Monday, June 4, 2007



Agkistrodon contortrix (24-36", up to 53")

picture of Copperhead

MA Status: "Endangered." Illegal to harass, kill, collect or possess.

Adult Copperhead

picture of the head of a Copperhead
Closeup of head

The copperhead is a venomous snake with a broad triangular head, vertically elliptical pupils and a heat sensitive pit between each eye and nostril. The body is pinkish to grayish brown with brown or reddish-brown crossbands that are narrow on the back and widest on the sides. Small dark spots commonly occur between crossbands on the back. The unpatterned head is dull orange, copper or rusty-red. Body scales are keeled and the belly is pink or light brown with dark blotches along the sides. When young, a copperhead has a yellow-tipped tail.

Mating takes place in spring and fall and females give birth to 4-8 young in August and September. Adult females usually give birth every two years.

Copperheads prefer rocky, forested hillsides and wetlands for habitat. Wet areas are particularly sought out in the hot summer months. Small mammals and frogs account for most of the prey items taken, but birds, insects and other snakes are also important parts of their diets. When approached, they will either move away quietly or lay motionless, relying on camouflage to protect them. Occasionally, they will vibrate their tails. Bites usually occur when people unknowingly step on or touch unseen snakes. Despite the venomous nature of copperhead bites, they are rarely fatal. In Massachusetts, copperheads are so rare and reclusive that people almost never encounter them.

More Information on Copperhead


Sunday, June 3, 2007

Milk Snake

Milk Snake

Lampropeltis triangulum (24-36", up to 52")

picture of Milk Snake

Adult Milk Snake

picture of head of Milk Snake
Closeup of head

A boldly patterned snake, the milk snake has a light gray to tan body covered with reddish-brown blotches bordered in black. Larger blotches on the back alternate with smaller ones on each side. The head is patterned, usually with a light colored "Y" or "V" within a reddish-brown patch. Smooth scales give this attractive snake a shiny or glossy appearance. The belly is patterned with an irregular checkerboard of black on white. Similarity of patterns causes some to confuse it with the copperhead; however, the copperhead lacks any pattern on the head. Tail rattling may also lead some to mistake it for a rattlesnake, although the two species look quite different.

Mating generally occurs in May, with females depositing 3-24 eggs in June and July. Eggs are deposited under rocks, boards or other debris, in rotting vegetation, stumps or logs, or small mammal burrows, and usually hatch in August and September.

Woodlands, fields, rocky hillsides and borders of wetlands provide natural habitat for milk snakes. They are also commonly found around houses, barns and outbuildings. Small mammals are the preferred prey of milk snakes, who are able to enter burrows and consume young in their nests. Milk snakes routinely eat other snakes, and may also take birds and bird eggs, frogs, fish, earthworms, slugs and insects. Primarily nocturnal, milk snakes can be found during the day under rocks, logs, or other cover. Although they are not very aggressive, milk snakes will bite and spray musk if handled.

More Information on Milk Snake


Snake Eat Goat (Picture)

source: Gambar HAMZAH MD SOM (


Poisonous Snakes

Practical Information for foreigners, expats and expatriates moving to Indonesia - find out about housing, schooling, transport, shopping and more to prepare you for your stay in Indonesia

There are approximately 450 species of snakes in Indonesia. Only five or so are considered dangerously poisonous and found around Jakarta like any wild animal, the snake will usually try to escape before it will attack. They can usually be depended on to bite if they are stepped on. Most are nocturnal and can be avoided by not walking barefoot at night in dark, swampy, bushy areas. Keeping one's garden clear of thick vegetation, tall grass, and dark rocky hideaways helps dissuade snakes from making one's house or yard a snake's hideaway. It is hoped that these illustrations will assist in identification of those species which are venomous. Indonesians often wrongly identify snakes and usually say that ALL are poisonous. A snake which cannot be positively identified SHOULD be considered dangerous.

