Snakes on a plain!

by Matthew Cobb

By common agreement, the most terrifying footage of Sunday night’s BBC Life on Earth II – narrated by David Attenborough – was the scene where the newly-hatched marine iguanas on the Galapagos had to run the gauntlet of the racer snakes (the clue is in the name). The iguana eggs are laid in soft ground away from the water’s edge, and have to get to the safety of the rocky shore where they can take up their bizarre marine herbivorous lifestyle, which includes diving down as deep as 30 metres (roughly 100 feet) to graze on marine plants. Between the hatchling and the future lie the racer snakes.

This video is not an official one, and has no Attenborough commentary nor the stress-inducing pounding musical soundtrack (instead the poster has chosen to put some bizarrely soothing guitar music over it; I’d turn the sound off  if I were you). Those are only available to viewers in the UK, who are advised to seek them out on YouTube or iPlayer. For the rest of you, you’ll have to make do with this – but quick, before it is taken down! [JAC: It was already taken down, but I’ve found another one, which itself will be taken down. Damn you, BBC!  If you’re in the US, try the Twitter link below, which may work if the video doesn’t—or disappears.]




  1. Posted November 8, 2016 at 3:39 am | Permalink



  2. Erwin
    Posted November 8, 2016 at 3:58 am | Permalink

    I watched this last night and this ist by far the best episode of the show. Although the fighting komodo kragons are not bad either. Seek out the original in hi res.

  3. Dominic
    Posted November 8, 2016 at 4:10 am | Permalink

    If I were a snake I would lie in wait further down & cut them off rather than chasing…

    • somer
      Posted November 8, 2016 at 4:22 am | Permalink

      I notice though, they’re hunting in packs

      • dorcheat
        Posted November 8, 2016 at 9:37 am | Permalink

        Fabulous footage! The snakes appear to be cooperative hunting similar to wolves, lions, and homo sapiens sapiens. Perhaps an ophiologist out there can chime in.

  4. Posted November 8, 2016 at 4:13 am | Permalink


    I noticed your Twitter account has been disappeared. . .

    • Posted November 8, 2016 at 4:14 am | Permalink

      Only temporarily! I have a lot of marking and teaching preparation to do and what with political and science news streaming into my brain via Twitter, I decided I had to go cold turkey to regain my concentration (yes, I admit it, I am a Twitter addict). I’ll reactivate it in the next week. – MC

      • Posted November 8, 2016 at 4:21 am | Permalink

        I understand…I had to drop off for a month when completing my dissertation. I got sucked back in quickly. I, too, am a Twitter addict, at this point. But I don’t actually look at my feed. Instead there are select people whose feeds I look up daily or weekly. This keeps me sane and keeps the brain traffic to a minimum.

        Glad you’ll come back. I enjoy your posts.

  5. somer
    Posted November 8, 2016 at 4:34 am | Permalink

    I think most can see this on #PlaneEarth2 (i.e.: the clip from Life on Earth II with the racy music)
    Its at The bit that says “absolutely gripping” and also the one below “possibly the greatest scene in documentary history”(bit over the top) on

    Not for the snake phobic tho it has a miraculous ending

  6. Graham Head
    Posted November 8, 2016 at 4:42 am | Permalink

    The snakes chasing the Iguanas was worthy of Hitchcock, very scary.

    The injured penguins trying to get back to feed their chicks was very moving.

  7. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted November 8, 2016 at 6:23 am | Permalink

    Begins airing in the U.S. on January 28 on BBC ‘Mericah. I am looking forward to it.

  8. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted November 8, 2016 at 6:27 am | Permalink

    Worth commenting that this was astonishing.

    This one has original sound – picked up on Twitter – sorry if it’s a pain to copy/paste:

    ✏️ (@MrLukeJohnston)
    11/7/16, 07:50
    Possibly the greatest scene in documentary history. Incredible. #PlanetEarth2

  9. eric
    Posted November 8, 2016 at 6:30 am | Permalink

    Horrifying! I often cheer for the predators in nature videos, but this time I’m firmly on the iguana’s side.

    Dominic @3: about 3/4 of the way through, it appears one of the snakes is doing exactly as you suggest. The iguana gets away though, so obviously that tactic has its own sets of pros and cons.

  10. rickflick
    Posted November 8, 2016 at 8:04 am | Permalink

    The snakes look too slim to down an iguana. But then you get a glimpse of their jaws in the full open position!

  11. Posted November 8, 2016 at 8:29 am | Permalink

    Run, Iggy, run! Never thought I’d have my heart in my mouth for an iguana. Sorry, I’m not a fan of snakes. Would they gang up like that and chase a small human?!

  12. mordacious1
    Posted November 8, 2016 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    Darn it! Maybe next time (snakes gotta eat too, you know?).

    • Posted November 8, 2016 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

      The full sequence showed several successful snakes …


  13. Mark R.
    Posted November 8, 2016 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    Awesome! Reminded me of a football running back…Touchdown!

  14. Steve Pollard
    Posted November 8, 2016 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

    Watched the first one, and greatly looking forward to the rest. The photography is stunning and the animals are always remarkable.

    If I have a slight gripe, it is that a programme about islands could have done more to highlight the huge body of evidence that the native species of islands provide for evolution, as set out so eloquently in PCC(E)’s magnum opus. An opportunity missed, I feel.

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