Email
Password
Remember meForgot password?
    Log in with Twitter

article imageWhy snakes are pale or dark in color explained

By Tim Sandle     May 24, 2016 in Environment
A young student has revealed why snakes are paler in the South and darker in the North — that's because darker species absorb heat from the sun more quickly.
The color and tone of the skin of a snake appears to have a regional variation. The reason for this appears to have escaped the notice of professional biologists. The reason, relating to heat absorption, has been examined by a 15 year-old student.
According to Science News, Gianna Fantell presented the results of her research to the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. The science fair is a global event. Each year, more than 7 million high school students around the globe develop original research projects and present their work at local science competitions. The best ideas and experiments get to go forwards to the main event. The 2016 competition saw displays from 1,750 high school students from 75 countries.
Explaining how she came to spot the difference with snake skins, Gianna explained that shw was looking through a field guide when she noticed a pattern. “Farther north, the pigmentation of snakes is darker. As you go south, snakes are lighter.”
The skin of a snake is covered in scales and the skin has a smooth, dry texture. The scales help the snake to travel by gripping surfaces. The skin also has a role in heat absorption.
Gianna’s research then became based on understanding why snake colors in the North and South vary by latitude. For this she looked at 26 snakes, spanning the range from Virginia to Florida. Using high quality photos, Gianna used computer software for the analysis. The software considered the variation in color, tone and spots. This confirmed that northern snakes are darker than southern ones.
Although there are other reasons for snake skin color — such as a signal to would-be predators — about a snake being poisonous, there was also a clear pattern following a latitudinal gradient.
The reason comes down to the physiology of the snake. Cold-blooded reptiles (or ectotherms) rely on the warmth of the sun to heat their bodies. Such reptiles regulate their body temperature by basking in the sun and seeking shade when necessary, for the purposes of thermoregulation.
In the north, sunlight is lower so the dark color helps to absorb more heat and thus enable the snakes to warm more quickly. Further studies, which Gianna was involved in using temperature sensors, snakes and light, have confirmed this biological mechanism.
More about snake color, Snakes, Reptiles
 
Latest News
Top News