Field of Science


Year of the Snake

A couple of former students from Asian students emailed to wish TPP Happy New Year, and now we enter the year of the snake.  Now far be it for this biologist to suggest any type of discrimination exists about snakes, but why does it have to be snakes?  In his many field trips to the tropics, TPP has seen a heck of a lot of organisms, yet for some reason, none of them set off the startle reflex or get the adrenaline pumping as fast as snakes especially when your perception suddenly focuses and pulls one out of the background.  Some sort of ancient primate instinct that even a biologist doesn't overcome.  Hardwired.  Something rustles in the grass and you jump.  The snakes TPP has encountered most in recent years are quite cryptically colored, especially against a forest floor background, so BANG!  You just suddenly see them!  Often this happens because you're looking up to see if a tree is in flower, then you glance down and realize you're about to trip on one like this, and it's a bloody Bothrops asper, locally known as terciopelo, and to most gringos as fer-de-lance.  Yikes!  This is not a pit viper to mess with.  (See the head? Lower center, with it's rusty top thus the common name.)  Your heart races, and then of course because you're a biologist you resist the  instinct to flee and take it's picture.  Smile.  Even worse, if you happen to have a herpetologist along, and they delight in pointing out all the snakes you missed. Now a whole year long reminder.  Sigh.    

1 comment:

Laurent said...

This one's got hammered behind the head though... :)