OCT 26, 2016 8:22 AM PDT

This Snake's Eyes Can Mimic the Pupils of a Viper to Look Scarier

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

While on a field trip in Thailand with his colleagues, researcher Colin Strine of Sakaerat Environmental Research Station in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand, was met with one of Nature’s fake-out moments.
 
Many people revere the venomous viper snake, and it’s often discerned by its slit-shaped pupils, which look as aggressive as the snake is known to act.
 
But on his trip, Strine came across a snake known as a mock viper (Psammodynastes pulverulentus), which isn’t actually harmful, but can apparently transform the look of its pupils to mock the slit-shaped variant of a true viper.
 

 Image Credit: C. Barnes

The behavior, which is described in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, is theorized to be a self-defense mechanism developed over time by the species in order to ward off predators when it gets attacked.
 
It worked, at least, for Strine, who legitimately believed he was holding a viper at the time. He quickly released the snake to get away from it, and it fled the scene faster than a thief leaving a bank robbery.
 
The changing of pupil shape is a type of snake behavior that has never been observed before, until now. Interestingly, the mock viper already looks an awful lot like its venomous counterpart with its triangular head and body patterns, so its ability to change pupil shape is somewhat worrisome.
 
How will anyone actually know what kind of snake they’re stumbling upon if they have this kind of ability to scare with deceit?
 
To learn more, Strine’s team spent a few years collecting more snakes from the region. Now, more time will be spent trying to learn about what triggers the behavior to find out why it happens.
 
“We are not even sure if it is a defensive strategy or just something that happens when the viper is gripped,” he says. “I would love to look at this behaviour in a controlled lab setting because it may be that the behaviour has limitations based on aggressor species, stimuli and other environmental factors.”

It's worth noting that many snakes use mimicry to evade predators. Although the eye thing is certainly a newly-observed kind of behavior, some snakes have been known to dance like a cobra to intimiate their predators or in high-risk situations to ward off their attackers.
 
Source: New Scientist

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
MAY 15, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
It Only Takes One Gene For Virgin Birth in Honey Bees
MAY 15, 2020
It Only Takes One Gene For Virgin Birth in Honey Bees
Cape honey bees are found in South Africa, and while they look similar, they are very different from other subspecies of ...
MAY 17, 2020
Plants & Animals
Male Garter Snakes Trick Others to Improve Own Mating Success
MAY 17, 2020
Male Garter Snakes Trick Others to Improve Own Mating Success
After spending several months in hibernation during the winter, male garter snakes emerge from the underground where the ...
MAY 31, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Measuring stress chemicals in plants
MAY 31, 2020
Measuring stress chemicals in plants
Plant biologists at the University of California San Diego have developed a new nanosensor that lets them measure the ch ...
JUN 09, 2020
Clinical & Molecular DX
The Key to Unlocking Next Generation Wearable Biosensors Is Under the Sea
JUN 09, 2020
The Key to Unlocking Next Generation Wearable Biosensors Is Under the Sea
Wearable biosensors are the latest trend in health and diagnostic technologies — keeping track of everything from ...
JUL 11, 2020
Earth & The Environment
The disappearance of Australia's seagrass
JUL 11, 2020
The disappearance of Australia's seagrass
Australia is losing its seagrass. That’s according to a new report released by marine scientists at the Centre for ...
AUG 04, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
A Hybrid Animal - the Sturddlefish - Is Created
AUG 04, 2020
A Hybrid Animal - the Sturddlefish - Is Created
Scientists, for reasons that are unclear, mixed eggs and sperm from two different species of fish and ended up creating ...
Loading Comments...