Salamanders are, by their very nature, slippery creatures. Perhaps none so slippery as the mysterious 'leopard eel' - an amphibian spotted intermittently in the waters of Florida over the last few decades that somehow managed to elude scientific stud
Ecologist Sean Graham of Sul Ross State University in Texas and colleagues have finally managed to locate and observe the mythical beast, and it's one of the strangest salamanders ever seen.
Like other members of the genus, it's large, coming in at 61 centimetres (two feet), and it has a body more like an eel than a salamander - long and sinuous, with only a single pair of front legs.
But S. reticulata is also gorgeously patterned with leopard-like spots; and although other sirens breathe through intricately branched, tree-like external gills, like other non-transforming salamanders such as axolotls, those of S. reticulata are particularly large and resplendent.
Steen captured his first specimen in 2009; then, he heard about a herpetologist who was also working on describing the salamander, so he and Graham held back on their research out of respect.
And then, in March 2018, the salamander geneticist dropped out of contact, so Graham and Steen decided to go ahead with publishing, even with limited genetic information.