VITAL 2007 UPDATE - Download and read more about Dangerous Venomous Snakes in Indonesia
[ Word 1.25 MB]

Snake bite treatment

It is important to distinguish between snakebite and snake poisoning. The bite from a harmless snake can produce mild pain and extreme fear. A bite from a venomous snake may not necessarily mean that venom has been injected into the wound. If someone has received a bite, check for symptoms of poisoning, keep the victim calm and treat for shock, and keep the site of the bite lower than the heart, and immobile. DO NOT ADMINISTER ALCOHOL.

Some good snake-related advice from a snake lover in Jakarta:

One alternative to killing snakes you find in your yard is to call a member of the Jakarta Reptile Lovers Association. Pak Gunawan is one of the founders and runs the reptile house at TMII. He doesn't speak any English, so get someone to translate for you when you call him. He'll come to your home and catch a snake (particularly if it's very big or rare and it's not too far away) whether venomous or not.

If you get bitten by a non-venomous snake, it may hold on for quite a while as it doesn't know what to do. To get the snake off you, either use a metal spoon to prise open its mouth (I don't approve of this as you'll hurt the snake badly by breaking its teeth) or put the part of you that's being bitten into a bucket/bath of water -- the snake won't be able to breath and will let go. Alternatively, just sit down on the ground, relax and wait for it to let go. If you make sudden movements and run around, it will hold on tighter. (As snakes can't hear it's quite ok to scream a lot as the bite will hurt.)

Coral snake --- Ular Cabe

This rare burrowing snake only reaches a length of about 50 cm. His slim back body has a line down its length with yellow markings on the small, flat head the belly is black and white checkered. The tail has a red-orange tip like chili pepper or a 'cabe'. He is shy and usually unwilling to bite. The venom is neurotoxic.

Banded Krait -- Ular Welang and Ular Weling

Both the Malayan and the Banded Krait are black with yellow bands and may be from 1-2 meters in length. They are found in or near paddies and bamboo groves. If disturbed they jerk their body and attempt to hide their head in the coils of their body. Due to their small head, shyness, and reluctance to bite, the chances of a fatal bite is slim, unless one treads on the startled snake. Their neurotoxic bite causes little pain or swelling but can produce muscle weakness, loss of coordination and eventual respiratory paralysis.

Black Spitting Cobra---Ular Sendok

King Cobra---Ular Raja

There are two species of cobra--- the king cobra, usually a resident of the paddies, and the Black Spitting Cobra, comfortable in semi-urban areas. Both are aggressive if disturbed. The Cobra is easily recognized when he rises and spreads his hood. The colors of the snake range from black to brown to olive. Both can reach a length of 4 meters. Only the Spitting Cobra, sometimes seen in Jakarta, can eject a spray of venom for several feet, aiming at the enemy's eyes. This can cause temporary blindness but can be removed with repeated rinsing with sterile water. The nuerotoxic bite of either can cause pain and swelling with general muscle weakness following and eventual respiratory paralysis.

Malayan Pit Viper -- Ular Tanah

Green Pit Viper -- Ulat Bankai Laut or Ular Hijau Ekor Mira

Both the Malayan Pit Viper and the Green Pit Viper are found around Jakarta. Each has a distinctive triangular head shape, stocky body, and a length of about 80 cm. Each has the ability to jump with great force when attacking. The Malayan Pit Viper is reddish brown with triangular markings on his sides and the Green Pit Viper is bright green with a distinct red tail. The Malayan Pit Viper rattles with his tail before striking as a warning. Vipers are nocturnal and can be easily be avoided by staying away from fields and rocky areas. The Hemotoxic bite causes immediate pain, swelling, bleeding, and tissue damage.

Sea Snake --- Ular Laut

There are varying types…… with bands or stripes in colors ranging through brown, olive, and yellow. All have a paddle-shaped tail and are found along the coast and in the sea. They are shy and will not bite unless provoked. The nuerotoxic bite is dangerous and there is no anti venom in Jakarta.

Blue Temple Viper

A tree snake whose bite is haematotoxic and indeed very dangerous. The affected limb of snake bite victim must be completely immobilized and a stretch bandage should be applied. The victim then needs to be transferred to the nearest hospital or emergency room for observation of signs of invenemation. We do not recommend to use antivenin, unless the patient is developing symptoms of invenemation, since most snake bites do not inject significant amounts of venom during a bite.

