Baby snakes and exciting research
Hello, it’s Ash from the Herpetology Department, and today I am going to tell you a little about our recently born baby sidewinder rattlesnakes here at Zoo Atlanta. In my opinion, baby snakes are truly some of the cutest forms of animals out there, so there is no doubt I enjoy working directly with this species. Sidewinder rattlesnakes are a rattlesnake whose habitat ranges from parts of the southwest United States into Mexico.
A few months ago, our pair of sidewinders here in Scaly Slimy Spectacular became parents to a healthy litter of six! Even though most reptiles lay eggs, sidewinders give birth to live young. These snakes are relatively small as adults, so their offspring at first are about the size of a quarter. Like all rattlesnakes, sidewinders are born with a “button” (pre-rattle) at the end of each of their tails. Buttons are made up of keratin (the same as our hair and fingernails). As these snakes shed their skin, they will begin to add new segments and eventually develop into impressive full rattles. These rattles are used for defensive measures and alarm predators of their location. Our sidewinders have shed their skin twice since being born, which means they are now capable of creating a small buzzing sound. It is still soft to hear and will become louder as more segments are added to the rattle. Right now, I would compare the sound to something a small insect may make.
Behind the scenes at the Herpetology Conservation Breeding Center, we are also collecting data on our new baby sidewinders. That’s right, when we are not taking excellent care of our animals we are also working toward discovering new knowledge about them. This current research project is led by Dr. Joe Mendelson and his intern, Hannah Dallas. Since the baby sidewinder rattlesnakes are under my direct care, I also participate in this data collection along with a few of my colleagues. I absolutely find helping with data collection fascinating. Of course, what fun would it be if I gave away all our secrets here at the Zoo, so you must stay tuned. Between you and me, there are some neat things that we are looking at with this research, and when the time is right, it will be awesome to officially share! So, make sure you continue to check up on us here in the Herpetology Department at Zoo Atlanta, and I will let the sidewinders know they have some fans cheering them on!
Keeper I, Herpetology