Sunday, June 16, 2013

Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake

My aunt was driving in the truck down the hill from my house and spied this beautiful snake crossing the road. She stopped to watch it and called me to come see it. If she had taken her eyes off it we'd never have found it again. I couldn't see it when she pointed to it. It had to start moving before I could pick it out.

There's a snake in the weeds. Can you see it? Camouflage works, doesn't it?
It's easier to see him when he moves, but the low light of dusk made
him blurry to my camera. 
This is on 20x zoom, by the way. I was far back from this snake.

There's the rattle. That represents 9 times shedding his skin.  
They shed several times a year, so that snake is just a youngster.

Here's an x-ray view of a rattle. Image from Dr. Bruce Means. 
I'm working on his book on the Natural History of the Eastern 
Diamondback Rattlesnake.

This is how the rattle develops. The first one is how they're born. 
They are born BIG, almost a meter long. 
The eggs hatch inside the female and she delivers live young. 
The second image is after the first shed, 
the next is second shedding. 
They shed very several times in the first year of life.

This is a comparison of a complete intact rattle with the natal button, top, 
and one that's been broken, bottom. 
When they get real long they catch on things and get snatched apart. 
The snake I saw today has his natal button. 
That's how I feel confident counting 9 sheds.
I haven't seen one of these in a really long time. We used to see them a lot when I was a little girl, but we had big rambunctious dogs that found them for us. No other kind of snake in the USA gets as big as an Eastern Diamondback, by weight I mean. This one is not big by rattlesnake standards. I was glad to see it. This one was particularly bright and pretty. I think he must have just shed his skin. 

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