Sunday, November 16, 2008

Alligator versus python

"I used to let Myles sleep with Larry and me so he could stay warm, but he pooped the bed one night so Larry put an end to that." ~My friend CJ, on cuddling with her beloved six-foot pet python

My friend CJ, a wonderful artist who marches to the beat of her own drummer, had a python named Myles. While cleaning his cage, Myles needed to be kept warm, so she asked me to hold him. I said sure, as I'm not scared of snakes (cockroaches make me scream like a little girl, but not pythons).

So she carries Myles over to me and plops him on my lap. Two things shocked me. One: his extremely heavy weight. Snakes are solid muscle, and Myles felt like a ton of bricks. Two: snakes have no body heat whatsoever, and Myles was as cold as that Boston winter morning. Sensing my body heat was there for the taking, Myles started to slither up toward my head. "Uh, Myles, what are you doing?" I asked him, although snakes are deaf and he could have cared less that he was making me nervous.

Myles got up to eye level where he checked me out, his black forked tongue flicking in and out. Snakes use their tongue to smell. I hoped he didn't smell fear. Myles seemed friendly enough, though, and I wasn't worried that he'd strangle me. However when he decided to go exploring down my sweater, that was another issue altogether.

"CJ? What is he doing?" I asked in a panicky tone. She turned around from her cage-cleaning duties, amused, and said, "He's burrowing for warmth, don't worry, he won't hurt you."

Before I knew it, Myles had slithered down to my stomach, wrapped himself around me a couple of times and stuck his head out the bottom of my sweater so he could keep an eye on things. I had to laugh. This was one of the most bizarre pets I'd ever met. And he was still ice cube cold. No matter how long he remained in contact with my skin, poor Myles never seemed to warm up. I hoped CJ was almost done with the cage.

When I saw this photo this morning, I almost fainted:

There is a python explosion (literally and figuratively) in the Florida Everglades. People who buy them for pets get rid of them once they grow to cat-munching size and now they've run amok, taking over the ecosystem. This python swallowed a live alligator -- whole -- and biologists believe the gator clawed and clawed until the snake exploded. How revolting of a double death is that?

Makes me think of Myles in a whole new light. I'm glad he liked me, or that at least he wasn't hungry that day.


Tiger said...

Okay, I'm gonna be an obnoxious know it all.

Snakes are not quite deaf. Although they do not have ears like most mammals do, they are able to sense vibrations in a similar way (and after all, what is hearing but sensing vibrations).

Technically, snakes do not smell with their tongue. Although the tongue is a chemo receptor, (and taste and smell are both forms of chemoreception) the jacobson's organ processes it's information in the accessory olfactory bulb part of the brain and not the olfactory part of the brain (which is technically how scent is defined). In humans a scent is consious and things that stumulate our minimal accessory olfactory bulb are unconscious and do not actually have a detectable "scent". Human thermones (or human musk) is actually processed in the accessory olfactory part of the brain.

I guess I can die happily now that I got all that off my chest.

Memetician said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Memetician said...

Take two with trying to respond here.

Yeah yeah I know. Thought I'd keep things simple since I'm not lecturing to biology doctoral candidates. Big picture is I'm just telling my token weird snake story.

Tiger said...

I obviously loved the token weird snake story. And also deserve a good know-it-all doctoral biology sort of kick in the butt.