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When Snakes Fall From Trees

March 5, 2008

When snakes fall from trees : Nature News Annotated


Snakes make good climbers on narrow branches.

Snakes, like all cold-blooded animals, cannot control their body temperature. Instead, they tend to go along with the conditions of their environment, slowing down their movement as the temperature drops. In particularly cold conditions, some reptiles become completely immobile, which can cause problems. A cold snap in Florida this past winter, for example, caused iguanas to fall out of their arboreal homes.

Snakes make good climbers on narrow branches.Snakes make good climbers on narrow branches.

The team reports in the Journal of Experimental Zoology 1 that at high temperatures snakes moved faster and were more stretched out along branches of all diameters. At lower temperatures, snakes moved much slower and adopted a looped posture — their bodies meandered along the branch, improving stability.

The snakes were about ten times more likely to fall at the coldest temperature than at the warmest temperature, even though they were still mobile. The falling and the looped posture hint that temperature might have an effect on balance as well as movement, the team says…

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