Can Snakes Strike Up?

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Noah M
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Can Snakes Strike Up?

Post by Noah M » October 22nd, 2015, 5:15 pm

I've been sitting on this question for a while, too embarrassed to ask it. It just sounds dumb when I think about it.

I know researchers have examined how far forward a snake can strike relative to body length. But has anybody ever measured the angle of attack relative to a plane that holds the majority of the snake? Basically, I'm not talking about a mostly vertically oriented snake striking up or down. Some measure of orientation of the body would be made, and then the angle of attack relative to that plane.

And does the angle vary between species? Maybe arboreal species are generally better than terrestrial ones, or maybe it depends upon primary prey items. Which snake has the greatest range? Is there a species that can strike straight up?

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nhherp
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Re: Can Snakes Strike Up?

Post by nhherp » October 22nd, 2015, 7:40 pm

Years ago I kept Bitis gabonica. They can throw crazy strikes....up, backwards and rolling over themselves. I never filmed any strikes but rats dangled on tongs overhead could be taken without issue. They, or any other large Bitis probably would come closest to meeting your question.
-N-

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Kelly Mc
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Re: Can Snakes Strike Up?

Post by Kelly Mc » October 22nd, 2015, 7:46 pm

I have found that wherever a snake can point their head, they can strike.

The reluctance or readiness to strike, or to shift in a better arrangement to strike could depend on fast and instinctive assessments of risk in connecting to a predator, and energy expenditure.

Larger forms looming above are almost always predatory. An endless variety of ergonomic spatial restrictions / enabling factors in immediate proxy would also dictate the physics of a strike but being capable of striking up , they are. Behaviorally there could be a reluctance tho I know I've been struck at from above, and below, feeding strikes mostly. But captive feeding strikes only indicate capacities that may not be relevant in terms of natural wild behavior.

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Steve Bledsoe
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Re: Can Snakes Strike Up?

Post by Steve Bledsoe » October 23rd, 2015, 9:13 am

I have had two events in the field when adult Southern Pacific Rattlesnakes (Crotalus o. helleri) have struck vertically at me. On both occasions the snakes entire bodies cleared the ground. I have no idea if "angle of attack" varies with species, but I do know that one can never trust a helleri!

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Re: Can Snakes Strike Up?

Post by Noah M » October 23rd, 2015, 9:47 am

On both occasions the snakes entire bodies cleared the ground.
I'd love to see slow motion video capture of that.

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chrish
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Re: Can Snakes Strike Up?

Post by chrish » October 24th, 2015, 9:49 am

If you think about it....why wouldn't they be able to? Are you implying they don't have the musculature to do it or that the shape of their vertebral articulations prevents it? I would say they can strike up as easily as they can strike down.

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Re: Can Snakes Strike Up?

Post by Coluber Constrictor » October 24th, 2015, 1:09 pm

pretty sure I've seen moccasins do it.

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Re: Can Snakes Strike Up?

Post by Steve Bledsoe » October 24th, 2015, 4:09 pm

Many here have probably already seen this video. It's been around a few years.
In this clip, an adult C. horridus tags a squirrel by striking at it with deadly accuracy at a distance longer than the snakes body length. The snake actually goes airborne in the process.
I personally believe that snakes of many if not all species are capable of striking in any direction, not only with accuracy, but with impressive distance as well.

Here's the video. The strike takes place early on, but it takes the snake a bit of time to find its prize - proof that the strike was successful.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i3bScZMypPU

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Re: Can Snakes Strike Up?

Post by chrish » October 24th, 2015, 4:49 pm

Steve,

That's an amazing video. Although I would argue that some of the snake's strike length is due to the fact that the squirrel pulls the snake out further than its strike would have naturally carried it. It does clearly strike a significant percent of its body length but then makes contact with the jumping squirrel which pulls it further that direction.

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Re: Can Snakes Strike Up?

