Sunday, April 22, 2012

It Isn't Easy Staying Green

Blue Snake of Bull Creek- Click to enlarge
I found this snake laying on the edge of the glade, quite dead and stiff. You will notice that the ten inch specimen is missing its tail end and some ribs are showing through the skin. I was hoping I had found the elusive Bull Creek blue snake, a species that hasn't been discovered or even talked about by anyone.

Its size, color and rough scales suggested it was the remains of a rough green snake that had been through hard times. I sent the pictures to Dr. Brian Greene of the Biology Department at MSU. His research is focused on the ecology and conservation of reptiles, particularly snakes.

He techniques include "utilizing mark-recapture techniques and radiotelemetry to address population-level questions involving foraging ecology, reproductive life history, demography, activity patterns, spatial ecology, and habitat selection." In other words, this otherwise intelligent scientist walks around the woods following and capturing snakes, including those venomous types that normal people would want to see only on the pages of the Missouri Conservationist.

Dr. Greene was kind enough to respond to my questions about the Bull Creek blue snake and confirm my guess.
"It’s definitely a rough green snake. For whatever reason the green pigment seems to break down quickly after they die, resulting in a bluish-gray looking animal. There must be some environmental influences on the chemistry of the pigments because fluid preserved specimens turn really dark instead."
The rough green snake, Opheodrys aestivus, is said to favor wetlands although we see them up along our glade as well.  It hunts during the day and night unlike many snakes.  Its main prey are insects and other arthropods which it swallows whole.  Although the females lay 2-14 eggs, they frequently have a communal nest with other females with up to 75 eggs total.  They need to have lots of babies as they are a nice swallowing size for birds and other snakes.

Dr. Greene's new squelched my hopes.  I already had my new species named- Cerulli kipferii var. Bullcreek.

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