Category Archives: Vertebrates

A reptilian interlude

Just because they are pretty. I don’t actually know their genders, so I’m anthropomorphizing a bit…

Black racer (Coluber constrictor). I first saw this snake under a large rock, surrounded by fluff that appeared to be bits of a mouse nest. Being the hands-on naturalist that I am, I gently poked at her with a twig until she slithered out from under the rock – striking at me a few times in the process. I followed her until she settled, coiled, poised to strike, continually planning her escape. She kept an eye on every movement my friend and I made. I was amazed she sat still at all instead of escaping right away! Once she was out from under the rock all we did was follow her at a distance until she stopped. After a few minutes of picture taking she saw our poses relax slightly, and she raced off (ha! see what I did there?) into the woods.

I was tempted to catch her, but decided I’d rather get some good photos than come home covered in blood and snake musk. Perhaps another day.

And a lovely little garter (Thamnophis sirtalis). My friend tried to catch her and missed, but she still musked. We decided to leave her alone and try to take photos instead. I managed to snag this one through the undergrowth.

Snake hunting is always a fun break on a warm sunny day.

On the nose

That’s where this ornery little garter snake bit me. On my nose. That’s what I get for holding it up to my face to get a better look and talk to it, I guess.

“Awwww, you’re a cute little snake, aren’t you!”

Look at that mischievous grin.

This Thamnophis sirtalis was about 12″ long, with teeth not big enough to break my skin. When I caught him (with one hand, not wanting to put down my beer) he musked me twice. Then I got the startling bite (he also attacked the camera a few times), but eventually he calmed down and we hung out for a while.

I simply adore snakes, maybe I will write a post about my babies sometime (I have a ball python, corn snake, and kenyan sand boa). I know, I know, I’m an invert person, but I have enough love to spare for all the scaly and slimy and chiton-y creatures of the world!

Black-light guest

Why hello there, Mr. Toad. Thank you so much for your services. You are diligently keeping guard beneath my black-lighting sheet, grabbing any little insects that come by. Well, almost any… you missed an elaterid (click beetle) over there. Just to the right a little bit.

Don’t be shy just because I caught you with my flashlight! I don’t think you can fit a whole Acronicta inside that little mouth of yours, so feel free to stay a while. I won’t miss a few mosquitoes or mayflies.

It seems toads can be common guests at black-lighting sheets – I remember encountering an adorable great plains toad cleaning up a sheet in Arizona. Do you have any black-light guest stories or photos? About toads or other creatures? Please share!

Nature break

As much as I want to focus myself here, I cannot help but share some of the other creatures I come across.
The other day I went on a mid-day adventure with a friend to look for snakes.
Luckily for us, there are lots of places near campus to go exploring.
I got to catch my very first ring-neck snake, Diadophis punctatus! In fact, we saw four within half an hour. They are sickeningly adorable, and incredibly smooth to the touch. One of them half-heartedly tried biting me, they were all more concerned with slithering away. The temptation to bring one home as a pet was intense, but I resisted – I have enough snakes at home.

The other snake species we encountered was the eastern milk snake, Lampropeltis triangulum. And this one was NOT happy to be bothered. It was snapping, and rattling its tail. I love that behavior, I wonder if it’s a general snake defense that got brought to an extreme with rattlesnakes, or if colubrids like this are trying to mimic rattlesnakes? I think the first idea is more likely, but I haven’t read into it very much. Either way, it is alarming to hear a tail rattling against dry leaves. My corn snake does that in his cardboard feeding box sometimes!

And we saw some amphibians too. Puddles filled with swarming toad tadpoles, as well as some adult Bufo americanus. Who can resist a grumpy toad face?A pretty Rana palustris (pickerel frog), just because.And you didn’t think I could wander into the woods and avoid the insects, did you?
We came across a wonderful little clearing with dappled sunlight. Along the rocks and logs I saw tiger beetles basking. My friend tried hunting them with his net, and I tried hunting them with my camera. This went on for about half an hour… my little camera did a decent job, and it helped I was able to find a few that were more intent on basking/resting than getting away from me. I quickly got a feel for their preferred habitats and resting spots, and we were able to see several more during our journey through the woods.Eventually we figured we should get back to the lab… there are plenty of adventures yet to be had.

Ryerson Lab

Functional Morphology, Sensory Biology, Behavior, Biomechanics

I spell it nature

Trying to make sense of the world through science and language.