Post by Noah M » October 24th, 2015, 6:04 pm

In my mind, because some snakes are compressed vertically (I'm thinking like rat snaks) they can bend side to side more easily than curving up or down. That's not saying they can't curve up, they often do to climb. But even then it seems like I see them pushing off with their sides instead of their belly once they get situated (google image search of climbing snake shows this well). And then when I see defensive postures or strike videos, most of the time they're strike out, not up. There may be a slight incline, but I don't think I've seen anything over maybe 50 or 60 degrees. Certainly not like 75-90 (straight up). This is probably because the prey item or threat is more or less on the same level, but I didn't know if they even could strike straight up.

Suppose a rattlesnake snake is curled up, ready to strike, and I were to place a large cardboard tube with a similar diameter as the diameter of the curled up snake, so the only space it could extend itself into was basically straight up. Could it still strike something above it, or would it launch itself into the side of the tube?

I'm thinking the ability to strike upward, or to what degree it can be done, would vary according to the species. I guess of the two reasons posed, it would be because of the shape of their vertebral articulations prevents it, or hinders it. And I would think the more flexible snakes, like vine snakes and tree snakes, would have a much larger range of motion and distance, but something thicker like a python or heavy bodied viper may not be able to strike up, or if it could, its range would be compromised.

What about a cobra? They don't even really S up do they? They pound down more like a hammer or charge, so could they strike up?

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Bryan Hamilton
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Re: Can Snakes Strike Up?

Post by Bryan Hamilton » October 24th, 2015, 6:34 pm

I believe there is a group of vipers known as "high strikers" or "jumping vipers". I haven't seen them strike but I envision it as striking up.

I would think there is a quite a bit of variation in strike direction. Prey would seem to drive selection for strike direction more than defensive strikes.

In my experience rattlesnakes aren't very good at striking up. I don't think their perception is really set up to detect thing above them. They seem really focused on their own plane.

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Re: Can Snakes Strike Up?

Post by Lloyd Heilbrunn » October 24th, 2015, 6:36 pm

Noah M wrote:I've been sitting on this question for a while, too embarrassed to ask it. It just sounds dumb when I think about it.

I know researchers have examined how far forward a snake can strike relative to body length. But has anybody ever measured the angle of attack relative to a plane that holds the majority of the snake? Basically, I'm not talking about a mostly vertically oriented snake striking up or down. Some measure of orientation of the body would be made, and then the angle of attack relative to that plane.

And does the angle vary between species? Maybe arboreal species are generally better than terrestrial ones, or maybe it depends upon primary prey items. Which snake has the greatest range? Is there a species that can strike straight up?
I've had a Yellow Tail Cribo strike overhead backwards and hit me while being tailed on a hook!

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Kelly Mc
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Re: Can Snakes Strike Up?

Post by Kelly Mc » October 24th, 2015, 6:40 pm

Cobras don't have to be in the iconic hooded pose to strike. Most snakes are more similar in kinetic capabilities than different, though in some species expressions on postures may be more atypical.

Here is a ball python after being relieved of several layers of retained shed and after a few feedings in a different environment. He isn't mimicking a cobra, though ( ;



Image

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Re: Can Snakes Strike Up?

Post by VICtort » October 24th, 2015, 8:42 pm

nhherp wrote:Years ago I kept Bitis gabonica. They can throw crazy strikes....up, backwards and rolling over themselves. I never filmed any strikes but rats dangled on tongs overhead could be taken without issue. They, or any other large Bitis probably would come closest to meeting your question.
-N-
I concur, that too I have seen. An interesting post addresses a vertical strike from C. atrox, in a cage, that resulted in venom in the eye of the keeper. See in herpetoculture forum: rattlesnake venom in eye? pahothand, Sept. 7, 2014.

I would imagine most reptile house zoo keepers have seen similar...Vic

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Re: Can Snakes Strike Up?

