Rattlesnakes had always fascinated researchers for their unusual traits, such as “hearing” with the help of sensing vibrations. But these creatures never cease to amaze us, and a new discovery confirms it.
According to the BBC, scientists discover that rattlesnakes have a clever method of convincing people that a threat is closer than they believe. What happens is that the sounds made by the shaking tail of the rattlesnake get louder when someone approaches, but then the animal switches the sound to a higher frequency. This can make humans believe that the rattlesnake is much closer than it really was.
The rattlesnakes’ trait evolved for the animals to avoid being trampled on
Plenty of animals are believed to have evolved their traits in order to better adapt to the environment. The same is supposed to have happened to rattlesnakes, as the reptiles might have evolved the afore-mentioned feature to avoid being stepped on by humans or other creatures.
What’s causing the rattle is the rapid shaking together of the rings of keratin present at the tip of the animals’ tails. Scientists initiated an experiment where a human-like torso was positioned close to a rattlesnake. The animal increased the frequency of the rattles to roughly 40Hz when the object was approaching. The next phase was for the sound to increase to somewhere between 60-100Hz.
When the change in frequency happened at 4 metres away, those involved in the test believed it was far closer – like one metre away.
Dr. Chagnaud declared as quoted by the BBC:
Evolution is a random process, and what we might interpret from today’s perspective as elegant design is in fact the outcome of thousands of trials of snakes encountering large mammals,
The snake rattling co-evolved with mammalian auditory perception by trial and error, leaving those snakes that were best able to avoid being stepped on.
The new study was published in the journal Current Biology.