Thursday, September 13, 2007
Want to avoid snakes?..Heat your tail.
Prey species have evolved a number of tricks to avoid or deceive predators, involving movement, visual, sound, or smell cues. Now infrared cues get added to the list. Rundus et al. have found that California ground squirrels have evolved a clever trick to deceive snakes, who use infrared (heat) detectors in sizing up their potential prey. The squirrel heats its tail as it shakes it, thus giving off the amount of heat expected from a larger animal and making the snake think that it is larger than it really is. Because larger squirrels are more likely to directly attack snakes, the snake thus is more cautious and less likely to strike.