Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The snake in the zodiac

Snakes have many forms. Real animals, mythical gods, Neopets when winged, and pop culture when often in gigantic, man-eating forms. But snakes are also connected with the Chinese zodiac. I don't really do astrology, but I decided that today there would be information about a different kind of snake.

Symbol of zodiac snake, image from Wikipedia

The story of the Chinese zodiac goes like this:12 animals had to cross a river. The snake wasn't a very good swimmer (it wasn't a sea or water snake), so it hitched a ride on the Horse's hoof. (It might have also eaten the Rat and gone to sleep considering its position), but when the horse was about to cross the finish line, it saw a tasty mouse nearby and slithered out, scaring the horse, having the snake end up in sixth place. The snake also has hours from 9:00 AM to 11:00 AM, which means because it's about 10:00 AM, I am writing this post in the Hour of the snake, when the sun warms up the earth and snakes slither out of their holes. Unless you count the fact that this is being written in Memphis in August when snakes would much rather stay in their holes than come out in 100-degree heat. Snakes are supposedly intelligent, but somewhat unscruplous. And 2013, which was last year, was a Snake year, and 2025 and 2037 will also be Snake years.



Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Snakes in history and culture

Think about most people's reactions to snakes today...fearful. Filled with hatred, even malice. You might never have thought humankind could like snakes. You may have believed that snakes were always identified with evil. You might have given up your dreams because you thought nobody would appreciate them. But then peek back many years and uncloak mankind's reactions to snakes, to find the diamonds in the rough. But if you turn back the clock, you find wonderful things...snakes as gods, such as the Egyptian Wadjet and Renenutet. They were protectors of the pharaoh, his children, and the harvest. There are many temples in India dedicated to the worship of cobras, even today. While the Ouroboris, a snake with its tail in its mouth, represents life, death, and rebirth, causing a connection between snakes and immortality. In modern times, the festival Nag Panchami every year worships cobras in India. The symbol of the healer is a snake coiled around a pole to this day...snakes have been demonized by Christianity, which made them symbolic of evil. But think about those years, those years where serpentine gods were common, and when mankind did not have the hatred he has today...just think about those years.

Uraeus cobras from Ancient Egypt, image from Wikipedia.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Save the its

Okay, I just finished an etymology webinar, and I am panic-stricken. The English word "its", like in Every dog has its day is slowly turning into the possessive "it's" like in It's a very nice day today. SAVE THE ITS! Comment on this post if you agree about it!

Big news!

BIG NEWS
Big news coming from Alli's Snakes! A new species of nonvenomous snake has been discovered in Brazil. According to a Brazilian journal which wrote about its discovery, it has fifteen dorsal scale rows, and is reddish pink to red with black spots. It is approximately a foot long and was previously a cryptozoological creature. It sounds like a cute little snake! :D
                                          Image from http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/news/2014/08/19/new-foot-long-species-of-snake-discovered-in-brazil/



Passos, Paulo et al. . "A new species of Atractus (Serpentes:Dipsadidae) from Serra do Cipo, Espinhaco Range, Southeastern Brazil, with proposition of a new species group to the genus" Papeis Avulsos de Zoologica (Sao Paulo), March 31, 2013. Web. August 20, 2014.  

Eavesdropping lizards

Originally by Ryo Ito and Akira Mori, modified by Alli of Alli's Snakes for a change in audience. Most lizards, as you might know, are more the silent type. But at the same time, those little guys have good hearing. But not many people study lizards' hearing use in their habitat. But there is a hypothesis that lizards can eavesdrop. They're not trying to learn secrets or anything, but they might listen in to birds' alarm calls so they know to activate the anti-predator response. Now, three lizards were tested, the Madagascan giant day gecko, the Madagascan spiny-tailed iguana, and the wide-tailed zonosaur. Day gecko, iguana, and zonosaur images from Wikipedia To test this hypothesis, alarm calls and songs were played back to the lizards and videos were taken of the lizards' reactions to the alarm calls. The day geckos changed their color so they got darker and blended in. The iguanas kept watch for danger more often, and the zonosaurs stopped looking for food longer. This therefore shows that lizards can eavesdrop on bird calls! Ito, Ryo, Mori, Akira. "Non-vocal Lizards in Madagascar Eavesdrop on Avian Alarm Calls" Presentation at Joint Meeting of Icthyologists and Herpetologists 2014, August 3, 2014. Live presentation. August 3, 2014.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Snakes are long and Matrix references

Hi, it is Alli here and I am recommending another blog known as Life Is Short, but Snakes are Long. But I will give you a warning that this contains science content. If you like this half snakes, half Neopets fan ramblings blog, you can stay here. Take the blue pill if you want to stay here and know whatever it is you know about snakes now. Or you can take the red pill and you will find the truth about snakes with no Neopets ramblings. I would like to give a shout-out to Andrew, the person who runs Snakes Are Long. It was great to meet you at JMIH, and I'll tell people about your blog.

