Stories tagged snakes

Or, at least, they're unable to prevent themselves from being dropped off a 50-foot platform.

During a 50-foot fall, snakes can glide over 80 feet horizontally. Pretty wild. But watch the video.

Aug
26
2008

Get used to this sight: it'll make your last moments easier.
Get used to this sight: it'll make your last moments easier.Courtesy chylinski marcin
Decades of the careful planning and strategic positioning of snakes across the world may have been laid to waste by the actions of one overeager python.

Twenty-nine year old biology student Erick Arrieta was killed and partially eaten by a 10-foot Burmese python at a zoo in Caracas, Venezuela. Working the night shift alone in the reptile section of the zoo on Saturday, Arrieta, for reasons that remain unclear, broke zoo regulations and entered the cage holding the python.

The next time Arrieta was scene, he was dead and wearing a snake over his face, so the details of the attack are not known. However, I think we can make some assumptions of just what happened on Saturday.

“Snake,” probably said Arrieta, “You’re the only one I can talk to. I hate biology, but I love snakes. What am I to do?” Arrieta then very likely proceeded to subject the python to the unfortunate details of his love life, academic career, and personal ailments. The snake, I imagine, endured this as long as it could, the details of its assignment running through its eager brain all the while. But when Arrieta mentioned that “nice guys finish last,” the snake could no longer restrain itself.

“Ha ha!” said the snake, and sprang into action, latching on to Erick’s arm with dozens of needle sharp, inward-curving teeth.

“Oh no!” thought Erick, but was unable to utter the words, as the snake had already begun to wrap around the man’s chest and neck. Instead of straight out squeezing Arrieta into jerky, the python, in the way of all constrictors, would have slowly asphyxiated the student, tightening its coils as the man struggled or exhaled, until it had fully wrapped itself around its suffocating victim.

When Arrieta finally gave up the ghost, the snake did its best to hide the evidence. Starting with the head.

This is how the other zoo employees found their colleague in the morning—with his head inside a snake. The python was then beaten until it released the body.

With these events, phases one through three of an ambitious and clandestine serpentine plan have been unveiled to humans. Phase one: get close. Phase two: attack! Phase three: eat.

The fourth and final stage is now all too clear: digest. I only hope that Arrieta’s brave sacrifice was not too late.

Jul
07
2008

Snake power: It looks like an ordinary tube, but this device is a small version of the Anaconda, a snake-like tube that turns ocean wave power into electricity.
Snake power: It looks like an ordinary tube, but this device is a small version of the Anaconda, a snake-like tube that turns ocean wave power into electricity.Courtesy Atkins Global
Indiana Jones may hate snakes, but those looking for clean, renewable energy sources are loving the chances that a “snake” may be able to generate electricity from ocean waves.

It’s not a real snake, but an enormous rubber snake called the Anaconda. Stretching more than 600 feet long, the Anaconda produces energy as it is squeezed by the passing waves of ocean water that it is submerged in. The process is very similar to what happens with a windsock fluttering in the wind.

The Anaconda is filled with seawater and is sealed at both ends. The trailing end of the snake has turbines. As the ocean waves ripple by the Anaconda, the water inside is squeezed and pushed in bulges that move toward the turbines. When the bulges get there, their energy turns the turbines.

The idea is being developed by the British firm Atkins Global. This is all still in the testing stages, but if the research pans out, the Anacondas would be submerged in ocean waters at depths of 120 to 300 feet.

So far, however, researchers are testing their theory on smaller snakes in a wave tank. Seawater testing could begin next year and if everything is successful, the technology could go online commercially in five years. Estimates figure one full-sized Anaconda could generate 1 megawatt of electricity, about the same amount of power for 2,000 homes.

Jun
11
2008

This is how trees grow on our planet: Also, on our planet, we hold cameras upside-down.
This is how trees grow on our planet: Also, on our planet, we hold cameras upside-down.Courtesy Jaboney
The natural order of things has been a little bonkers this last week. Things all over the world are ending up where they don’t belong.

Snake on baby. Snakes don’t belong on babies. If anything, babies belong inside snakes.

Bomb in chicken. What on earth is a bomb doing in a chicken? I doubt that the chicken put it there.

Nail in head. The doctor removed it with a claw hammer. Seriously.

What good is science in a world like this? Educated guesses cannot be made, nothing is repeatable.

