Thursday, 9 August 2012

Amazing Snake Pictures

If you’re anything like me, you love looking at pictures of snakes. It’s what brought you here. You admire and appreciate these animals for what they are — marvels of nature. Here are some pictures of what I feel are the most beautiful snakes in the world. Enjoy!

Temple Viper (Tropidolaemus wagleri)

This venomous snake is native to Southeast Asia (Thailand, Malaysia, Sumatra and several small islands). It is sometimes referred to as Wagler’s pit viper. The “temple” name comes from the fact that the snake is commonly found around the Temple of the Azure Cloud in Malaysia.
Temple viper picture
Temple viper. Image licensed to this website. Duplication prohibited.
If you look closely at the picture of this snake, you’ll see one of its distinguishing features. In between the eye and the nostril, you’ll notice a large pit. This is a heat-sensing pit that helps the temple viper detect its warm-blooded prey, even in darkness. Thus, it’s a member of the “pit viper” group of snakes. Note the golden eye with the elliptical pupil. Truly an amazing snake!

Emerald Tree Boa (Corallus caninus)

Imagine a snake that is born red or orange, only to turn green when it reaches adulthood. Sound like something out of science fiction? It’s not. It’s the emerald tree boa. This beautiful snake goes through an ontogenetic color change as it matures. “Ontogenetic” refers to something that happens between the embryonic an adult stage of an organism.
Emerald Tree Boa, juvenile specimen
Juvenile tree boa. Image licensed to this website. Duplication prohibited.
Adult tree boa
The tree boa with its adult colors. Public domain image.
The emerald tree boa usually changes color when it’s 9 – 12 months old. From that point on, it lives up to its “emerald” name. Below, you can see pictures of the snake in its juvenile and adult forms.
This snake is native to the rainforests of South America. It can reach adult lengths of up to six feet. It’s an arboreal species that spends most of its time in trees. This boa has large front teeth that help it capture prey from a perched position. It frequently hangs down from a branch to snatch up ground-dwelling mammals. It can swallow its prey while hanging from its tail upside down.
If you would like to see more snake pictures like this one, I recommend using Google Images. You’ll find thousands of emerald tree boa pictures online.

Gaboon Viper (Bitis gabonica)

Most snakes have excellent camouflage that helps them hunt for prey while avoiding predators. Of the 2,900 or so species on the planet, I would argue that the Gaboon viper has some of the best camouflage of all. In fact, when you first look at the snake picture below, it might take you a while to see the snake’s outline. It blends so well with the surrounding leaf litter.
Gaboon viper
Well-camouflaged Gaboon viper. Public domain image.
The Gaboon viper is native to Sub-Saharan Africa. It has the largest fangs of any venomous snake in the world. The fangs can be up to two inches long. It also has highly potent venom. Fortunately, it rarely bites humans.

Brazilian Rainbow Boa (Epicrates cenchria)

As you might have guessed, the Brazilian rainbow boa is native to Brazil. Actually, it can be found across much of Central and South America. These snakes have tiny ridges along the edges of their scales. When the sun shines on their scales, it produces a prism effect. It gives them a rainbow-like glow, which accounts for the snake’s name.
Rainbow Boa
Rainbow boa. Picture by Damien Farrell. Image license.
Rainbow boas are not truly arboreal (like the emerald tree boa that shares some of their range), but they are still excellent climbers. You can see this in the picture of the snake above. They will sometimes climb trees in search of a meal.

White-Lipped Pit Viper (Trimeresurus albolabris)

You’ll notice there are several pit vipers on this list. Four, to be exact. There’s a good reason for this. Pit vipers are some of the most beautiful snakes in the world. In fact, I could’ve made a list like this one using pit vipers exclusively. The white-lipped pit viper is another standout in this remarkable group of snakes.
white-lipped tree viper
White-lipped tree viper. Picture by W.A. Djatmiko. Image license.
By looking at the snake in the picture above, you can probably tell where this viper spends much of its time. That’s right, in the trees! This animal is perfectly suited for arboreal hunting (though it doesn’t hesitate to hunt on the ground when necessary). Like most pit vipers, this snake will eat nearly any vertebrate that it can find — rodents, small birds, frogs and lizards.

