Indian venomous snakes, how many bitten?


This 23 May 2020 video says about itself:

How many people are bitten by venomous snakes in India?

Venomous snakes, like spectacled cobras, Russell’s vipers or common kraits are very common and are responsible for many human bites in India. But how many of them happen each year? How many incidents happen with tigers or elephants? Who is causing bigger human-animal conflict?

Coal tits understand other birds’ language


This 2 February 2015 video from Cornwall in Britain is called Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Nuthatch, Robin and Great Tit – Little Birds Chirping on The Gate.

From Kyoto University in Japan:

How do birds understand ‘foreign’ calls?

Birds may mentally picture what other species are talking about

May 19, 2020

Summary: New research shows that the coal tit (Periparus ater) can eavesdrop and react to the predatory warning calls of the Japanese tit (Parus minor) and evokes a visual image of the predator in their mind.

Fais attention! Serpent!

You may not speak French, but if someone behind you in a forest shouted this, you’d likely understand and become instantly alert.

And according to a new report from Kyoto University’s Hakubi Center for Advanced Research, the same thing happens in birds.

Previous reports have shown that animals with shared predators can eavesdrop on and respond to each other’s calls, indicating that they can partly understand other species. Toshitaka Suzuki, publishing in Current Biology, noticed a similar phenomenon among two different bird species while conducting field studies.

“Many birds have specific alarm calls, warning others about a predator,” explains Suzuki. “I was studying how a specific call of a small bird named the Japanese tit, Parus minor, evokes a visual image of the predator in their minds, in particular, a snake.”

But he then observed that another bird, the coal tit or Periparus ater, also often approached the experimental area during these alarm calls.

“I wondered if these other birds also mentally retrieve ‘snake’ images from these calls. While they are in the same taxonomic group their calls are otherwise vastly different.”

To demonstrate this, Suzuki set up an experiment under controlled conditions to investigate if the coal tits can anticipate and react appropriately even when they have not yet seen the predator in question. Snake-specific warning calls of the Japanese tit were played, and a stick was moved to mimic a snake gliding across the ground or up a tree.

“A variety of bird calls were played, but it was only the snake-specific ones which caused the coal tits to approach and inspect the stick,” states Suzuki. “Additionally, when the stick was moved unlike a snake, such as in a rocking motion, none of the birds approached even when the warning calls were played.”

These results show that the birds likely visualize a snake and react appropriately when they hear the snake-specific call from the other species, supported by visual confirmation. This work therefore represents the first evidence of visual search activity evoked via eavesdropping on another animal’s alarm calls.

Suzuki intends to pursue this study to further explore how birds associate another species’ calls with predators, hoping eventually to provide the basis for a new model for speech acquisition that may even be applicable to humans.

Cats better venomous snakebite survivors than dogs


This 2 April 2016 video from Australia says about itself:

Dog killed by brown snake

The neighbour’s dog went for a boredom trip around the block. Typically, when pet dogs get loose in rural areas, they harass various lizards, snakes and echidnas.

The Australian “Brown Snake” is the second most technically toxic land snake; being twice as toxic as a Taipan. This is why you should not try to grab it in your mouth, and let it bite your face 20 times.

Australians have the lowest level of snake deaths, per capita, compared to other snake infested countries. This appears mainly due to the Commonwealth Serum Labs, producing antivenoms. Experience has shown that Australians lack the motor skills to back away from a snake, and suffer a syndrome which compels them to move towards a snake, and hit it with objects. They usually risk their lives in this manner, because the snake may bite their dog.

From the University of Queensland in Australia:

Why cats have more lives than dogs when it comes to snakebite

May 18, 2020

Cats are twice as likely to survive a venomous snakebite than dogs, and the reasons behind this strange phenomenon have been revealed by University of Queensland research.

The research team, led by PhD student Christina Zdenek and Associate Professor Bryan Fry, compared the effects of snake venoms on the blood clotting agents in dogs and cats, hoping to help save the lives of our furry friends.