JMIH 2014

What I did at the Joint Meeting of Icthyologists and Herpetologists Day 1:Adventures in African Amphibian Biology Many pictures of frogs went across the slides. Taking notes was not a skill I had fully mastered, so I doodled to take notes. What I mostly remember is a slide of a frog being X-rayed and seeing that it ate an entire snail, shell and all. And what did I draw? A frog with a snail inside it! They showed a hairy frog that had claws. What did I draw? A hairy frog with claws. (that doodle sort of resembles a kiwi fruit with legs) They showed a picture of a frog with long fingers. What did I draw? A frog with long fingers. This was a way to take notes and understand the session that was nothing more than related doodling. Doodle notes. What I also did that night was meet the various mentors. I discovered that I had a lot in common with them in that there were common interests, blog services, and various other things.
What we didn't know in 1964:50 years of herpetology I do not remember much from this session, but what I do remember is that herpetology did not know in 1964 that you did not have to cut the turtle open to see if she had eggs. X-rays are much better. Very much better.
Day 2 One of the sessions I found particularly interesting was "Thanks Mom! Maternal Body Condition Influences Magnitude of Anti-predator Response in Tadpoles" and that tadpoles coming from healthier parents had more anti-predator responses such as larger tails and the idea that tadpoles via chemical signals when another gets eaten basically can say, "Woah, he's getting eaten so I should watch out." was interesting because previously I did not think that a tadpole or other baby animal would get the idea from their sibling getting eaten by a predator that the creature in question is something they should respond to. Another session I found interesting was Effects of Agriculture on Snake Diversity and Abundance in Northeastern Swaziland. The idea that in protected areas, you find the rock pythons and snakes that will do you no harm, but in the sugarcane fields you get the cobras and mambas and venomous species. My idea on that is that it would not be a good idea to get rid of protected areas and replace them with sugarcane fields unless you want the cobras and mambas rather than the largely harmless pythons. Another thing I did on that day was the student social, where I got signatures from some of the larger names in herpetology when it was less crowded, but I found it a bit overwhelming when it started having larger crowds. The reception at the Tennessee Aquarium was nice because the aquarium has the various exhibits you go down or up stairs to see all of, and when it was just a knowledgeable group of people, I had a lot more fun with it than I would if it was just a tourist destination for me.
Day 3 There were many sessions on this day, but one of my favorites was When A Mysterious Natricine Snake Met An American Natricine Expert. The idea of poisonous snakes and no, I'm not saying venomous with the wrong term, and the idea that if this snake eats fish, it won't be toxic, but if it eats toads, then it will be. And the fact that its babies know that toads are poisonous and will eat them is just cool and really hints at their intelligence. Another interesting session was Are Eastern Gartersnakes attracted to alarm substances in fathead minnows?. The idea that a snake, a predator, can via alarm signals, sort of sense its prey's fear is cool because there are many people who think snakes can sense human fear, and they can sense fear, but in minnows. This implies that the people who think that are right, if they were minnows. The latest thing on that day I was particularly interested in was Snakes And Primates, an 80 million year dialog? Primates influenced snake evolution, and snakes influenced primate evolution. Primates evolved tool use, and snakes evolved long distance weaponry. So you can blame our ancestors for spitting cobras.
Day 4 The main session I enjoyed on this day was Copperheads, Invasive Plants, and Ecological Traps. A park, by controlling invasive plants, is attracting copperheads to the campgrounds and the picnic area and the cabins, and everywhere else where people are, because the invasive plants are keeping the copperheads from getting enough heat by blocking it. My conclusion is that they might want to create reserved, exotic-plant-free areas for the copperheads as having them in the human areas is not good for people or snakes. I also particularly enjoyed the fact that translocation is NOT a good tule for Bamboo Pit Vipers. None of the translocated snakes would get gravid and therefore would die without creating new baby pit vipers.
Day 5 I particularly enjoyed Sand Boa Jaws are Specialized for Snagging Prey on this final day of the sessions. The idea that these cute, harmless snakes who make great pets explode out of the ground using part of their jaws as a fang to hold prey is just cool because you would never expect cute little sand boas to do that but they do. I also enjoyed Non-vocal lizards in Madagascar eavesdrop on avian alarm calls. Lizards will listen in on birds' alarms because they have the same predators. By eavesdropping on birds, the lizards will do an anti-predator response like darken in color, show a dewlap, or run. This was interesting because I never thought that an animal would eavesdrop, let alone for the purpose of survival!
Conclusion JMIH was very interesting and I learned skills like how to break the ice in a social situation, that lizards eavesdrop, that you can take notes by doodling, and how to be more professional. As well as everything else in sessions and that snails are easy to draw.
I would like to thank SSAR for inviting me and paying my entry fee, as this was a great experience I hope I can visit in following years.