SIDEBAR

Face-off – Snake vs Snail

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Jun 30 2015
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Our bike had given us some serious problems that evening. Some distance from the Kalinga Centre for Rainforest Ecology camp site near Agumbe, it had given up. While we pushed it along the mud track, our torch found something bright on the ground.

Something bright on the ground...a Malabar Pit Viper!!

Something bright on the ground…a Malabar Pit Viper!!

A Malabar Pit Viper (Trimeresurus malabaricus) in hunting position…on the ground! Though I’ve come across Malabar Pit Vipers on twigs an inch or so from the ground, this is the first time I was seeing one on the ground. The camera came out and a couple of photographs followed.

As the excitement became more controlled, we saw a snail crawling slowly but surely towards the Pit Viper.

Face Off

Face Off

What was going to happen next? This was even more exciting that finding the snake on the ground. At first, the snake didn’t seem to bother, even if it might’ve noticed the snail. A couple of moments later, it lifted its head a bit into the air. Was it trying to understand what was slowly crawling towards it? Was it evaluating whether this was meal or danger?

Malabar Pit Viper raises its head

Malabar Pit Viper raises its head

The snail too paused for a few moments, as if sizing up the obstacle. This was becoming a gripping thriller, evolving at snail’s pace (literally). One question was running in my mind. Would the snail’s shell break and harm the snake if it swallowed it?

Then the snail moved closer, and ended up almost cuddling up to the snake!

Snail cuddling up to Malabar Pit Viper

Snail cuddling up to Malabar Pit Viper

And then slowly, it started climbing up the snake. The Malabar Pit Viper remained as calm and still as ever while the snail crawled over it and went its way!!

Snail crawling on Malabar Pit Viper!

Snail crawling on Malabar Pit Viper!

The rainforest never ceases to surprise. And leaves more questions than answers.

 

About Malabar Pit Viper – Malabar Pit Vipers are endemic to the rainforests of the Western Ghats of India. Found almost across the length of the Ghats, these venomous snakes are often seen in good numbers during the monsoons. They lie still in hunting position (typically at night) waiting for their prey to pass by. Using heat-sensing pits between their eyes and nostrils, they locate their prey and strike at it injecting venom.

They can be of various colour morphs – while the green morph (seen in this story) and the brown morph are the most common, they are seen even in orange and yellow colour morphs.

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