Deep in the forest of Borneo, scientists of the World Wildlife Fund discovered specimens of the Kapuas mud snake (Enhydris gyii) that can change colors like a chameleon.
"I put the reddish-brown snake in a dark bucket. When I retrieved it a few minutes later, it was almost entirely white," says Mark Auliya of the Alexander Koenig Museum in Bonn, Germany, and WWF consultant. Auliya was part of a team that discovered the snake while conducting a survey of reptile diversity in the park in 2003.
The chameleon-like snake is "quite astonishing", comments Stefan Ziegler of WWF Germany in Frankfurt. This is the first new snake to be discovered in around five years, he says.
It is possible that the behaviour is a "warning or a defence mechanism", says Ziegler. Rapid colour change has been recorded as a defensive behaviour in several other snakes. In some cases the colour change is achieved by the snake elevating its scales.
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