Wednesday, May 6, 2009
In this asylum
One survives with a smile
As you can see, a rattlesnake finally crossed my path. Literally. He (she?) was crawling across an old dirt road as I was finishing a hike. I'm guessing he was about 4' long. Señor Víbora graciously posed for me, indulging me with the percussive expressiveness of his tail.
This photo lets you observe a couple of interesting things:
First, the pose is typical of a rattlesnake prepared to strike. (Duh!) Notice how his head and upper third of his body is "cocked". In general, a snake can only strike about a third of its body length.
Second, check out the black tongue. Rattlesnakes hunt mostly at night and don't rely on their eyesight to find prey; they depend on that forked tongue and those two deep pits on their face. This rattler flipped his tongue rather slowly to the top of his head then straight out to the front, then he'd withdraw it. His tongue is forked because there are sensors in each "tine" that give the snake a stereoscopic impression from which direction a certain chemical trail is strongest. (For instance, if a mouse passes on his left, the snake can find the mouse in two ways - with the heat-sensing pit on the left side of his head AND with the left tine of his forked tongue.) He was "tasting" me to see if I was worth the trouble of expending venom. I wasn't.
Posted by C. Atrox at 4:30 PM