Field of Science

Rainforest Field Trip - BE CAREFUL OUT THERE PEOPLE!

In the opinion of virtually all field workers, the dangers of working in a rain forest are far less than the dangers of visiting a big city. Mostly you learn what to look out for and you behave very very carefully. But when you have so many rookies you do worry that one of them will make a mistake, and the university frowns upon coming home with fewer students than you took. Actually once we came home with one additional one, but that's another story. The big problem is that some things are just plain hard to see, but every now and then, for reasons that are not at all well understood, some organisms stand out a bit more than others. Of the about 50 species of snakes at this field station, only 7 are poisonous, 5 pit vipers and 2 coral snakes. For the most part the pit vipers are quite well camouflaged and at times nigh on invisible. It makes you nervous to know a snake is there (marked with flagging) and still be unable to see the critter against its background. The eye lash viper is an exception. It comes in two natural color patterns, a green & brown pattern that is quite invisible against it barky background, this being a somewhat arboreal snake. How nice, right there at eye level. But it also comes in a very bright yellow or gold form that seems quite conspicuous in comparison, so it doesn't quite make biological sense. The trouble is that the number of yellow vipers you see tells you how many of the camouflaged ones you don't see. This handsome fellow was pretty small, maybe 25-30 cm long. A couple of scales over each eye make the lashes. Rule 7: no messing with poisonous snakes. Students who ignore this rule are on their last field trip, if you know what I mean.

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