Hibernation questions

Dedicated exclusively to field herping.

Moderator: Scott Waters

BethH
Posts: 112
Joined: May 12th, 2013, 5:47 pm

Hibernation questions

Post by BethH » December 23rd, 2015, 6:34 am

I have a couple of questions about hibernation.

I believe I was told that snakes don't hibernate, they brumate (brunate?). And I've been told that bears don't hibernate, they do something else, too. In a nutshell, what's the difference between those things, and hibernating?

Black bears go into a den and hibernate (or _____?). I assume that bears get some internal signal that says it's time and in they go. I would guess that some years, bears go into hibernation late, and others early, based on something that only the bear intuitively knows. I assume that bears down south don't hibernate much-or at all sometimes-but that they are "wired" to hibernate if the conditions arise. I assume that snakes of a species that hibernates in some places, like water snakes, is the same... if conditions warrant, in they go. But if the conditions don't warrant, they stay out and do snake things. Or, do maybe northern watersnakes have that "I'll go hibernate now" code, but Florida watersnakes just suffer and potentially die? In otherwords, is the difference in the species/subspecies-some do and some don't-or something intuitive within the individual, within a species?

I assume the invasive pythons and anacondas in the Everglades do not have any hardwiring that says to go hibernate. Is hiberntion a physical metabolic thing, or do those invasive snakes not even ever seek out hidy-holes?

Not on the topic of hibernation, but probably super easy, you folks talk about "intergrades." What's that?

Thanks again for your enlightening answers!

Beth

User avatar
Berkeley Boone
Posts: 878
Joined: June 8th, 2010, 3:02 am

Re: Hibernation questions

Post by Berkeley Boone » December 24th, 2015, 6:31 am

Hi Beth-
Good questions, and I will try to provide some answers. Others can chime in (or correct/clarify me if needed).

Brumation is what ectotherms do. That means that because they (and we'll say snakes here) don't make their own body heat, they are dependent on outside temperatures for how warm or cold they are. Right? So, this means that over the cool and cold seasons, they physically cannot move/digest/function as well as they could if it were an optimal temperature outside. In response, their bodies slow down. They can't help it. But, if a warm spell comes by (like much of the southeast is experiencing currently) then they may wake up and come to the surface, bask, move around, etc. They may even take a nibble of something here or there if they feel that temps will be warm enough for digestion. When the cold comes back, they simply become inactive again and retreat to their burrow/den/hibernacula.

Hibernation is what endotherms do. It is essentially the same thing (slowed metabolism/heart rate/breathing) but it is generally done in response to external conditions- like food availability. Black bears DO hibernate, but there is a caveat. (And this comes into play with some of your other questions...) Black bears from about North Georgia down into AL and FL don't truly hibernate, they take reeeeeeaaaaaaalllllllly long naps. They don't crawl into caves, or dig big dens or things like that. Most of them find a nice tipped over tree and crawl under the trunk or the rootball, or get into some really dense evergreen growth (like Leucothoe or cedar) and bed down. That is their den. It doesn't have to be something where they can get completely out of the elements, like the northern bears would do. Our winters are a lot more mild,so compete protection is not necessary. If the weather is warm, they may get up and wander around, stretch, pee and go back to bed. Basically, it is an external signal (the changing of the seasons) that says- 'hey, dummy! Start eating every acorn you can find- winter is going to be tough!'- that cues them in.

Going back to your question about the northern vs Florida water snakes brumating or suffering and dying, that's not quite the case. The northern water snakes in Michigan definitely go into brumation each year, there is no way around it. But the northern water snakes in Georgia may have some activity periods in Nov, Dec, or Jan, depending on how warm it is around them. The Florida water snakes down south are generally active most of the year. But, if sGeorgia or Florida gets a good hard cold snap, those snakes will go find some shelter and lay low until the conditions suit them again. Being from temperate regions, their bodies are used to what Mother Nature can throw at them.