Post by BillMcGighan » October 25th, 2015, 6:57 am

NM
Suppose a rattlesnake snake is curled up, ready to strike, and I were to place a large cardboard tube with a similar diameter as the diameter of the curled up snake, so the only space it could extend itself into was basically straight up. Could it still strike something above it, or would it launch itself into the side of the tube?
BH
In my experience rattlesnakes aren't very good at striking up. I don't think their perception is really set up to detect thing above them. They seem really focused on their own plane.
I wonder if it’s more of a poor field of view than ability, because most rattlesnakes have an eye shield that could limit their view vertically???




NM
And I would think the more flexible snakes, like vine snakes and tree snakes, would have a much larger range of motion and distance, but something thicker like a python or heavy bodied viper may not be able to strike up, or if it could, its range would be compromised.
Just an anecdote and since captivity has been breached: this wild 13 foot Burmese python was captured and contained in a plywood 4’ X 4’ X 4', screened top, temporary cage with a door only in the top. I didn’t have tongs to deliver dead rats, so I improvised a sharp stick with a small barb. I impaled the dead rat in the haunches and dangled it over the door while the snake was coiled quietly underneath.

It regularly struck 4 feet vertically to take the rat.


Image


On another captivity note, I use some cages that have a false floor with a hole so the animal can emulate some subterranean life. Every species that I’ve kept in one of these cages regularly watched the opening from underneath and ambushed food vertically.

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Kelly Mc
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Re: Can Snakes Strike Up?

Post by Kelly Mc » October 25th, 2015, 1:16 pm

Nice!

Hey you guys snakes catching bats would be great to observe. In some parts of the world bats make up a huge proportion of total mammalian biodiversity, and the hunting and seizing strategies used by snakes would be acutely specific to situ and well, Bats. I always wondered about the lavish resource bats would provide snakes. Its not mentioned alot but I would think it would be very attractive. Lots of opportunities for interesting vertical action.

The capacities of snake ergonomics in seizing prey in various situations is truly fascinating.

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Re: Can Snakes Strike Up?

Post by Chaitanya » November 6th, 2015, 3:10 am

Russell's vipers are capable of getting their whole bodies off ground when striking. Here is one such photo showing RV striking: http://www.indianaturewatch.net/display ... ?id=309631

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Re: Can Snakes Strike Up?

Post by BillMcGighan » November 6th, 2015, 4:37 am

incredible picture!

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nhherp
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Re: Can Snakes Strike Up?

Post by nhherp » November 6th, 2015, 7:15 pm

It's fangs appear as though they snagged briefly on the corded loop of whatever was waved over its head to initiate the strike. Makes me postulate if a moment of the captured photo was enhanced in dragging .
This is not to say Russells are not acrobatic strinkers by any means. It's a neat photo regardless.

-N-

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Bryan Hamilton
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Re: Can Snakes Strike Up?

Post by Bryan Hamilton » November 7th, 2015, 11:58 am

Really cool photo. I'm always surprised how many folks working with venomous snakes wear open toed shoes. Living in India might be a valid reason for not wearing boots but if you're in North America, working with venomous snakes, ABSOLUTELY NO SANDALS OR FLIP-FLOPS!

Just something that has always vexed me. Carry on.

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Re: Can Snakes Strike Up?

Post by Chaitanya » November 10th, 2015, 7:40 am

Bryan Hamilton wrote:Really cool photo. I'm always surprised how many folks working with venomous snakes wear open toed shoes. Living in India might be a valid reason for not wearing boots but if you're in North America, working with venomous snakes, ABSOLUTELY NO SANDALS OR FLIP-FLOPS!

Just something that has always vexed me. Carry on.
In the part of India where I live, Saw scaled vipers(Echis carinatus carinatus) are quite abundant and I have a strict rule against wearing slippers/sandals while going out on grasslands. I personally atleast follow that rule of always wearing boots that provide me protection against getting bitten on legs.

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