American king snakes, new research

This 2012 video from the USA is called King Snake vs Rattlesnake.

From Science News in the USA:

A king snake’s strength is in its squeeze

Studies suggest how the snake coils matters more than muscle size

By Elizabeth Eaton

2:47pm, March 17, 2017

It’s not the size of a snake’s muscles that matter, but how it uses them. King snakes can defeat larger snakes in a wrestling match to the death because of how they coil around their prey, researchers report March 15 in the Journal of Experimental Biology.

King snakes wrap around their food and squeeze with about twice as much pressure as rat snakes do, says David Penning, a functional morphologist at Missouri Southern State University in Joplin. Penning, along with colleague Brad Moon at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, measured the constriction capabilities of almost 200 snakes. “King snakes are just little brutes,” Penning says.

King snakes, which are common in North American forests and grasslands, are constrictor snakes that “wrestle for a living,” Penning says. They mainly eat rodents, birds and eggs, squeezing so hard, they can stop their prey’s heart (SN: 8/22/15, p. 4). In addition, about a quarter of the king snake diet is other snakes. King snakes can easily attack and eat vipers because they’re immune to the venom, but when they take on larger constrictors, such as rat snakes, it has been unclear what gives them the edge. “That’s not how nature goes,” Penning says, because predators are usually larger than their prey.

King snakes, though, can eat snakes up to 35 percent larger than themselves. One of the largest king snake conquests on record, from 1893, is of a 5-foot-3-inch rat snake, about 17 percent larger than the 4-foot-6-inch king snake that consumed it, Penning says.

“David Penning is really one of the first researchers that has been looking at the anatomy, physiology and function of these snakes” to understand how king snakes are superior to rat snakes, says Anthony Herrel, a functional morphologist and evolutionary biologist at the French National Museum of Natural History in Paris.

To determine what makes these snakes kings, Penning and Moon compared their muscle size, ability to escape attack and the strength of their squeeze to that of rat snakes. In one test, the researchers shook dead rodents enticingly in front of the snakes to goad them into striking and squeezing. Sensors on the rodents recorded the pressure of the squeeze.

The king snakes constricted with an average pressure of about 20 kilopascals, stronger than the pumping pressure of a human heart. Rat snakes in the same tests applied only about 10 kilopascals of pressure.

But the king snakes weren’t bigger body builders. Controlling for body size, the two kinds of snakes “had the exact same quantity of muscle,” Penning says.

The snakes’ more powerful constriction is probably due to how they use their muscles, not how much muscle they have, the researchers conclude. They observed that the majority of king snakes in the study wrapped around their food like a spring in what Penning calls the “curly fry pattern.” Rat snakes didn’t always coil in the same way and often ended up looking like a “weird pile of spaghetti,” he says.

Penning plans to study how other factors influence constriction as well, such as how long the king snakes can squeeze, how hungry they are and the temperature of their environment.

Young snakes born in India

This 17 January 2017 video says about itself:

Venomous Red-Tailed Viper Snake giving birth to 12 babies in India – National Geographic

Rare water shrew at camera trap

This 1 February 2017 video shows a rare water shrew at a camera trap on Marken (traditionally an island, now a peninsula) in the Netherlands.

It is in a pit, made artificially to enable grass snakes to winter.

Which animals spent time in these pits, according to camera trap images? Many wood mice, stoats, a greater white-toothed shrew.

And also this water shrew. This rare species had only been seen once on Marken, in 2008.

Shouldn’t the water shrew worry about a grass snake being in the same pit as it? Not really now, as in winter the snakes sleep. Even in spring, as grass snakes become active, they only rarely eat mammals, preferring amphibians.

Puff adder snakes mating on South African road

This video from South Africa says about itself:

29 December 2016

This is the extremely rare moment of a pair of puff adders mating in the road.

Lourens Erasmus captured this scene on his most recent safari adventure.