“Snakebite is a common occurrence for pet cats and dogs across the globe and can be fatal,” Dr Fry said.

“This is primarily due to a condition called ‘venom-induced consumptive coagulopathy’ — where an animal loses its ability to clot blood and sadly bleeds to death.

“In Australia, the eastern brown snake (Pseudonaja textilis) alone is responsible for an estimated 76 per cent of reported domestic pet snakebites each year.

“And while only 31 per cent of dogs survive being bitten by an eastern brown snake without antivenom, cats are twice as likely to survive — at 66 per cent.”

Cats also have a significantly higher survival rate if given antivenom treatment and, until now, the reasons behind this disparity were unknown.

Dr Fry and his team used a coagulation analyser to test the effects of eastern brown snake venom — as well as 10 additional venoms found around the world — on dog and cat plasma in the lab.

“All venoms acted faster on dog plasma than cat or human,” Mrs Zdenek said.

“This indicates that dogs would likely enter a state where blood clotting fails sooner and are therefore more vulnerable to these snake venoms.

“The spontaneous clotting time of the blood — even without venom — was dramatically faster in dogs than in cats.

“This suggests that the naturally faster clotting blood of dogs makes them more vulnerable to these types of snake venoms.

“And this is consistent with clinical records showing more rapid onset of symptoms and lethal effects in dogs than cats.”

Several behavioural differences between cats and dogs are also highly likely to increase the chances of dogs dying from venomous snake bite.

“Dogs typically investigate with their nose and mouth, which are highly vascularised areas, whereas cats often swat with their paws,” Dr Fry said.

“And dogs are usually more active than cats, which is not great after a bite has taken place because the best practice is to remain as still as possible to slow the spread of venom through the body.”

The researchers hope their insights can lead to a better awareness of the critically short period of time to get treatment for dogs envenomed by snakes.

“As dog lovers ourselves, this study strikes close to home but it also has global implications,” Dr Fry said.

“I’ve had two friends lose big dogs to snakebites, dying in less than ten minutes even though the eastern brown snakes responsible were not particularly large specimens.

“This underscores how devastatingly fast and fatal snake venom can be to dogs.”

Venomous snakes in Africa, video


This 17 May 2020 video says about itself:

Venomous bush vipers are small snakes from Africa from genus the Atheris. In this video, you will see 3 species of bush vipers in the wild – Green bush viper (Atheris squamigera), Hairy bush viper or Rough-scaled bush viper (Atheris hispida) and Great lakes bush viper (Atheris nitschei).

All these venomous snakes are beautiful and endangered from habitat destruction and collecting for the pet trade. Watch this video to see them in the natural habitat and learn about the importance of protecting them.

There is also footage of Gaboon viper, Rhinoceros viper, Jameson’s mamba and Large-eyed green tree snake, Johnston’s chameleon and Strange-horned chameleon.

Snakes and frogs, new research


This 2019 video from the Kruger National Park in South Africa is called Snake Swallows Frog As it Tries to Escape.

From Kyoto University in Japan:

Waiting game: Testing the patience of predators and prey

May 12, 2020

Summary: A new report shows that freezing in action when a snake and frog face off is not about fear but rather a delicate waiting game of patience, with each animal waiting for and anticipating its opponent’s actions.

‘Like a frog stared down by a snake’, goes an old Japanese expression, descrbing an animal petrified with fear.

However, it now seems that this freeze in action may not be about fear at all, but rather a delicate waiting game of life and death.

A new report from researchers at Kyoto University’s Graduate School of Science shows that this common interaction is all about patience, with each animal waiting for and anticipating its opponent’s actions.

“When predator and prey face each other, it is generally thought that the initiator has the advantage that would mediate successful capture or escape,” explains Nozomi Nishiumi, corresponding author of the report published in the Canadian Journal of Zoology.

