It’s as long as a snake, is spotted like a leopard, has two small arms with gills sticking out of its body and it lives in the swamps of Florida’s panhandle.
It’s a new creature that was discovered by scientists, who recently announced their findings. They say it’s a type of legless salamander called a siren — and this new species is being officially called Siren reticulata, or the Reticulated Siren. Others have referred to it as a leopard eel, even though it’s not really an eel.
Scientists say the Reticulated Siren is among the largest species discovered in the United States in the last century.
“In this study we use morphological and genetic evidence to describe a previously unrecognized species from southern Alabama and the Florida panhandle,” the scientists wrote in their paper, published in the journal Plos.
“We name this species the Reticulated Siren, Siren reticulata. Future studies will enable more precise phylogenetic information about Siren reticulata and will almost surely reveal additional undescribed species within the family.”
Stories about this strange swamp creature have been passed around the Florida and Alabama area for years.
“It was basically this mythical beast,” said David A. Steen, who works at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center.
“What immediately jumps out about the reticulated siren that makes it so different from currently-
recognized species is its dark and reticulated (or netlike) pattern,” “It also seems as though they have a disproportionally-smaller head, as compared to other sirens.”
While Steen was trapping turtles at Eglin Air Force Base in 2009, when he captured the first specimen of the newly discovered Reticulated Siren.
Despite efforts to try to find more specimens, the scientists reported, their efforts proved futile
for five years. “However, on 8 June 2014, three more specimens were collected in a freshwater marsh adjacent to Lake Jackson in Walton County, Florida.”
The Reticulated Siren was so hard to find because it spends its entire life below the surface of the water, the scientists said.