Venomous snake competitions were recently held in Australia, according to a new study that describes the events: sprint trials in a racetrack, tongue flicking, thrashing, biting when held, and wrapping around other bodies.
The goal wasn’t to determine the best snake athletes, but rather to study the participants’ defensive responses under various conditions. The findings are published in the latest issue of the journal Herpetologica.
Two species of Australian elapid snakes— small-eyed snakes (Cryptophis nigrescens) and broad-headed snakes (Hoplocephalus bungaroides)— were selected to participate in the trials. Both are nocturnal but vary widely in their foraging patterns, which might explain differences in their defensive responses.
The scientists found that if you ever encounter such a venomous snake in the wild in Australia, you’d better hope it’s a small-eyed one. That’s because they are more likely to flee than fight when they feel threatened. Small-eyed snakes travel widely to forage for food, while the broad-headed snake will lie in ambush within sun-warmed rocky retreats.
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