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Barbados Threadsnake Fact File

Tetracheilostoma carlae

Weight

0.6g

(0.02oz)

Length

10.4cm

(4.1in)

Lifespan

Wild Unknown

Captive Unknown

Diet

Carnivore

Larvae/Eggs of Insects

Conservation Status

IUCN

Least Concern

Barbados threadsnakes are recognized as the world's smallest species of snake with a maximum length of 10.4cm (4.1in). As such it is no surprise they were first recognized in 2008.

Their small size and a mouth which does not open widely means they are restricted to feeding on the eggs and larvae of the insects.

These animals are restricted to forest habitats on the island of Barbados.

Learn more about these tiny reptiles below.

Appearance

The Barbados threadsnake is considered to be the world's smallest species of snake. They reach a length of 10.4cm (4.1in) long with an average weight of 0.6g (0.02oz). Their body is around as thick as a piece of spaghetti.

These snakes are thought to be approaching the smallest possible size for a snake.

Its small body size is thought to be an adaptation which allows them to exploit an ecological niche which would typically be filled by centipedes.

Their body is covered by brown scales with a yellow stripe running down either side of the body.

Diet


Barbados threadsnakes feed almost exclusively on the larvae and eggs of ants and termites. Occasionally they may also feed on the adult insects.

Their small prey size is necessary as their jaw barely opens.

Barbados Threadsnake

Range

As their name suggests this species is restricted to Barbados. Here they live alongside the upland forest.

Habitat

They make their home in secondary forest. Here they burrow in leaf litter within a moist forest.

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Reproduction

Females only lay a single egg at a time.


At hatching the young snake is already half the length of the adults. This size is necessary to make the young large enough to have food which they can eat.

Behavior

The Barbados threadsnake is considered non-venomous.

Barbados threadsnakes will burrow in to the soft soil. They tend to only emerge above ground when water floods their burrows.

Living underground also helps them to avoid drying out due to the high surface area to volume ratio of these animals.

Barbados Threadsnake

Predators and Threats

Recently the Brahminy threadsnake has been introduced to their island home. As these snakes can breed quicker than the Barbados threadsnake it is thought they could outcompete them.

Barbados threadsnakes are found exclusively in forest. This is declining and presents a major threat to their survival which has led to their listing as critically endangered.

Much of the suitable habitats are found in gullies which are being turned in to landfills which may reduce its use as a habitat.

Quick facts

The Barbados threadsnake is recognized as the world's smallest species of snake. It is thought that they have evolved to the smallest possible size for a snake.

This species was first described for science in 2008 after two were found in the wild in 2006 by scientist S. Blair Hedges. Since this specimens have been identified in museums dating back to 1889 which were mis-identified.

Currently classified as Tetracheilostoma carlae, this species was formerly classified as Leptotyphlops carlae.

Their species name carlae, came from the wife of the scientist which wrote the paper describing them, Carla Ann Hass.

Photo Credits

Top and Bottom

Public Domain

Middle One

Blair Hedges, Penn State, Attribution, via Wikimedia Commons

References

Burnie, D., 2011. Animal. 3rd ed. London: DK

Communications, E., 2021. Barbados Threadsnake | 2009 Top 10 Species | ESF Top 10 New Species. [online] Esf.edu. Available at: <https://www.esf.edu/top10/2009/04.htm> [Accessed 29 May 2021].

Simon, M., 2021. Absurd Creature of the Week: The World's Tiniest, Most Adorable Snake Can Curl Up on a Quarter. [online] Wired. Available at: <https://www.wired.com/2015/01/absurd-creature-of-the-week-barbados-threadsnake/> [Accessed 29 May 2021].

Daltry, J.C., Powell, R. & Henderson, R.W. 2016. Tetracheilostoma carlae (errata version published in 2017). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T203637A115351519. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T203637A2769298.en. Downloaded on 29 May 2021.

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