“However, in cases involving snakes and frogs, they occasionally move extremely slowly — or almost not at all. It looks like they purposely avoid taking preemptive action.”

Nishiumi, together with colleague Akira Mori, examined how the animals’ behaviors affected the consequences of their interaction by focusing specifically on the kinematics of the snakes’ strikes and the frogs’ flight behavior.

The team analyzed the movement patterns of the Japanese striped snake, Elaphe quadrivirgata, and the black-spotted pond frog, Pelophylax nigromaculatus, both in the field and in staged encounter experiments.

“In the staged encounters we wanted to look at the disadvantages of preemptive actions by analyzing the kinematic characteristics of each animal’s movements,” explains Nishiumi.

“The field observations, on the other hand, were designed to follow the consequences of the animals’ actions and survival.”

The team found that the counteractions of each animal were often effective because the initiator’s actions were difficult to change once started. For example, if the snake initiated a strike action first, the frog would evade the attack because the trajectory of the strike could not be changed mid-movement, allowing the frog to escape safely while the snake spent time resetting its lunge posture.

Alternatively, if the frog first attempted an escape, the snake would start lunging immediately, and occasionally be able to adjust its strike direction in anticipation of the frog’s direction of movement.

“The efficacy of this waiting tactic depends on the distance between them: the closer they are the less likely the counteraction succeeds,” continues Nishiumi.

“In this regard, when approaching this critical distance, the animals appropriately switch their behaviors from waiting to taking action.”

These results suggest that a game of patience occurs between the animals, providing insight on predicting the decision-making of predators and prey.

Prehistoric Caribbean boa snake bone beads


This 2018 video is called Dominican Red Mountain Boa, Caribbean Island of Hispaniola.

From the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Germany:

Beads made of boa bones identified in lesser Antilles

May 14, 2020

Today Boa snakes have a patchy distribution in the islands that form the Lesser Antilles in the Caribbean Sea, but the constrictors are nearly absent from archaeological deposits in the region. Whether this scarcity is due to past species distribution, poor preservation conditions, or a lack of interaction with human communities, remains unknown.

To find out why boas occur sparsely in the Lesser Antilles today but hardly at all in archaeological contexts, Corentin Bochaton of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History and the University of Bordeaux, conducted a multidisciplinary study combining archaeological evidence with historical and biological data sources. The study, published in Journal of Island and Coastal Archaeology, describes eight archaeological Boa finds on islands where the reptiles have never previously been identified and provides insights into the relationship between Amerindian groups and Boa before Western colonization.

Boas had a special status in pre-Columbian Lesser Antilles

To conduct the study, Bochaton investigated the animal remains from three sites: Dizac Beach on Martinique, Basse-Terre Cathedral on Basse-Terre (Guadeloupe) and Pointe Gros Rampart on La Désirade (Guadeloupe). Using a binocular microscope, Bochaton observed the surface condition and taxonomic features of the finds, eventually identifying eight vertebrae from the Boa genus.

Despite the presence of many other snake species in the archeological assemblages of the Lesser Antilles, these Boa remains are the only snake bones that appear to have been made into beads, an important clue as to their cultural significance. “The extreme scarcity of Boa in zooarchaeological assemblages, combined with the fact that these are the only snake bones to be modified, reflects the prominent status Boa had in Pre-Columbian Amerindian communities,” says Bochaton.

The fact that Boa are largely absent from archaeological finds suggests they probably weren’t hunted or eaten by human populations, at least not near their settlements, and evidence from historical records further points to an elevated status of Boa snakes. A chronicle of a 17th-century voyage to the Caribbean in a document known as Carpentras Anonymous describes the indigenous people of the islands as unwilling to kill Boas, believing the harm they did to the snakes would also be done to their grandchildren. Further, an account by Charles de Rochefort (1658) retells a story told by the people of Dominica of a monstrous snake who carried on its head a stone of great worth that would glow when it drank or moved in the abyss.