Manipulation of the wound, suction, squeezing, massage, cutting the skin or application of ointments or remedies only increases the absorption of the venom, and should never be attempted. A polyvalent antivenom is available at the International SOS clinics in Bali and Jakarta.

A non-venomous Indonesian snake is the Retriculated Python pictured here:

Toxic Caterpillars

Note: Not in the snake category, but just to make you aware, many varieties of caterpillars in Indonesia have an irritant in their fur. AVOID touching any caterpillars (ulat bulu), or the leaves which they crawl upon, in Indonesia as skin contact can result in swelling, welts and severe irritations.

Source: Introducing Indonesia, 5th edition, AWA.(

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Snake (Encyclopedia)


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Wikipedia:How to read a taxobox
How to read a taxobox
Fossil range: Cretaceous - Recent
A coral snake
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Sauropsida
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Linnaeus, 1758
blue: sea snakes, black: land snakes
blue: sea snakes, black: land snakes
Superfamilies and Families

A snake is a scaly, limbless, elongate reptile from the order Squamata. An old synonym for snake is serpent (which comes from Old French, and ultimately from *serp-, "to creep"[1]); in modern usage this usually refers to a mythic or symbolic snake, and information about such creatures can be found under serpent (symbolism). This article deals with the biology of snakes.



[edit] Evolution

The phylogeny of snakes is poorly known due to the fact that snake skeletons are typically small and fragile, making fossilization unlikely. It has however been generally agreed, on the basis of morphology, that snakes descended from lizard-like ancestors. Recent research based on genetics and biochemistry confirms this; snakes form a venom clade with several extant lizard families.

Recent fossil evidence suggests that snakes directly evolved from burrowing lizards, either varanids or some other group. An early fossil snake, Najash rionegrina, was a two-legged burrowing animal with a sacrum, fully terrestrial. One extant analog of these putative ancestors is the earless monitor Lanthanotus of Borneo, although it also is semi-aquatic. As these ancestors became more subterranean, they lost their limbs and became more streamlined for burrowing. Features such as the transparent, fused eyelids (brille) and loss of external ears, according to this hypothesis, evolved to combat subterranean conditions (scratched corneas, dirt in the ears). According to this hypothesis, snakes re-emerged onto the surface of the land much as they are today. Other primitive snakes are known to have possessed hindlimbs but lacked a direct connection of the pelvic bones to the vertebrae, including Haasiophis, Pachyrhachis and Eupodophis) which are slightly older than Najash.

Primitive groups among the modern snakes, pythons and boas, do have vestigial hind limbs, tiny, clawed digits known as anal spurs and used to grasp during mating. Leptotyphlopidae and Typhlopidae are other examples where remnants of the pelvic girdle are still present, in Leptotyphlopidae sometimes as horny projections or not visible at all. The frontal limbs in all snakes are gone because of the evolution of the Hox genes in this area. The axial skeleton of the snakes' common ancestor had like most other tetrapods the familiar regional specializations consisting of cervical (neck), thoracic (chest), lumbar (lower back), sacral (pelvic) and caudal (tail) vertebrae. But the Hox gene expression in the axial skeleton responsible for the development of the thorax became dominant early in snake evolution. As a result, the vertebrae anterior to the hindlimb buds (when present) all have the same thoracic-like identity (except from the atlas, axis and 1-3 neck vertebrae), meaning most of the snake's skeleton is actually made up of an extremely extended thorax. Ribs are found exclusively on the thoracic vertebrae. The neck, lumbar and pelvic vertebrae are very reduced in number (only 2-10 lumbar and pelvic vertebrae are still present), while only a short tail remains of the caudal vertebrae, although the tail is still long enough to be of good use in many species, and is modified in some aquatic and tree dwelling species. Because the front (thoracic) limbs in tetrapods appear in the area between the neck and the thorax, a location that is now almost absent in snakes, there is simply no longer any room left where they can develop.