Eyelash Viper (Bothriechis schlegelii)

Pop quiz. Why do you think this snake is called the eyelash viper? That’s right, it has “lashes” over its eyes. Actually, they’re specialized scales that rise above the eye.
eyelash viper
Eyelash viper. Photo by Tad Arensmeier. Image license.
Most unique features in nature serve a purpose of some kind. Can you guess why this snake would need these specialized scaled over its eyes? Some biologists think the “eyelash” scales protect the snake’s eyes from tree branches. That seems plausible. But why don’t other arboreal species have them? Chalk it up as another mystery of nature.
I’ve included two pictures of this snake so you can see how much they vary, in terms of color. Some are almost completely yellow or orange, while others have a greenish blend of colors that conjures images of military camouflage.

Vine Snake (Ahaetulla nasuta)

Another pop quiz: Can you guess why this species is called the vine snake? That’s right, it looks just like a vine hanging from a tree. That’s actually how this snake hunts. It sits motionless in the foliage and waits for its prey to walk (or crawl) into striking range. In the snake picture below, you can see how the head is shaped like a leaf. Note the pointed snout.
vine snake
Vine snake. Photo by L. Shyamal. Image license.
There are actually several species that bear the name “vine snake.” The species pictured above (Ahaetulla nasuta) is found through much of southeastern Asia. This nocturnal animal lives in rainforest areas.

Rhinoceros Viper (Bitis nasicornis)

Pop quiz #3: Why do you think this snake is called the rhinoceros viper? That’s right, it has a horn rising up from its snout. Actually, the snake’s “horn” is made from specialized scales. Biologists do not know the purpose of these scales. Maybe they’re used to lure small mammals toward the snake’s head — and within striking distance.
Rhinoceros Viper
Rhinoceros viper. Image licensed to this website. Duplication prohibited.
Note the amazing camouflage this animal has. Whenever I see a picture of this snake (or the closely related Gaboon viper above), I think of Treebark camouflage. You can imagine how easily this viper would “disappear” among the leaf litter of the forest floor.
Refer back to the snake picture posted under the Gaboon viper above, and you’ll see how similar these two species are. Same genus, different species.
Bitis nasicornis
Bitis nasicornis. Photo by Al Coritz. Image license.
This snake is a classic ambush hunter. It has a wide, heavy body that serves as a launching platform when it strikes. It does not chase down prey, the way some snakes do. Instead, it takes a sit-and-wait approach to hunting. It sits motionless — and practically invisible — among the rocks and leaves, and waits for its prey to move into striking range. It’s all fangs and venom after that.

Black-Headed Python (Aspidites melanocephalus)

I have one more pop quiz, and this one will stump you for sure. Can you guess why this snake is called the black-headed python? This beautiful reptile is native to Australia. It’s a fairly large species that can reach adult lengths of 8 feet or more. In the snake picture above, you can see what makes this python so unique. The body usually includes various shades of cream, dark grey and brown. But the neck and head is jet black, as if it’s been dipped in ink.
black headed python of Austraila
Black-headed python. Photo by djambalawa. Image license.
It’s easy to figure out the naming strategy by looking at a picture of this snake. It’s called a black-headed python because it has a black head. Easy enough. But can you guess why it has a black head? Animal coloration usually relates back to survival in some way. Such is the case with this animal.
Personally, I think the head coloration has to do with either camouflage or temperature regulation. Here’s why:
During the warmer months, this Australian snake will hunt at night. It spends the hottest part of the day in burrows dug by other animals. It will emerge at night to hunt other reptiles, with a “side order” of small mammals. From a camouflage standpoint, I can see why the black head and neck would help this snake. It could stick its black head out of a burrow at night, without being seen.
The black head shown in the snake picture above could also be used for “thermoregulation.” This is a biological term that refers to the act of controlling one’s body temperature. Like all reptiles, snakes are ectothermic. This means they rely completely on their environment to warm their bodies. They cannot maintain a near-constant body temperature like humans can. They need to move in and out of warm areas to thermoregulate. The black-headed python’s head coloration could help it here too. It could poke its head and neck out of a burrow during the day, without exposing its entire body to predators. The dark coloration would soak up the sun’s rays, helping the snake warm its body while it remained mostly hidden below ground.

Vogel’s Pit Viper (Trimeresurus vogeli)

Yes, it’s another pit viper. Some of the most beautiful snakes in the world are pit vipers, including this one. This venomous serpent is native to Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam.
Vogel's pit viper
Vogel’s Pit Viper. Image licensed to this website. Duplication prohibited.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this collection of snake pictures as much as I enjoyed creating it. Believe it or not, we’ve only scratched the surface with this list. There are more than 2,800 species of snakes in the world! So you’ll find plenty of cool pictures out there.

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