July 16 (UPI) -- Already home to some of the most venomous creatures in the world, northern Australia's wilderness just got a little bit more dangerous.
Scientists have discovered a new species of bandy-bandy snake, Vermicella parscauda, on a remote peninsula in Australia's Far North.
Biologists from the University of Queensland discovered the snake by chance while conducting a sea snake survey. The species is reactively small and narrow. It's scales are black with white stripes.
"Bandy-bandy is a burrowing snake, so Freek Vonk from the Naturalis Museum and I were surprised to find it on a concrete block by the sea," Bryan Fry, an associate professor at Queensland, said in a news release. "We later discovered that the snake had slithered over from a pile of bauxite rubble waiting to be loaded onto a ship."
Researchers collected and analyzed the snake and determined it was genetically and visually unique from its relatives farther inland and to the south. Field surveys yielded another specimen in its natural habitat on the Cape York Peninsula. Another snake was found on a highway, flattened by a vehicle.
Though the new species is venomous, humans are a greater threat to the small snake species than the bandy-bandy snake is to humans.
Mining activity in the region is altering a variety of habitat, harming native plants and animals. Biologists believe the activity is putting the new species in danger.
"The confined locality, potential habitat disruption due to mining activities, and scarcity of specimens indicates an urgent conservation concern for this species," scientists wrote in their paper on the new species, published in the journal ZooTaxa.
The venom inside new species can sometimes yield new compounds with potential uses in drugs.
"Every species is precious and we need to protect them all, since we can't predict where the next wonder-drug will come from," said Fry. "The discovery of this enigmatic little snake is symptomatic of the much more fundamental problem of how little we know about our biodiversity and how much may be lost before we even discover it."