The alternative hypothesis, based on morphology, suggests that ancestors were related to mosasaurs — extinct aquatic reptiles from the Cretaceous — which in turn are thought to have derived from varanid lizards. Under this hypothesis, the fused, transparent eyelids of snakes are thought to have evolved to combat marine conditions (corneal water loss through osmosis), while the external ears were lost through disuse in an aquatic environment, ultimately leading to an animal similar in appearance to sea snakes of today. In the Late Cretaceous, snakes re-colonized the land much like they are today. Fossil snake remains are known from early Late Cretaceous marine sediments, which is consistent with this hypothesis, particularly as they are older than the terrestrial Najash rionegrina. Similar skull structure; reduced/absent limbs; and other anatomical features found in both mosasaurs and snakes lead to a positive cladistical

correlation, though some features are also shared with varanids. Supposedly similar locomotion for both groups is also used as support for this hypothesis. Genetic studies have indicated that snakes are not especially related to monitor lizards, and (it has been claimed) therefore not to mosasaurs, the proposed ancestor in the aquatic scenario of their evolution. However, there is more evidence linking mosasaurs to snakes than to varanids. Fragmentary remains that have been found from the Jurassic and Early Cretaceous indicate deeper fossil records for these groups, which may eventually refute either hypothesis.

The great diversity of modern snakes appeared in the Paleocene, probably correlated with the adaptive radiation of mammals following the extinction of the dinosaurs.

[edit] Digestion and diet

Snake eating a rat
Snake eating a rat

All snakes are carnivorous, eating small animals including lizards and other snakes, rodents and other small mammals, birds, eggs or insects. Some snakes have a venomous bite, which they use to kill their prey before eating it. Other snakes kill their prey by constriction. Still others swallow their prey whole and alive. Most snakes are very easy to feed in captivity.

Snakes do not chew their food and have a very flexible lower jaw, the two halves of which are not rigidly attached, and numerous other joints in their skull (see snake skull), allowing them to open their mouths wide enough to swallow their prey whole, even if it is larger in diameter than the snake itself. It is a common misconception that snakes actually dislocate their lower jaw to consume large prey.

After eating, snakes become torpid while the process of digestion takes place. Digestion is an intensive activity, especially after the consumption of very large prey. In species that feed only sporadically, the entire intestine enters a reduced state between meals to conserve energy, and the digestive system is 'up-regulated' to full capacity within 48 hours of prey consumption. So much metabolic energy is involved in digestion that in Crotalus durissus, the Mexican rattlesnake, an increase of body temperature to as much as 14 degrees Celsius above the surrounding environment has been observed.[2] Because of this, a snake disturbed after having eaten recently will often regurgitate its prey in order to be able to escape the perceived threat. However, when undisturbed, the digestive process is highly efficient, dissolving and absorbing everything but hair and claws, which are excreted along with uric acid waste. Snakes have been known to occasionally die from trying to swallow an animal that is too big. Snake digestive fluids are unable to digest most plant matter, which passes through the digestive system mostly untouched.

Snakes do not normally prey on people, but there are instances of small children being eaten by large constrictors in the jungle.[citation needed] While some particularly aggressive species exist, most will not attack humans unless startled or injured, preferring instead to avoid contact. The majority of snakes are either non-venomous or possess venom that is not harmful to humans.

As a general rule, snakes eat rodents. There are exceptions to this, such as the natal green snake, which eats insects. Snakes generally specialise in a few food types (for example, royal pythons will generally eat mice and gerbils in the wild). However, they do not need to hunt every day. A big meal will keep some snakes content for a long time. Anacondas and pythons can live for a year after eating large prey.(

