Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Snakes and primates

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Interesting article by Ruth Williams in The Scientist:

As 6-month-old baby Nini slept quietly in the same hut as her older sister and brother, she was unaware that she would become an only child that night. By the time her father, Teteng, entered the hut around sunset, one of the children was wrapped in the coils of a giant python and was being swallowed headfirst. Teteng slashed and killed the snake with his hunting bolo knife, but it was too late. Nini’s siblings were dead. Only baby Nini survived.

It is the stuff of nightmares and horror movies, but for the Agta tribal people on the Philippine island of Luzon, python attacks are harsh realities. Anthropologist Tom Headland of the Summer Institute of Linguistics International in Dallas, Texas, documented the story of Nini and other chilling snake tales while collecting ethnographic and census data on the Agta in the 1970s. But it wasn’t until snake expert Harry Greene of Cornell University got wind of Headland’s Agta snake stories that their full historical and evolutionary implications were realized.

Although constrictors are known to prey on a variety of primate species, whether or not such snakes would have posed a significant threat to early humans has been a hotly contested issue, says Rick Shine, a snake expert at the University of Sydney in Australia. “It is one of these classic examples of a topic that people are interested in, and they speculate about and have quite diverged opinions on, but nobody had the information,” Shine says.

Headland’s data revealed that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 March 2012 at 9:27 am

Posted in Daily life, Science

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