Common Fallacies About Snakes
BY AWAKE! CORRESPONDENT IN INDIA
The slimy cobra slithered toward the girl, lured by the scent of the jasmine flowers in her hair. Its long body undulated like the waves of the sea. She saw a flash on its forehead like a bright jewel as it transfixed her with its hypnotic gaze. Suddenly, it hurled itself through the air and buried its fangs in her arm.
FACT or fallacy? The entire picture created above is false, based on commonly held misconceptions. Consider some of these fallacies.
1. Jasmine, sandalwood, and other scents attract snakes. FALSE. The scent attracts insects, the insects attract frogs, and the frogs, which are part of the snake’s diet, attract snakes.
2. Snakes move by undulating their bodies vertically. FALSE. This impression is given when snakes move over large stones. The normal movement of cobras and other terrestrial snakes is horizontal, in a straight line. They either stretch the front part of their body forward and draw up the back part or, with the help of any projections on the ground, push sideways and forward, looking like the letter S.
3. Some snakes have a precious stone in their head. FALSE. A myth, along with the belief that great men in ancient India were protected by cobras.
4. Cobras hypnotize their prey. FALSE. The snake will usually stare fixedly when afraid, so the impression given to humans when they encounter a snake is of a fixed, hypnotic type of stare. This, however, is not a method used to catch prey.
5. Cobras hurl themselves at their prey. FALSE. The cobra throws the front part of its body forward to attack its prey, but most of its length remains on the ground to anchor its body. At the most, one third of the body is reared and strikes to attack.
6. The skin of snakes, including cobras, is slimy and always cold. FALSE. The skin of snakes, with its overlapping scales, is dry and feels like soft leather. Snakes are cold-blooded creatures; their body temperature reacts to changes in the external temperature.
7. Cobras are deaf. FALSE. A misconception held by many. These think that the snake’s only hearing is from vibrations in the ground that are carried through its body. The Bible, at Psalm 58:4, 5, correctly implies that cobras are not deaf. Recent research has shown that cobras can hear sounds carried in the air and that they respond to the music of the snake charmer.—See also Awake! of July 22, 1993, page 31.
[Picture Credit Line on page 15]
Top snake: Animals/Jim Harter/Dover Publications, Inc.