[edit] Skin

The skin is covered in scales. Many people are surprised to find that snakeskin has a smooth, dry texture, instead of a slimy texture as might be expected. Some people are afraid to touch them because they confuse snakes with worms. Most snakes use specialized belly scales to travel, gripping surfaces. The body scales may be smooth, keeled, or granular. Their eyelids are transparent "spectacle" scales which remain permanently closed, called brille. They shed their skin periodically. Unlike other reptiles, this is done in one piece, like pulling off a sock, with the snake rubbing its nose against something rough, like a rock, for instance, creating a rip in the skin around the nose and the mouth until the skin is completely removed.[1] The primary purpose of shedding this is to grow; shedding also removes external parasites. This periodic renewal has led to the snake being a symbol of healing and medicine, as pictured in the Rod of Asclepius. In "advanced" (Caenophidian) snakes, the broad belly scales and rows of dorsal scales correspond to the vertebrae, allowing scientists to count the vertebrae without dissection. If there is not enough humidity in the air while snakes are shedding their skin, it can be very dangerous for the snake, because the dry skin does not shed. Skin that remains attached to the snake can harbour diseases and parasites. A tail tip that is not removed can constrict as the snake grows, cutting off the blood supply to the end of the tail causing it to drop off. A retained spectacle can cause the snake to become blind in the affected eye.

[edit] Perception

Thermographic image of a snake eating a mouse.
Thermographic image of a snake eating a mouse.

While snake vision is unremarkable (generally being best in arboreal species and worst in burrowing species), it is able to detect movement. Some snakes, like the Asian vine snake, have binocular vision. In most snakes, the lens moves back and forth within the eyeball to focus. In addition to their eyes, some snakes (pit vipers, pythons, and some boas) have infrared-sensitive receptors in deep grooves between the nostril and eye which allow them to "see" the radiated heat.

Snakes have no external ears, but they do have a bone called the quadrate under the skin on either side of the head which focuses sound into the cochlea.[2] Their sense of hearing is most sensitive to frequencies around 200–300 Hz.

A snake smells by using its forked tongue to collect airborne particles then passing them to the Jacobson's organ or the Vomeronasal organ in the mouth for examination. The fork in the tongue gives the snake a sort of directional sense of smell. The part of the body which is in direct contact with the surface of the ground is very sensitive to vibration, thus a snake is able to sense other animals approaching.

[edit] Internal organs

1: esophagus2: trachea3:tracheal lungs4: rudimentary left lung4: right lung6: heart7: liver8 stomach9: air sac10: gallbladder11: pancreas12: spleen13: intestine14: testicles15: kidneys

Anatomy of a snake. 1 esophagus, 2 trachea, 3 tracheal lungs, 4 rudimentary left lung, 5 right lung, 6 heart, 7 liver, 8 stomach, 9 air sac, 10 gallbladder, 11 pancreas, 12 spleen, 13 intestine, 14 testicles, 15 kidneys.
Anatomy of a snake. 1 esophagus, 2 trachea, 3 tracheal lungs, 4 rudimentary left lung, 5 right lung, 6 heart, 7 liver, 8 stomach, 9 air sac, 10 gallbladder, 11 pancreas, 12 spleen, 13 intestine, 14 testicles, 15 kidneys.

The left lung is very small or sometimes even absent, as snakes' tubular bodies require all of their organs to be long and thin. To accommodate them all, only one lung is functional. This lung contains a vascularized anterior portion and a posterior portion which does not function in gas exchange. This 'saccular lung' may be used to adjust buoyancy in some aquatic snakes and its function remains unknown in terrestrial species. Also, many organs that are paired, such as kidneys or reproductive organs, are staggered within the body, with one located ahead of the other. Snakes have no urinary bladder.

[edit] Locomotion

Snakes utilize a variety of methods of movement which allows them substantial mobility in spite of their legless condition. All snakes are capable of lateral undulation, in which the body is flexed side-to-side, and the flexed areas propagate posteriorly, giving the overall shape of a posteriorly

[edit] Reproduction

A wide range of reproductive modes are used by snakes. All snakes employ internal fertilization, accomplished by means of paired, forked hemipenes, which are stored inverted in the male's tail. Most snakes lay eggs, and of those most species abandon them shortly after laying; however, some species are ovoviviparous and retain the eggs within their bodies until they are almost ready to hatch. Recently, it has been confirmed that several species of snake are fully viviparous, such as the green anaconda, nourishing their young through a placenta as well as a yolk sac, highly unusual among reptiles, or indeed anything else outside of placental mammals. Retention of eggs and live birth are commonly, but not exclusively, associated with cold environments, as the retention of the young within the female allows her to control their temperature more effectively than if the developing young were in external eggs.

