brown to brown dorsally and pale yellow to white ventrally, with
clean scales, enlarged ventrals, and a brief cylindrical tail. It’s stated to
favour small freshwater swamps and inland streams reasonably than bigger rivers or
open swampy grassland. Though it has been seen basking on dry land, it
apparently prefers hiding on the muddy backside. Loss of life ensuing from a chew by
this snake could be very speedy, inside only a few minutes, which is way sooner than
from a taipan or perhaps a sea-snake chew.

 

As Mark O’Shea famous in his guide, he and
Parker have thought-about various potential identities for this thriller
serpent. These embody New Guinea’s mildly venomous dog-faced water snake Cerberus rynchops (with its toxicity
presumably exaggerated by locals), the extraordinarily venomous mulga or king brown
snake Pseudechis australis (though
this Australian elapid has but to be formally recorded from New Guinea), the
small-eyed snake Micropechis ikaheka
(one other extremely venomous elapid however this time recognized from New Guinea), and even
some type of sea-snake or taipan. But as Mark freely conceded, none of those
wholly corresponds with the native accounts given for it.

Consequently, Parker’s snake at present
stays an elusive however tantalizing enigma throughout the ophidian literature;
nothing extra regarding it has emerged because the publication of Mark’s guide in
1996, as he confirmed to me throughout a Fb communication between us on 22
January 2022.

 

Not
all mysterious snakes are large, as exemplified by the next tantalisingly
obscure report of a diminutive type of unidentified serpent from Australia:

I as soon as got here throughout 2 little snakes in a waterhole, someplace within the
outback (cannot bear in mind the place, it was about 9 years in the past [i.e. c.1999] and I
was travelling throughout Oz) however they have been about 20 cm [8 in] lengthy with a
magenta head and a yellow physique. I’ve by no means been capable of finding an image or
discover out something about them, too dangerous I did not have a digicam!!

 

This
report was posted onto the Aussie Pythons
& Snakes
on-line discussion board by somebody with the username Charlie on 24
January 2008, however it acquired no response. So so far as I am conscious, no
conclusive taxonomic identification of his small but strikingly-coloured
waterhole snakes was ever forthcoming. Nor have I had better success than
Charlie in figuring out them.

On 13
November 2021, I posted Charlie’s intriguing report on numerous Fb teams dedicated to cryptozoology
to see what response (if any) it elicited. A number of identities for the snakes
have been duly recommended, together with the Australian tree snake Dendrelaphis punctulatus, red-naped snake Furina diadema, woma python Aspidites
ramsayi
, younger specimens of the black-headed python A. melanocephalus, and younger western brown snakes Pseudonaja nuchalis, however none of those
corresponds carefully with Charlie’s description of the small, very
distinctively-hued snakes that he spied.

 

In
view of their miniature dimension, furthermore, it’s conceivable that they weren’t
snakes in any respect, however as a substitute a species of legless lizard, of which there are
fairly just a few endemic to Australia. A few of these, furthermore, are deceptively
serpentine in outward look, particularly to those that might not be too
aware of snakes – however but once more I’ve been unable to acquire photos of
any such reptile that matches these two thriller specimens encountered by
Charlie.

An
anomalous Aussie thriller snake, or a legendary lizard of Oz? May it even be
that these creatures weren’t reptiles in any respect, however maybe some type of invertebrate
– a species of annelid worm, as an illustration, or planarian flatworm, the latter of
which incorporates some brightly-coloured Australian species? Any ideas or
options could be tremendously welcomed!

This ShukerNature article is excerpted solely
from my latest guide Secret Snakes and Serpent Surprises.


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