However.... The pythons in the Everglades do have hardwiring that says to go dormant, but their bodies physically often cannot handle it. They come from tropical countries originally, so they very rarely, if ever, get cold snaps that would force inactivity for prolonged periods of time like our native snakes endure. But, because they are ectotherms, their bodies involuntarily respond to outside cold- they can't help it. Because they are dependent on outside warmth, they start to slow down when it gets colder. If it gets cold enough, they may catch respiratory issues and not be able to fight them off, or even succumb to the cold itself because their bodies cannot handle temperatures below a certain point. That is not to say that they will not seek out a place to shelter from the cold- that is programmed into them also. They get down into stumpholes, under house foundations, cracks in the limestone, etc and try to wait it out. But, again, if it gets cold enough, even when they are hidden, they can die from that exposure.

Intergrades are degrees of change within two subspecies, usually referring to where those two subspecies meet. Rat snakes are a great example (but I am sure people are going to jump on this one). Most of the eastern US has 'black' rat snakes, but if you go down to the Atlantic coast, and into peninsular Florida, you get yellow rats. Head into the Gulf Coast and the south central US and you have gray rats. However, there is not a clear line of division between any of those phases or groups. There are changes as you head further into one side or another. Basically, the rat snakes do not go from black, to yellow with stripes when you cross a certain highway or state line. There is a degree of change: you have shiny black, then black with some pattern showing through, then just dark with some pattern showing through, then olive-y colored, they greenish with some ladder-like patterning, then more yellow-y with stripey patterns, then yellow with stripes. Just as an example, GA has all three of those colors of rat snake. Of course, there is variation along the entire way, but that is what an 'intergrade' can be generally defined as.

Just to illustrate the difference between two words that are often confused, hybridization is when two different species reproduce. A cross between an eastern diamondback rattlesnake and a canebrake rattlesnake is an example of hybridization.

I hope that helps!
--Berkeley

BethH
Posts: 112
Joined: May 12th, 2013, 5:47 pm

Re: Hibernation questions

Post by BethH » December 24th, 2015, 10:22 am

Thank you for the detailed answers.

You said that the pythons in the Everglades will try to take cover from the cold, but "their bodies cannot physically handle it." Is that partly due to size? If most or all snakes can do brumation, then why would the pythons be different in their success at it? I know they are from a tropical place, but if they will do what they can to take refuge, why would they be more likely to succomb than a cottonmouth or any other type of snake in the same area? Is it the same way that some snakes can actually be in some water when they hibernate and others can't? Do small snakes (by species or age) survive the winter better than larger snakes?

I was reading a book about bears last night, after I had asked my questions, and the book told about a mother black bear in the Smokys, that was just in a hollow stump. She tucked her head in and her body provided lots of warmth for the cubs, but her back and uppwer body were exposed to rain and snow. That really surprised me, but that book and another one that I'm reading said the same thing, that bears will often just tuck in under a log or in among a dead tree's root ball and nap the winter away. I wonder when Disney will discover this...

Do the northern water snakes in Georgia have, on average, shorter lifespans than those in Michigan, due to more exposure to danger because they aren't hibernating?

Thank you again! Beth

MCHerper
Posts: 443
Joined: September 22nd, 2012, 5:13 pm

Re: Hibernation questions

Post by MCHerper » December 24th, 2015, 12:15 pm

Regarding black bears, the state of a long nap described by Berkeley Boone is called torpor. I understand that there has been some debate as to whether black bears are truly considered overall hibernators but I don't know where it stands at this time.

I do know that black bears have a fascinating physiological adaptation where, although they lose body fat during hibernation, they do not lose a lot of muscle mass. My understanding is that, since they do not urinate or defecate during hibernation, they have a metabolic adaptation to 1) reduce amino acid metabolism to nitrogenous waste (urea), and 2) convert whatever nitrogenous waste is produced back to amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. This is energetically taxing and depends on adequate fat stores, the reason for hyperphagia before hibernation.

Intergrades are different than hybrids, in that a hybrid is two different species mating and having offspring with genes from both parents. Intergrades are two subspecies of the same species mating and having intermediate characteristics of both. For example, the Northern ringneck snake (Diadophis punctatus edwardsii), mates with the Southern ringneck snake (Diadophis punctatus punctatus) and what you have is an intergrade ringneck snake.

