Sunday, August 7, 2011
Reptile Necropsy in the Pursuit of Knowledge
Yesterday my brother-in-law killed a snake that had stuck its head out of the undergrowth at the wrong moment. I had known it was there but kept quiet because it hadn't done me any harm, nor was it likely too since, although it was about three feet long, theye are not poisonous and only bite when cornered. I had no intention of cornering it and Mrs Hickory was happy that her rabbit would run away from it, so we left it alone. Unfortunately they eat partridge eggs which is a death sentence around here.
Thus the snake had a brief encounter with a stout walking stick and joined the its kin, and some rats and mice, on a pile some distance from the house that will be quickly reduced by the insects, and quite possibly by other rats.
Later the conversation turned to the subject of ribs, and touched on the matter of whether a snake's ribs are bone in the normal sense or cartilaginous like fish, or gelatinous, or whether they had ribs at all. Fish-like, was my contribution, and a lot of them, but, under the pressure of debate, I announced my intention to open the late reptile and settle the question.
This was considered a bit eccentric for that time of night, and I was persuaded to forget the idea. Today, however, armed with a Stanley knife, latex gloves and some sticks for handling, I was able to ascertain that this snake, at least, had ribs very much like those of a sole; cartilaginous, flexible, attached directly to the spine rather than articulated, and though I didn't count them, there were a lot. The internal organs are interesting, too, being mostly flat and elongated. Much as you would expect, I suppose. The photos are not suitable for a blog of this nature, but I might put them on Facebook.