Readers’ wildlife photos (and video)

Reader Christian Alessandro Perez (website here, flickr site here) sent some snake photos that the herpetophiles will love. His notes are indented.

here are the first four snake species I encountered in Australia. You can post them whenever you’d like – no need to share them immediately.

Juvenile broad-headed snake (Hoplocephalus bungaroides). Unfortunately, the broad-headed snake is now listed as endangered. Declining population numbers are most likely attributable to removal of rock faces and suitable habitat for this species, primarily due to urbanization and landscaping. Other rock-dwelling reptiles and invertebrates are without a doubt also negatively influenced by human modification of habitat. These snakes require very specific microhabitats and prefer resting in the crevices in between thin sandstone rock layers, so it has been reported that even wildlife enthusiasts flipping rocks and disrupting the habitat may pose a threat to a species already at risk. For these reasons, disclosure of locality and abundances are considered sensitive information.
 Bandy-bandy (Vermicella annulata). The Bandy-bandy is a venomous snake in the family Elapidae, but its fossorial nature and reliance on its threat display for predator deterrence make it an exception to the rule for “freehandling” an venomous snake. In other words, their defensive behavior does not involve biting. There are six recognized species in the genus Vermicella, all of which are fossorial and nocturnal, and analyses of stomach contents suggest that they solely feed on blind snakes (e.g.Anilios/Ramphotyphlops).
Juvenile:
The conspicuous banded coloration is likely aposematic, as in most coral snakes and kraits. However, when the snake is in motion, the patterning serves a flicker-fusion effect, where a high contrast pattern becomes blurred when moving at high speeds. I have observed this in fleeing coral snakes Micrurus alleni (classic red/yellow/black) in the Atlantic rainforests of Costa Rica and Micrurus hemprichii (black/yellow/white) in the Brazilian Amazon. Not only is it hard to tell where the head of the snake has gone, the pattern transitions from a conspicuous to an inconspicuous state, leaving a predator such as myself seeking the original vibrant contrasting pattern. This deception in search image corroborates the flicker-fusion hypothesis as a cryptic strategy.
In contrast to coral snakes, which often raise and curl their tails into a spiral accompanied by flattening base of the tail near the cloaca, the Bandy-bandy raises a substantial portion of the mid-section of the body up in the air. This threat display has led to another common name for this species ­­– the hoop snake. While raising the body in a slow motion, the snake randomly flipped its body around with a motion similar to a firm rubber tube being shaken by the center.
Juvenile blackish blind snake (Anilios nigriscens).  When I lifted a rock, two adult blackish blind snakes were coiled underneath, quickly burying themselves deeper into the moist soil. I have seen only small blind snakes about 8 cm in length before, and I was surprised to see that these two were about four times as long and as thick. Blind snakes belong to the family Typhlopidae and are entirely fossorial, following the scents of ant and termite trails until the snakes reach a brood chamber. They have teeth on their upper jaw for scraping prey into their mouths, and I was lucky to see one of these snakes briefly open its mouth while I was handling it. Blind snakes are adept at burrowing and have a sharp spine at the end of the tail, possibly for anchoring themselves in the substrate while digging with their flattened head. They have poor vision and rely mostly on olfactory cues, but retain two dark spots with simple light/dark perception.
Diamond python (Morelia spilota spilota). My friends and I found this python slithering along a rock face on the coastline. From a distance the python’s pattern appears black and dim white, but up close it has brilliant yellow speckles. We watched this snake for several hours, and it eventually made its way into a crevice to rest before sunset. We saw the two tube-shaped tunnels in its lair, with the dirt pushed aside making it clear who was the inhabitant. One opening was to the side along the sandstone wall, and the other opening led from the roots of a large tree up into a matrix of branches towering over the sandstone wall. The diamond python (Morelia spilota spilota) is a subspecies of the carpet python, which are extremely variable in coloration throughout their range. When I travel to the Top End tomorrow I hope to find the Northern Territory carpet python (Morelia spilota variegata), a snake with prominent stripes, usually alternating between brown and pale yellow colors. Enjoy footage of the diamond python here. [JAC: I put Christian’s video at bottom.]

10 Comments

  1. Posted December 3, 2017 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    Beautiful (and to me, mysterious) creatures. I appreciate the close-up of the skin pattern. Thank you!

  2. Posted December 3, 2017 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    Gorgeous! Our snakes are not nearly as varied and interesting as yours. Thank you for sharing this.

  3. Posted December 3, 2017 at 8:44 am | Permalink

    The black and white snake is beautiful. We have a special breed of the blind snake in Jamaica. I used to think they were worms as a kid.

  4. Michael Fisher
    Posted December 3, 2017 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    Thank you. Brilliant stuff! I especially enjoyed the video Christian – my brain has difficulty accepting snake locomotion isn’t magic.

  5. Christopher
    Posted December 3, 2017 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    Absolutely wonderful shots of beautiful creatures, marred only by the species name for the broad-headed snake. Bungaroides sounds like a disease you get up your backside. As in: “Jack’s gotta sit on one of those inflatable donut pillows now, he’s got a nasty case of bungaroides”.

  6. rickflick
    Posted December 3, 2017 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

    The video of the python was superb. It looks like the camera was positioned on the ground where you knew the snake would encounter it. At one point it seems to be sniffing the lens. Great stuff.

  7. Posted December 3, 2017 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    It would be great to tag along on a feild trip with someone like yourself,
    a grounded and non hysterical intro to these animals. Thanks.

  8. tjeales
    Posted December 3, 2017 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

    I’ve lived in the same habitat as Bandy Bandys all my life and I’ve never seen one despite wanting to and being an obsessive rock turner and snake chaser as a kid. Great to see these photos.

  9. Paul Doerder
    Posted December 3, 2017 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

    Wonderful!

  10. Posted December 3, 2017 at 10:44 pm | Permalink

    Absolutely beautiful. Snakes were one of my favourite animals when I was young, and still are quite high up on my list. Thank you Christian!


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