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  Topic: Chameleonic snake< Next Oldest | Next Newest >  

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(Permalink) Posted: June 27 2006,13:35   

They say it's "rare", but i can't think of any other snakes that can change color this fast, except IIRC, some species of sea snakes.  Just how rare is it?  anybody here a herpetologist?

"And the sea will grant each man new hope..."


Chris Hyland

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(Permalink) Posted: June 28 2006,02:05   

Thats pretty interesting, I havent heard of that before, but Im not a herpetologist.


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(Permalink) Posted: June 28 2006,02:15   

Similar brief on it at

Very neatoriffic.

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Linky“. ~ Steve Story, Legend


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(Permalink) Posted: June 28 2006,11:30   

I seem to recall Rev. Dr. Lenny is an amateur herpetologist. He may know whether this happens in any other snakes, but I don't know that he ever reads these boards. Someone may need to make an off-topic comment to him on Panda's Thumb.


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(Permalink) Posted: June 28 2006,12:22   

yeah, I've never really understood why Lenny refuses to spend time around these parts.

well, in his own words:


I tried to recall where I saw the reference to some sea snakes changing color, but I can't even verify that now. In fact, a general search for snakes that change color in anything but an ontogenetic fashion yielded *zilch*. This does indeed appear a very rare trait.

When i think about it, there could be a dozen different plausible reasons why this trait is so much more common in lizards than snakes, like differences in hunting techniques or common predators, differences in territorial behavior, etc., but I also wonder if it likely appeared as a trait long after the two lines went their separate ways. I do wish the little news blip I found went into a bit more detail. Is the color change in this snake another example of convergent evolution?

"And the sea will grant each man new hope..."


"Rev Dr" Lenny Flank

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(Permalink) Posted: June 28 2006,13:49   

I'm quite skeptical of this report, since there are no other snakes reported to have this ability to rapidly change skin color.  But then, I suppose it's not impossible, since snakes are descended from lizards, and many lizards can indeed alter their pigment cells to change color (not, as is usually thought, for camouflage, but more often for either temperature control -- darker when cold, lighter when hot -- or for sexual or territorial display).

There are of course snakes that change their colors as they get older (black rat snakes, for instance, are grey with black splotches when born), but I'm not aware of any that are known to rapidly change their skin color in response to immediate environmental factors, a la lizards.  Since snakes are very secretive and are seldom seen in the open, and most of them are nocturnal, and all of them (well, nearly all of them) have atrociously bad eyesight, I'm not sure what the purpose of such a talent would be.

So I'm taking a wait-and-see attitude to this report.  


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Stephen Elliott

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(Permalink) Posted: June 28 2006,23:51   

It is also reported here and here.


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(Permalink) Posted: June 29 2006,04:16   

There are a few snakes that can mimic color changes simply by stretching or inflating their bodies and displaying more underlying skin than scales.  The Australian green tree snake is one such example.  But this sounds like something completely diferent.  I think I'll join Lenny in remaining skeptical for now.

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(Permalink) Posted: June 29 2006,04:44   

??? The entire body of supporting evidence seems to be that someone put the snake into a bucket, checked back later, and the snake looked white. No subsequent tests performed, at least none are mentioned. No description of the bucket color, the lighting or other observation circumstances, the number of people making the observaton, etc. You'd think even for a newspaper article, someone would have done at least a *little* more checking. The result is an awful lot of conclusion based on a mighty flimsy allegation.

On the other hand, it would seem to be a LOT easier to verify or falsify this claim than has been the case with the alleged ivory billed woodpecker.


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(Permalink) Posted: June 29 2006,13:31   

well, the BBC version at least said the bucket was "dark".


However, I think the reason a lot of detail is left out is the primary source of the press release:  WWF.

when has the World Wrestling Federation ever been forthcoming with details of animal research?

Yeah, OK, that was bad.

still, the point is that World Wildlife Fund is far more interested in promoting its habitat conservation policy, and was just using the discovery of this snake to do it.

Yes, it does seem readily verifiable in the sense that supposedly whoever collected the specimens would still have them, and it shouldn't be hard to duplicate any color changing trait they exhibit.

Still, Lenny and Flint are right; one does start to wonder how a find important as this one hasn't had parallel press releases.  So far, it looks like just the one initial press release from WWF.

Well, like i said, if accurate, it truly is an important discovery, and there should be followups in the coming weeks.

I'll keep my eye out for anything relevant, and post it back here.

"And the sea will grant each man new hope..."


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