“These documents show us that Boa snakes had, among all snakes, a special status and were especially feared and respected, which could help explain their scarcity in archaeological deposits,” says Bochaton.

Multiple lines of evidence help to reconstruct lost past

The islands of the Lesser Antilles were first colonized by Amerindian groups between 7,000 and 5,500 years ago, but molecular evidence and the presence of Boa in fossil deposits show that the snakes colonized these islands thousands, if not millions of years before. Approximately 2,500 years ago, ceramic producing cultures arrived and evolved until the first European contact. At this point a ceramic style known as Cayo emerges.

Western colonization in the 17th century almost completely depopulated the Lesser Antilles of Amerindians and wiped out indigenous cultural practices. It also brought about the extinctions of a long list of species, ranging from terrestrial and flying mammals to birds and scaled reptiles — a list this paper shows to remain incomplete.

“Because of their absence in the archaeological record, Boa snakes were presumed absent from Guadeloupe,” Bochaton explains. “These remains not only show that Boas were here, they remind us how much of the cultural and natural history of these islands has been lost, and how important it is to use different lines of evidence to discover and interpret the past.”

Cape cobra and meerkats in South Africa


This 23 April 2020 video from South Africa says about itself:

Cape cobra (Naja nivea) is one of the most venomous cobra species. It has many color morphs, but one of the most bright is the yellow cobra from the Kalahari desert. This snake lives in open habitat and often meets other animals, such as meerkats. Watch until the end to see the encounter of the cobra and meerkat group.

New snake species discovery in India


This 20 April 2020 video from India says about itself:

A new species of green pit viper has been discovered in Arunachal Pradesh recently which was named Trimeresurus salazar.

It has been collected from the Pakke Tiger Reserve in Pakke-Kessang district in Arunachal Pradesh.

Trimeresurus Salazar – Green pit viper

Green pit viper is a common name for several venomous snakes and may refer to:

Trimeresurus albolabris (native to southeastern Asia from India to China and Indonesia)
Trimeresurus macrops (native to Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam)
Trimeresurus trigonocephalus (endemic to Sri Lanka)
And, now, newly discovered Trimeresurus salazar (Arunachal Pradesh)

Salazar’s pit viper belongs to the genus Trimeresurus (Lacépède).

They are morphologically and ecologically diverse species.

They are distinguished by their heat-sensing pit organs between the eye and the nostril.

IUCN status of Trimeresurus salazar: yet to be known.

By Josephine Harvey, 22 April 2020:

Newly Discovered Snake Gets A Fitting ‘Harry Potter’ Moniker

There are now more of Salazar Slytherin’s snakes out in the world.

They’re not quite Basilisks, but there are now more of Salazar Slytherin’s snakes out in the world.

A team of scientists in India named a new species of green pit vipers Trimeresurus salazar, after the character in J.K Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series. The findings were published last week in the Zoosystematics and Evolution journal.

The study’s authors explained that the name came from the “co-founder of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and the founder of the House of Slytherin – Salazar Slytherin.”

“He was a Parselmouth that links him to serpents,” they said and suggested that the snake be commonly known as “Salazar’s pit viper.”

For anyone needing a “Harry Potter” refresher, Salazar Slytherin was one of four founding members of the wizarding school. He was known for his rare ability to speak to snakes ― called “Parselmouth”.

In “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets”, a Basilisk ― a giant, venomous serpent left beneath Hogwarts for hundreds of years by Slytherin ― terrorized students. Those who looked the creature directly in the eye would be killed; an indirect look would render the victims petrified.

Salazar’s pit viper was discovered during an expedition to the Himalayan biodiversity hotspot in India’s northern Arunachal Pradesh region. The scientists noted that the snake has a unique stripe ― orange to red in color ― on the body of males.

The snakes, like others in the Trimeresurus genus, are venomous. While it’s best to keep your distance, you can probably get away with looking them in the eye.