Regarding the question about the water snakes in Michigan vs. Georgia, your question is a good one, and while predation is certainly a looming threat during the active season, there is a certain percentage of snakes every year that die during hibernation. I am sure that the number varies from year to year due to the harshness of winter and the location of hibernacula, determining not only exposure to freezing temps, but also how desiccated or malnourished the snakes become during hibernation. I know that den predation happens by ophiophagous snakes, although I think that most of it happens near spring emergence. I'm also sure that the aggregation of snakes during emergence basking probably feeds many predators i.e. raptors such as broad winged hawks (reptile specialists). In fact the arrival of broad-winged hawks during spring migration coincides with the time of spring emergence from dens (not sure that it is a function of, but it does coincide). One other point to consider is that in the hotter climates such as Georgia and Florida, there are likely periods of dormancy during the hottest and/or driest times of the year, so they may not be active 365 days/year down there. I think that a high degree of the danger is to the neonates, usually born in August and September, as their small size makes them prey to not only mammals and larger birds but also to the more plentiful bullfrogs, bass, etc.

*Edit: I realized that Berkeley Boone already addressed the hybrid/intergrade question. Apologies for the redundancy.

User avatar
Berkeley Boone
Posts: 878
Joined: June 8th, 2010, 3:02 am

Re: Hibernation questions

Post by Berkeley Boone » December 24th, 2015, 2:13 pm

BethH wrote:You said that the pythons in the Everglades will try to take cover from the cold, but "their bodies cannot physically handle it." Is that partly due to size? If most or all snakes can do brumation, then why would the pythons be different in their success at it? I know they are from a tropical place, but if they will do what they can to take refuge, why would they be more likely to succomb than a cottonmouth or any other type of snake in the same area? Is it the same way that some snakes can actually be in some water when they hibernate and others can't? Do small snakes (by species or age) survive the winter better than larger snakes?
Glad to help.

Not really due to size, no. It is due to where they have lived for thousands of years. Not all snakes, or even reptiles, can brumate. They all have the ability to respond to most of what nature throws at them, but not all of them can survive the lower temperatures. I know it sounds a little like I am back-pedaling, but I am not, I promise! I should have been a bit more clear in my description.

Think of it like your generic palm tree: it comes from tropical areas, lots of heat and sunshine. They will not survive a winter if planted outside of its natural range. You can do what it takes to try and save the palm- wrap it up in plastic and burlap, plant it on the south side of your house, etc but it still not survive the freezes. (Generally speaking, of course. There are cold hardy palms, but for the purpose of illustration, I am comparing tropical snakes to tropical plants) The same with the Burmese pythons and anacondas. They do not have the capability to survive winter freezes. The reason that the cottonmouths or other snakes in that same area (the Everglades) survive is because that is where they have lived and grown and adapted to the climate for thousands of years.

Does that make sense? I hope that was a little more clear.

And yes, MCHerper is correct. Torpor is the true definition for what black bears do. I just didn't want to introduce another vocabulary word into the discussion and potentially confuse the issue!

--Berkeley

User avatar
WSTREPS
Posts: 485
Joined: June 9th, 2010, 3:03 pm

Re: Hibernation questions

Post by WSTREPS » December 24th, 2015, 5:48 pm

That is not to say that they will not seek out a place to shelter from the cold- that is programmed into them also. They get down into stumpholes, under house foundations, cracks in the limestone, etc and try to wait it out. But, again, if it gets cold enough, even when they are hidden, they can die from that exposure.

No, it's not programmed into them. Burmese pythons and other "giant snakes" do not seek shelter from the cold. They have no genetic clue about what cold is or how to deal with it. If the snake happens to be hidden in a spot that protects the snake from lethal temperatures at the time of a temperature drop (this can occur for various reasons) it's not by intent. Below are some key points as well as the titles and links to a couple of excellent papers on the subject.

Will They Come in out of the Cold? Observations of Large Constrictors in Cool and Cold Conditions David G. Barker

http://vpi.com/sites/default/files/Come ... BCHS_4.pdf

"Finally, it is my conclusion that the action of a python or boa to seek shelter in response to cold winter temperatures is not an innate behavior common to all species in the families Boidae and Pythonidae. Quite the opposite, it is a rare ability of only a few taxa. It is my observation that those species native to the tropics and other areas where low winter temperatures are unknown have no specific ability to protect themselves from periods of fatal cold."


