Saturday, August 8, 2009

A shield tail and an awful stench!

Shield tails or Uropeltids as they are called are one of the few snakes which are rarely seen and easily missed due to the unique character of burrowing into the leaf litter rich soil of the forest floor. These relatively small snakes are evolved to lead a life in the underworld- eyes almost not seen, the head narrow pointed and sharp, the body smooth and glossy and the tail has a shape as if it was unassumingly cut off with an axe and this is how it gets the name as shield tail.
I came across three species of these non-venomous snakes and in two of the occasions, they were seen lying on the road soon after a heavy downpour and on one occasion, it was dug out from the rotting leaf litter when we were in search of snails. The snake which was later identified as walls shield tail was very quick in disappearing into the litter mass while the other two on the road, did not have the evolutionary advantage of burrowing into a thick layer of asphalt!
The snakes one yet to be identified and the other known as the Pied bellied shield tail which were found on the road were needless to say picked up for photo documentation and give them a second life by releasing them into the forest away from speeding vehicles. On both occasions, I ended up having a nauseating feeling due to the pungent scent in the urine of the snake which is known to be an anti predatory trait developed over the years. The smell, strong like that of garlic and rotting meat in addition to a weird smell which cannot be put in words took a bucket of water and a good lathery soap to ward off. So good was the evolutionary trait in those snakes that it effectively worked on creatures which try to save it from death too!

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