Clarion Nightsnake
This 18-inch Clarion Nightsnake was found on black lava rock habitat on the island of Clarion. Photo courtesy of Daniel Mulcahy

A species of snake believed to be extinct for 80 years has been rediscovered in Mexico.

The Clarion Nightsnake was found on the Pacific island of Clarion by researcher Daniel Mulcahy from the National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC.

Mulcahy explained he was inspired to begin the search for the nocturnal reptile after studying the lone specimen in the museum's collections.

"The rediscovery of the Clarion nightsnake is an incredible story of how scientists rely on historical data and museum collections to solve modern-day mysteries about biodiversity in the world we live in," Mulcahy said.

"Proper identification is the first step toward conserving this snake, and we plan to continue monitoring this species to learn more about the role it plays in the delicate Clarion Island ecosystem."

Mulcahy -- with the collaboration of Juan Martínez-Gómez, an expert on the Revillagigedo Islands -- carried out an expedition to Clarion Island where he found 11 snakes that corresponded to the description of the reptile believed to be lost.

DNA tests later confirmed that the snakes belonged to the Clarion Nightsnake species.

"The new snake species is found exclusively on the Mexican island of Clarion and could have remained unknown to science if not for the team's efforts to solve the case surrounding its disappearance," the museum said.

"The expedition was made possible thanks to support from Mexico's navy and with appropriate permits from the country's natural resources and interior ministries."

This snake species was first discovered in 1936 by naturalist William Beebe.

Although never declared extinct, it was removed from scientific records after scientists failed to find the specimen for decades.

The Clarion nightsnake lives on black lava rock habitat near the waters of Sulphur Bay and grows to be approximately 18 inches long. The snakes are brownish black and have a characteristic series of darker spots on their head and neck.

This reptile likely originated from the dispersal of an ancestor that traveled by sea from a river basin in Sonora to Clarion.

While current populations of this species appear to be viable, Clarion's fragile ecosystem is threatened by invasive species such as feral cats on neighboring islands. These cats prey on lizards, which are likely a main food source for the Clarion nightsnake.