A Review of: Dorcas, M. E., J. D. Willson and J. W. Gibbons. 2010. Can Invasive Burmese Pythons Inhabit Temperate Regions of the Southeastern United States? Biological Invasions. Online at doi 10.107/s10530-010-9869-6 David G. Barker and Tracy M. Barker

http://vpi.com/sites/default/files/Revi ... BCHS_4.pdf

"Regarding the points made in the Discussion: Dorcas and others express surprise that the Burmese pythons in their enclosure did not seem to react to cold temperatures by seeking shelter. "

In my own experience with maintaining large pythons in outdoor situations. The snakes showed no ability whatsoever to recognize that they needed to get out of the cold. This held true even when the dropping temperatures began and the snakes were in close proximity to heated shelters. When temperatures began to drop in the daylight hours the snakes would try to stay in the sunlight oblivious to the fact that the temperatures would continue to drop and they would die. Never did they make a conscious effort to seek warm refuge.

Ernie Eison

User avatar
Kelly Mc
Posts: 4299
Joined: October 18th, 2011, 12:03 pm

Re: Hibernation questions

Post by Kelly Mc » December 24th, 2015, 6:23 pm

A simple way to look at it is like this - when an animal that has the endothermic ability to produce heat, moving into a close space creates a nice chamber for the warmth of its body to be conserved, even build.

But if an animal, or any object isn't producing heat - the temperature of it will not be sustained in close space.

If you wrapped up an apple in a wool blanket, it would not keep warm. The same with a snake. Even if the apple or snake and the blanket all started out warm, temperature of the snake, the apple and the blanket would eventually drop to the ambient of the surroundings because none of them create any heat to conserve.

User avatar
Kelly Mc
Posts: 4299
Joined: October 18th, 2011, 12:03 pm

Re: Hibernation questions

Post by Kelly Mc » December 24th, 2015, 7:07 pm

I'm quiet surprised that Dorcas and the others so easily projected mammalian, even anthropocentric warmth seeking behaviors on the thermoregulation of pythons.

User avatar
Kelly Mc
Posts: 4299
Joined: October 18th, 2011, 12:03 pm

Re: Hibernation questions

Post by Kelly Mc » December 24th, 2015, 7:37 pm

I know some people are thinking hey I've seen snakes go into hiding when its starting to to get cool.

But they are seeking shelter to stay safe - not warm. When a snake gets cool, it gets torpid - and a torpid snake is defenseless.

MCHerper
Posts: 443
Joined: September 22nd, 2012, 5:13 pm

Re: Hibernation questions

Post by MCHerper » December 24th, 2015, 8:27 pm

Kelly Mc wrote:I know some people are thinking hey I've seen snakes go into hiding when its starting to to get cool.

But they are seeking shelter to stay safe - not warm. When a snake gets cool, it gets torpid - and a torpid snake is defenseless.
Kelly, this is a great point and very interesting. Do you have any resources where I could read more about this? I'm definitely interested, and what you and WSTREPS wrote has generated a few questions for me. I'm thinking not in terms of a conscious decision on the part of the snake, but instead in terms of a response (moving to hibernacula) when presented with a stimulus (in this case, cold temps). So my question then becomes, simply, while I agree that they are not looking to 'stay warm' per se, could it still be said that a drop in temps is the stimulus that gets them to move to hibernacula? Expanding on that, and loosely in reference to WSTREPS' post, could it be that temps near the critical min and max for a snake are the stimuli that get them to move to hibernacula, and if so, what is missing in the tropical snakes in that they don't respond to cold? I acknowledge that they are used to not being in cold climates, but still they have the critical min temps-do they seek shelter when presented with temps toward their critical max?

Fill me in!

User avatar
Kelly Mc
Posts: 4299
Joined: October 18th, 2011, 12:03 pm

Re: Hibernation questions

Post by Kelly Mc » December 24th, 2015, 8:34 pm

Yeah I would think a drop in temp would be a major cue. I suspect hibernation and brumation in animals is an adapted tactic to escape hardship. Including prey/food scarcities. Tropical animals don't have the same climatic and abundances hardships to wait through perhaps that's why.