Dec
03
2007

A glance into the future?: The future is a scary place, with snakes, and bleak, washed out colors.
A glance into the future?: The future is a scary place, with snakes, and bleak, washed out colors.Courtesy nyghtowl
I found this story recently, about a little lad in Cambodia who is inseparable from a wild, 15-foot-long Burmese python. Apparently the snake snaked into town when the kid, who is now seven, was just a few months old. The boy’s father attempted to return the creature to the forest three times, but it just kept coming back, and now the kid refuses to go to sleep without the snake’s company.

15 feet is obviously pretty big, but, being a Burmese python, one of the largest snakes in the world, this particular snake is likely to get even bigger, up to 25 feet and 400 pounds. Pythons aren’t venomous, but they are constrictors, meaning that they generally kill their prey by wrapping their body around it and squeezing it to death (suffocating it). Burmese pythons are typically afraid of humans, but are opportunistic feeders, and “will typically eat almost any time food is offered.” Big pythons will even seek prey such as pigs and goats, animals the size of, say, a seven-year-old boy.

Still, the kid has survived so far. And I suppose a person might actually be safer with a 15-foot snake following them around all the time.

Nov
14
2007

A rattlesnake: The first 43 times it bites you are out of love, but the 44th...
A rattlesnake: The first 43 times it bites you are out of love, but the 44th...Courtesy neesflynn
Two weeks ago, Ray “Cobraman” Hunter received his forty-fourth venomous snakebite. Mr. Hunter remains hospitalized at this time.

“Cobraman” was bitten on the right hand by a 5 and a half foot eastern diamondback rattlesnake while cleaning its cage. Rattlesnakes generally only bite defensively and, even then, most often do not deliver a full venom dose unless injured or frightened. This leads me to believe that the snake was perhaps hiding something in its cage, something it didn’t want Cobraman to find. Snake magazines? Or something worse?

Unfortunately for Mr. Cobraman, eastern diamondbacks have the reputation of being the most dangerous venomous snakes in North America. They aren’t particularly aggressive, but they have the longest fangs of any rattlesnake species (over an inch in some cases, close to .65 inches in a snake like Cobraman’s), and deliver a very high venom yield: an average dose is about 400 mg, but up to 1000 mg can be injected at a time (a fatal human dose is usually between 100 and 150 mg, for comparison).

After being bitten, a sensation likened to “two hot hypodermic needles,” often followed by spontaneous bleeding from the bite site, Ray Cobraman took it upon himself to drive to the hospital, despite “feeling like he was drunk.”

The “drunk” feeling strongly suggests that Ray was suffering from “severe envenomation.” Envenomation is often rated from 0 to 5, “severe” being a rating of 4 or 5. Given that initial symptoms of severe envenomation often include lip-tingling, dizziness, drooling, and vomiting, it seems that the analogy to being drunk was not far off the mark, although it doesn’t explain Cobraman’s desire to get behind the wheel of a car.

Ray’s drive was probably enlivened by severe internal pain and bleeding from the mouth, as well as swelling and discoloration of the affected limb, in this case the right arm. Rattlesnake venom also contains a “low-molecular-weight basic peptide that impedes neuromuscular transmission,” which can lead to hypotension and a weak pulse before all-out cardiac failure. It is perhaps understandable, then, that Ray passed out behind the wheel of his car long before reaching the hospital.

Ray is now suffering from renal failure and his right arm (which he stood a significant chance of losing) remains largely swollen. It is currently unclear as to when he can return home.

When asked what he thought of this, his 44th snakebite, Ray said that it was “definitely the worst.” Here we have the highlights of Ray “Cobraman” Hunter’s reactions in long career of getting bitten by venomous snakes, a Science Buzz exclusive:

Bite #1: “What? Oh no! Oh no oh no oh no! Mom! Help!”
Bite #2: “Mom! It happened again!”
Bite #10: “I’m gonna kill you, snake!”
Bite #15: Not paying attention.
Bite #22: Asleep at the time.
Bite #24: “I thought you loved me!”
Bite #25: Pretty bad.
Bite #29: Happened at church, didn’t count.
Bite #33: “This is only making me stronger!”
Bite #40: Feelings of invincibility, disdain for reptiles.
Bite #41: Crippling paranoia.
Bite #44: The Worst. Definitely.

A side note: Did you know that rattlesnakes give live birth? They do! See here!

Harvard scientists working in Madagascar recently collected a 10-inch long pink snake. Examining the creature back at the lab, they realized they had re-discovered a species which hadn't been seen in over 100 years. The snake is not only extremely rare, but it lives underground and avoids light, making it extra difficult to find.