[edit] Venom

See also: Snake venom

A venomous snake is a snake that uses modified saliva, venom, delivered through fangs in its mouth, to immobilize or kill its prey. Venomous snakes include several families of snakes and do not constitute a formal classification group used in taxonomy. The term poisonous snake is false - poison is inhaled or ingested whereas venom is injected. (In contrast, a few non-venomous species are constrictors such as pythons, anacondas, and boa constrictors which suffocate their prey.) Snake venom can contain many different active agents, and can potentially be a mix of neurotoxins (which attack the nervous system), hemotoxins (which attack the circulatory system), cytotoxins, bungarotoxins and many other toxins that affect the body in different ways. Snake venom is never a single type of toxin[citation needed].

Venomous snakes that use hemotoxins usually have their fangs to secrete the venom in the front of their mouths, making it easier for them to inject the venom into their victims. Snakes that use neurotoxins, such as the mildly venomous mangrove snake, have their fangs located in the back of their mouths, with the fangs curled backwards. This makes it both difficult for the snake to use its venom and for scientists to milk them.[citation needed]

It has recently been suggested that all snakes are in fact venomous to some degree.[citation needed] Snakes all evolved from a common lizard ancestor that was venomous, from which venomous lizards like the gila monster and beaded lizard also derived. The research suggests that snakes all have venom glands, even species thought totally harmless such as the Corn Snake, commonly kept as a pet. What differentiates 'venomous' from 'non-venomous' is the evolution of a venom delivery system, the most advanced being that of vipers, with fangs that are hinged to prevent self envenomation, and curl out as the snake strikes.

Venomous snakes are generally classified in four taxonomic families:

[edit] Snakes biting humans

Main article: Snake bite

Documented deaths resulting from snake bites are uncommon (about 1/1000 in most areas of the world. Only about 450 species of snakes are venomous (with only about 250 that are able to kill a human), and among the 7,000 Americans bitten by venomous snakes every year, fewer than fifteen die. See snakebites for more information, including prevention of snake bites and first aid treatment.

Brown Snake
Brown Snake

[edit] Snake charmers

In some parts of the world, especially in India and Pakistan, snake charming is a roadside show performed by a charmer. In this, the snake charmer carries a basket that contains a snake which he seemingly charms by playing tunes from his flute-like musical instrument, to which the snake responds. However, snakes lack ears, either external or internal. Therefore they are unable to hear the music from the flute.

Researchers have pointed out that many of these snake charmers are good sleight-of-hand artists. The snake moves corresponding to the flute movement and the vibrations from the tapping of the charmer's foot which is not noticed by the public. They rarely catch their snakes and the snakes are either nonvenomous or defanged cobras. Sometimes these people exploit the fear of snakes by releasing snakes into the neighbourhood and then offering to rid the residence of snakes. Other snake charmers also have a snake and mongoose show, where both the animals have a mock fight; however, this is not very common, as the snakes, as well as the mongooses, may be seriously injured or killed.

Snake charming as a profession is now dissuaded[unclear] in India as a contribution to forest and snake conservation. In fact in some places in India snake charming is banned by law.[citation needed]

[edit] Snake trapping

Despite the existence of snake charmers, there have also been professional snake catchers or wranglers. The tribals of "Irulas" from Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu in India have been practicing this art for generations. They generally don't use gimmicks and with the help of a simple stick catch the snakes from the fields or houses. They are also known to eat some of the snakes they catch and are very useful in rat extermination in the villages.[citation needed] Their knowledge of snakes and their behaviour is uncanny. Modern day snake trapping involves a herpetologist using a long stick with a "V" shaped end. Some like Steve Irwin, Bill Hasst, Joel La Rocque, and Jeff Corwin prefer to catch them using bare hands. At least one tribe of natives uses a specialized form of snake catching as a rite of passage to manhood.[citation needed] The young man of interest will wrap his leg heavily in some type of cloth all the way to the inseam. He will then stick his leg in a burrow containing a large python, typically a reticulated python. After the snake swallows most of his leg several other members of the tribe will pull him out of the hole along with the snake. The snake is then killed and the man's leg removed from the snake. These snakes can be over 20 ft long and it is possible for the man to have his leg dislocated. The scent of a prey animal may be used to help convince the snake to swallow the leg. Snakes have a single-track digestive system, but the digestion process actually takes longer.

