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Thread: Three questions about snakes

  1. #1
    Kyriakos's Avatar Praeses
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    Default Three questions about snakes

    Some questions about snakes:

    1) Snakes' hearing is a lot more powerful than a human's, correct? Going by some articles it seems they hear picking up vibrations from the ground, with their actual ears being internal organs. Does this mean that a snake when upright (in some kind of defensive/threat pose) will have less ability to hear?
    2) Some types of snakes seem to have the ability to pick up the heat emanating from other creatures nearby, a kind of body heat-sensor. Are vipers one such snake? (mostly thinking of common mountain vipers).
    3) The location of the heat-sensing organs is between each eye and corresponding nostril. But does the snake actually feel heat emanating, or is this more like some kind of infrared sight? (I suppose the former?)

    Much obliged to any Hercules who can bury at least one of the heads of this Lernaea Hydra ^_^
    Λέων μεν ὄνυξι κρατεῖ, κέρασι δε βούς, ἄνθρωπος δε νῷι
    "While the lion prevails with its claws, and the ox through its horns, man does by his thinking"
    Anaxagoras of Klazomenae, 5th century BC










  2. #2

    Default Re: Three questions about snakes

    Quote Originally Posted by Kyriakos View Post
    Some questions about snakes:

    1) Snakes' hearing is a lot more powerful than a human's, correct? Going by some articles it seems they hear picking up vibrations from the ground, with their actual ears being internal organs. Does this mean that a snake when upright (in some kind of defensive/threat pose) will have less ability to hear?
    Yes. While snakes probably can hear low frequency sounds in air, they probably can't detect higher frequency ones. In the common picture of a snake charmer playing a pipe, the snake is unlikely to hear the pipe's sound.

    2) Some types of snakes seem to have the ability to pick up the heat emanating from other creatures nearby, a kind of body heat-sensor. Are vipers one such snake? (mostly thinking of common mountain vipers).
    Pit vipers like rattle snakes have these organs but as far as I know regular vipers like the mountain vipers and adders, do not have infared vision.

    Pythons and bows also have some form of infared vision, but not as advanced as in pit vipers.

    3) The location of the heat-sensing organs is between each eye and corresponding nostril. But does the snake actually feel heat emanating, or is this more like some kind of infrared sight? (I suppose the former?)
    The nerve signals go to the same brain organ that processes visual signals, optical tectum so it does seem to be a type of vision/sight, although the picture generated would be very low resolution and the image blurry.
    Last edited by Common Soldier; October 05, 2019 at 04:57 PM. Reason: spell correcting

  3. #3

    Default Re: Three questions about snakes

    As I say, check the internet first before asking. It's faster and you don't bother other people with it.

    Number 2 shows it. One minute on wikipedia would tell you that among vipers, infrared sensing organs evolved within, and are distinguishing characteristic of, subfamily Crotalinae-pit vipers, endemic to most Americas and Asia, although some got as far as Greece and Aegean islands. They also evolved in parallel within some other snakes. However, I have no idea what passes as mountain viper where you live-there are several possibilities, some being pit vipers, some not...

    As for 1, I doubt it. The entire skeleton of a snake, and in fact all other vertebrates (as well as exoskeleton of insects) is capable of picking up and relaying vibrations from the contact to the ear. This is, in fact, how some deaf people are able to hear through their fingers (some musicians were famous for it).

    3. The infrared sensing organs are very much like a sight. Snakes can determine direction, range and size of the prey through this well enough to actually successfully strike, even when deprived of sight. I'm not sure whether the information from this organ is merged with visual perception or the sense is percieved independently (like sight and smell in humans).

    Edit: Ninja'd. So it seems that the IR organ really is a kind of "sight", as the information is merged with visual perception. Oh well, live and learn...
    Last edited by Sar1n; October 05, 2019 at 01:55 PM.

  4. #4
    Kyriakos's Avatar Praeses
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    Default Re: Three questions about snakes

    Quote Originally Posted by Sar1n View Post
    Edit: Ninja'd. So it seems that the IR organ really is a kind of "sight", as the information is merged with visual perception. Oh well, live and learn...
    Indeed, and as they say, if you had bothered checking the internet you wouldn't have needed others to correct you on your misconceptions

    +1 Commonsoldier, thanks for the help ^_^
    Λέων μεν ὄνυξι κρατεῖ, κέρασι δε βούς, ἄνθρωπος δε νῷι
    "While the lion prevails with its claws, and the ox through its horns, man does by his thinking"
    Anaxagoras of Klazomenae, 5th century BC










  5. #5

    Default Re: Three questions about snakes

    Quote Originally Posted by Kyriakos View Post
    Indeed, and as they say, if you had bothered checking the internet you wouldn't have needed others to correct you on your misconceptions

    +1 Commonsoldier, thanks for the help ^_^
    My pleasure, it was an interesting topic. One thing. It is suspected that although the infared sensors themselves would give only a crude images the invaded can be integrated with other visual clues to give a better image.

    I was surprised that it took me a little more effort than I expected to find out the information. I though I would just be able rongo to a single Wikipedia page to find the information. But I had to hunt around a little for it, not too hard, but a little more than I would have thought.

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