Wednesday, February 05, 2014
by Corinna of TheFrogBag
Photos courtesy of Arkive.com & BBC
Tibetan Hot-spring Snake
What’s whip thin, fish fast, and comfortably cozy almost all the time? Even snake enthusiasts may be unfamiliar with this week’s charismatic critter, the Tibetan hot-spring snake (Thermophis baileyi).
Maxing out at two and a half feet long, this petite snake inhabits only about 10 sites in Tibet, all of them at over 14,000 feet elevation. How high is that? Picture Mt. Rainier or Pike’s Peak. Now imagine being a tiny animal that can’t make its own heat, stranded at the very top. I think, under the circumstances, I’d choose to spend my life in a hot spring too.
In reality, these snakes do move around, out of the water, through marshes and rocky areas, even across rivers. But they never venture far from the non-sulfurous springs where they hunt for fish and amphibians. Even the genus name, Thermophis, means “heat snake.”
Bizarrely, they don’t have any close cousins among other Asian reptiles. Their closest living relatives are all colubrids from South America. That’s because they probably diverged from other snakes about 28 million years ago, when colubrids still lived in Asia. Their brethren made the crossing over the Bering Land Bridge, leaving the Tibetan hot-spring snake behind. Who can blame them for staying? Life in a hot spring sounds like a pretty good deal.
Sadly, climate change and the expanding use of geothermal energy is threatening the hot-spring snake’s limited habitat, resulting in their classification as “vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List. The fact that most people have never even heard of them makes the listing even more frightening. But hopefully, with more awareness and knowledge, this little snake will be enjoying its strange, comfortable lifestyle for many generations to come.
Posted by Brizel Handcrafts on Wednesday, February 05, 2014