[edit] Human consumption of snakes

In some cultures, the consumption of snakes is acceptable,[3] or even considered a delicacy,[4] prized for its alleged pharmaceutical effect of warming the heart. Western cultures document the consumption of snakes under extreme circumstances of hunger.[5] However, human consumption of snake meat, especially when eaten raw, may lead to dangerous parasitic infections. Cooked rattlesnake meat is an exception, which is commonly consumed in the Western United States. In Asian countries, drinking the blood of snakes, particularly the cobra, is believed to increase sexual virility. The blood is drained while the cobra is still alive when possible, and is usually mixed with some form of liquor to improve the taste.

In some Asian countries, the use of snakes in alcohol is also accepted. In such cases, the body of a snake or several snakes is left to steep in a jar or container of liquor. It is claimed that this makes the liquor stronger (as well as more expensive). One example of this is the Habu snake sometimes placed in the Okinawan liquor Awamori.

[edit] Symbolism

Main article: Serpent (symbolism)

In Egyptian history, the snake occupies a primary role with the Nile cobra adorning the crown of the pharaoh in ancient times. It was worshipped as one of the Gods and was also used for sinister purposes: murder of an adversary and ritual suicide (Cleopatra).

In Greek Mythology snakes are often associated with deadly and dangerous antagonists. The 9 headed Hydra Hercules defeated and the three Gorgon sisters are literary examples. Medusa was one of the three Gorgon sisters who Perseus defeated. Medusa is described as a hideous mortal, with snakes instead of hair and the power to turn men to stone with her gaze.

Two medical symbols involving snakes that are still used today are Bowl of Hygieia, symbolizing pharmacy, and the Caduceus and Rod of Asclepius, which are symbols denoting medicine in general.

India is often called the land of snakes and is steeped in tradition regarding snakes. Snakes are worshipped as gods even today with many women pouring milk on snake pits (despite snakes' aversion for milk). The cobra is seen on the neck of Shiva and Vishnu is depicted often as sleeping only on a 7 headed snake. There are also several temples in India solely for cobras sometimes called Nagraj (King of Snakes) and it is believed that snakes are symbols of fertility. There is a Hindu festival called Nagpanchami each year on which day snakes are venerated and prayed to. See also Nāga.

In Christianity and Judaism the snake makes its infamous appearance in the first book (Genesis) of the Bible when a snake appears before the first couple Adam and Eve and tempts them with the forbidden fruit. It is also seen in Exodus when Moses, as a sign of God's power, turns his stick into a snake; snakes are similarly produced by the pharaoh's magic-practicing priests, but Moses' snake devours them. Later Moses made Nehushtan, a bronze snake on a pole that when looked at cured the people of bites from the snakes that plagued them in the desert. Jesus instructed his disciples to be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.

The Ouroboros is a symbol that is associated with many different religions and customs, and is also claimed to be related to Alchemy. The Ouroboros or Oroboros is a snake eating its own tail in a clock-wise direction (from the head to the tail) in the shape of a circle, representing manifestation of one's own life and rebirth, leading to immortality.

Snake belongs to one of the 12 celestial animals of Chinese Zodiac, in the Chinese calendar.

[edit] See also

[edit] Footnotes

  1. ^ Definition of serpent - Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. Retrieved on 12 October 2006.
  2. ^ The thermogenesis of digestion in rattlesnakes. Journal of Experimental Biology 207 579-585. The Company of Biologists (2004). Retrieved on 2006-05-26, 2006.

[edit] References

Romulus Whitaker (English edition); Tamil translation by O.Henry Francis (1996). நம்மை சுட்ரியுள்ள பாம்புகள் (Snakes around us, Tamil). National Book Trust. ISBN 81-237-1905-1.

(Fr: Wikipedia)