Snakes See in the Dark

This is the fifth and final installment in the series my cat has dubbed, “The Many Ways Humans are Inferior.” We have covered hummingbirds, sea turtles, elephants, and bumblebees. Each of these animals has some ability that humans do not, such as perceiving magnetic fields, hearing infrasonic sounds, and balancing a federal budget. Today’s amazing animal is the snake, specifically vipers, pythons, and boa constrictors.

These snakes have a deep pit between the eye and nostril, one pit on each side of the head. At the bottom of the pit is an extremely sensitive membrane that detects infrared radiation. Even when a snake cannot see or smell, she can detect a mouse or squirrel or presidential candidate using this membrane. The radiation allows the snake to “see” an image of the prey.

Rattlesnakes are included in this group. True fact: their scientific name is Crotalus horridus.  “Horridus”? I guess the person who made up the name did not like rattlesnakes.

Today I have a treat for you — an interview with not only a rattlesnake but the man who named the snake – Adam, husband of Eve.

Me: Ms. Rattlesnake, have you met Adam?

Ms. Rattlesnake: Pleasssssssed to meet you, Adam.

Adam: I would say the pleasure is mine, but Eve and I have a history with snakes. Forgive me if I’m a bit nervous.

Me: Adam, did you know that Ms. Rattlesnake has a pit organ? She can detect radiation and pinpoint the location of an animal or human. 

Adam: That doesn’t make me any more comfortable.

Me: And did you know this, Adam? If you had shown up in Asia, Antarctica, or Europe, you would have had no chance of seeing a rattlesnake in the wild.

Adam: Lucky me for choosing North America today.

Ms. Rattlesnake: Adam, why do you keep backing away from me? I do not feel any threat from you, sssssso you have nothing to fear.

Adam: Wendy, did you know snakes have a tendency to lie?

Me: I think that’s only true of one snake that you had the misfortune of meeting. Here’s another interesting fact. The longest poisonous snake is the King Cobra.

Ms. Rattlesnake: I met a King Cobra in India. He was a delight. We had coffee and discussed Indian politicssssss. Adam, you’re backing away again. Wendy, may I speak with you privately?

Me: Of course. Adam, if you’ll excuse us.

Adam: No problem. I’ll just step over there. Way over there.

Ms. Rattlesnake: [in a whisper] Do you think he realizes I am not THAT ssssnake? You know, the one he and Eve ran into all those yearssssss ago?

Me: I’m sure he does, but it’s hard to shake traumatic experiences.

Ms. Rattlesnake: Hm. He looksssssss so uncomfortable. Maybe you’d better wrap thissss up.

Me: Okay, Adam, you can step back over here now.

Adam: That’s okay. I just got a text from Eve, and I need to go.

Me: I see. It was a pleasure to interview you both. Thanks, Adam.

Ms. Rattlesnake: Look at him run. I think he made that up. He didn’t get a text from Eve. And they say snakes are the liarssssss . . . . I must be off. I think I’ll text that King Cobra. He was sssso handsome. SSSSee you.

Me: Thank you, Ms. Rattlesnake. Tell Harry Potter I said hello. I hear he can talk to snakes.

Ms. Rattlesnake: Very funny. I’m a fan of Ms. Rowling, too. But Voldemort was my favorite. So mysterious . . . .

And off she goes, slitherin’ away. What a friendly snake.

Excuse me, I just got a text . . . from Eve.

She says, “What did U do to Adam? He’s hiding under the bed. Keeps mumbling **no more snakes**”

Oh dear.

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