Seeing a snake while on a safari is something that most people fight about, they want to see one, but then when they do, they suddenly get really scared. Well, if one gets a fright when seeing one snake, imagine two in the middle of the road! Not even mentioning that a puff adder is an extremely venomous snake.

What a sighting to capture on film! It was so incredible that he went straight away to and uploaded it to the partner program.

When 2 male snakes fight, it looks extremely similar, however this is slightly more calm, which makes snake experts believe that these are a male and female snake performing the mating ritual.

Snakes, turtles, giraffes, other animals in 2016

This 2016 BBC video is called Giraffe DNA study identifies four distinct species.

From Science News:

Tales of creatures large and small made news this year

Snakes, giraffes, turtles and more were in the headlines in 2016

By Cassie Martin

7:00am, December 22, 2016

Scientists filled in the details of some famous evolutionary tales in 2016 — and discovered a few surprises about creatures large and small.

Venom repertoire

By studying a gene family important for toxin production, researchers found that modern rattlesnakes have pared down their venom arsenal over time (SN: 10/15/16, p. 9). Rattlers now have a smaller repertoire of toxins, perhaps more specialized to their prey.

Stepping forward

Small tweaks to a gene that makes a protein important for skeletal development may have led to the big toe and helped shape the human foot for bipedalism (SN: 2/6/16, p. 15).

Surprise absence

A gut microbe collected from chinchilla droppings appears to have no mitochondria, making it the first known complex life without the supposedly universal organelle (SN: 6/11/16, p. 14).

Turtle power

Studies of prototurtle fossils suggest that, instead of serving as natural armor, turtle shells might have got their start by aiding in burrowing (SN: 8/6/16, p. 15). The idea could help explain how turtle ancestors survived a mass extinction 252 million years ago.

Color change

Scientists pinned down the genetic changes that, in a famous example of natural selection, made peppered moths soot-colored (SN: 6/25/16, p. 6).

Tall beginnings

Giraffes should thank genes that regulate embryonic development for their long necks and strong hearts (SN: 6/11/16, p. 9).

Evolution at speed

A study of Darwin’s finches found that medium ground finches with smaller beaks survived better than big-beaked counterparts during a drought. The advantage was linked to a key gene, offering insight into the birds’ speedy evolution (SN: 5/28/16, p. 7).

Age record

Scientists have crowned a Greenland shark as the vertebrate with the longest known life span. Their analysis suggests the predator lived to an age of 392 years (SN: 9/17/16, p. 13).

Snake in Australian Christmas tree

Snake in Christmas tree, photo by Snakecatcher Victoria

From the BBC today:

Australian woman finds snake curled up in Christmas tree

A woman has discovered a 1m-long venomous snake wrapped around her Christmas tree in Australia.

The woman called for help to remove the tiger snake from her suburban home in Melbourne, Victoria, on Sunday.

Snake catcher Barry Goldsmith said the reptile entered through an open door before curling up among the decorations.

Tiger snakes, found along Australia’s coast, are highly venomous.

Mr Goldsmith said the woman “reacted quite well” after making the discovery.

“She left the room, put a towel down as a door jam and came and rang me,” he told the BBC.

The snake was released back into the wild. The species is protected in most Australian states.

Mr Goldsmith said he was used to finding snakes in unusual places.

“I’ve found them in ugg boots, washing machines, dog kennels, cat boxes, toilets, kitchen cupboards and bookcases,” he said.

See also here.

Timber rattlesnake in the USA

This video from the USA says about itself:

Timber Rattlesnake Staring Contest

13 December 2016

Yellow phase Timber Rattlesnake or Canebrake (Crotalus horridus) is potentially the most dangerous of the venomous snakes in the United States, but fortunately has a relatively mild-mannered disposition. Unless you are so unlucky as to step directly on one hidden in tall grass for example, they generally give lots of warning and will either freeze or retreat rather than striking out unless they are unduly provoked.