naturally, the first person I thought of --
U.Va. research: Snake phobia hardwired
Fri Feb 29, 6:13 PM ET
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. - Two University of Virginia researchers believe that humans are genetically predisposed to be deathly afraid of snakes. Judy S. DeLoache, a U.Va. professor of developmental psychology, said she has a snake phobia, but wonders why. "The question was, where did that fear come from?"
She believes it's because snakes would have posed a significant threat to our ancestors, so a fear of snakes remains hardwired into human brains today.
DeLoache said an experiment she conducted with graduate student Vanessa LoBue proved that adults and preschool children have an extraordinary ability to quickly pinpoint snakes amid harmless distractions.
They conducted three experiments with 24 adults and 24 3-year-olds. Both groups were shown a large touch-screen computer monitor that displayed nine color photographs.
They asked half of the people to find the single image of a snake among non-threatening pictures of caterpillars, flowers or frogs. The second group was told to find the single photo of a single non-threatening item among eight images of snakes.
The researchers found that adults and children were much faster at discovering snakes than they were at locating non-threatening flora or fauna.
The finding that children saw the snakes as rapidly as adults is particularly fascinating, LoBue said, because preschool children tend to be fearless and are less likely to have had a negative experience with snakes.
DeLoache's and LoBue's findings will be published in the March issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.
LoBue said she has found similar results when testing for an innate fear of spiders. Much like snakes, some spiders would have posed a deadly threat to pre-humans. That study is currently under peer review, she said.
"It's really neat," she said. "We have an evolutionary bias against snakes and spiders."
Virginia is home to three types of venomous snakes — copperheads, canebrake rattlesnakes and timber rattlers.
Julia Dixon, spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, thinks snakes have a bad rap, and said her agency spends time defending snakes.
"The general public out there thinks that the only good snake is a dead snake," Dixon said. But she notes that snakes are a key piece of the food chain because they eat mice, rats and other snakes.
Dixon said the easiest way to identify dangerous snakes in Virginia is to look into their eyes. Virginia's venomous snakes have vertical pupils, similar to a cat's eye, and harmless snakes have round pupils.
Either way, it is usually best to leave the snake alone, she said.
- \In my area, we have the coydog packs. These are coyote/domestic feral dogs, with maybe some wolf They stay far back in the swamps except in winter, when they may come close for scavanging/foraging.Ray
Anne Gilbert <avgilbert@...> wrote:Lenny and all:These "snake stories" put me in mind of similar stories of "200-lb" wolves a lot of people in certain areas claim to see. The fact is, the largest wolves are about 90-95 lbs, perhaps only a little larger than a good-sized German Shepherd. And many wolves are smaller than that(and usually quite timid around humans; that's how they've survived, where they still do). What people claim are "200 lb. wolves" are often actually coyotes, which usually run about 30-40 lbs., about the same size as a lot of medium-sized dogs, or else they're feral or semiferal domestic dogs that are just running around(sometimes these creatures do get into farmers' chickens for dinner, or the like). It's all rather silly.Anne G
Back when I used to do reptile rescue, I'd get a call
nearly every week from someone who said they had a "15
foot python" that they needed to give up for adoption.
Every single time, it turned out to be a Burmese
python in the typical 7-8 foot range where they begin
to get rather difficult for one person to handle
alone. I quickly learned that if I took the reported
length of the snake and divided it in half, that was
generally closer to the truth.
Back when I lived in Pennsylvania, I used to get
occasional calls from the local cops to help them out
when they got a "copperhead snake in my yard" call.
Invariably, they turned out to be harmless species,
usually milk snakes. The cops were always
flabbergasted when I walked up to the snake, picked it
up in my bare hands, then tucked it in my shirt to
calm it down before carrying it away for release. I'm
sure they thought I was completely nutty and was
risking instant death..
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