User avatar
Bryan Hamilton
Posts: 1217
Joined: June 10th, 2010, 8:49 pm

Re: Hibernation questions

Post by Bryan Hamilton » December 25th, 2015, 12:13 pm

Kelly Mc wrote:But they are seeking shelter to stay safe - not warm
I kind of disagree with this. The shelter the snakes are seeking is warm, relative to the surface. Temps on the surface could be single digits, and underground its say 50. So I would say its safety from both cold and predators.
Kelly Mc wrote:Yeah I would think a drop in temp would be a major cue.
Its not always temperature. Day length is also a cue for temperate snakes to move to hibernacula.

User avatar
Kelly Mc
Posts: 4299
Joined: October 18th, 2011, 12:03 pm

Re: Hibernation questions

Post by Kelly Mc » December 25th, 2015, 1:17 pm

Yes I understand about the surface temps. And even tissue damage caused by that. I have as responding mostly to the Dorcas thing, I answered without trying to cover every base I could think of but I have to say that Photoperiod is very important and often underestimated. I have noticed this with captives using photo period time frames alone to cycle them and getting good fertile breeding results without cooling to the conventional recommendations

User avatar
WSTREPS
Posts: 485
Joined: June 9th, 2010, 3:03 pm

Re: Hibernation questions

Post by WSTREPS » December 25th, 2015, 1:41 pm

Deleted this post, I must have hit the submit by accident.

User avatar
Kelly Mc
Posts: 4299
Joined: October 18th, 2011, 12:03 pm

Re: Hibernation questions

Post by Kelly Mc » December 25th, 2015, 2:06 pm

The comment I made didn't refer to artificially heated shelters. Which of course would attract a reptile.

I don't use Microsoft word things or consider my posts a thesis work, but trust the intelligence of fellow readers to follow a given point in a body of text.

User avatar
WSTREPS
Posts: 485
Joined: June 9th, 2010, 3:03 pm

Re: Hibernation questions

Post by WSTREPS » December 25th, 2015, 2:15 pm

I don't believe anyone was projecting mammalian or anthropocentric warmth seeking behaviors onto the pythons. The idea that they would be attracted to warm shelters when temperature's drop is directly based on commonly seen reptilian behavior. This was pointed out in the first Barker paper I linked to. When I designed my outdoor enclosure's and placed the pythons in them. My, I wouldn't say expectation's but more along the lines of hopes were based on what I had seen in the adaptive behavior of other reptiles. Redfoot tortoises for example come from tropical climates, do not burrow or seek out other structures to protect themselves from the cold but can quickly learn to use heated shelter's . The tortoises learn to recognize and anticipate the onset of cold temperature's and the need to take refuge from it.

Snakes don't hide/seek shelter exclusively for protection against predation. They also do it as a means of thermoregulation. They choose places that best provide for this need. Not just from periods of dangerous cold or heat (estivate) but as part of their basic daily routine. It seemingly makes perfect biological sense that a cold python would instinctually be attracted to a warm hiding area, have a thermoregulatory reaction that would allow them to escape freezing temperature's if given the chance. But....

In terms of thermoregulation for the giant snakes going into hiding /seeking shelter is centered on finding temperature stability (comfort). It's never been about protection from the cold. They have never had a need for this type of thermal adaptive protective behavior. It's not in their play book. They do not exhibit the ability to learn or inherit this behavioral trait the way some other reptiles do.

Another point is that these animals are nocturnal. They never had to evolve a defense mechanism against straying from a warm shelter into potentially deadly night time temperature's. When it gets dark that is a cue to go out and hunt, become active. It has been proven that the big snakes will leave the security of a warm resting place and crawl into the dark in deadly low temperature's. They don't possess the specialized behavioral triggering and morphology that is found in species that are capable of successful hibernation/bromating however you want to say it, during extended periods of lethal cold. The giant snakes do not recognize cold as a threat and so fail to (simply put) willingly protect themselves from it.

Below is a title and link to the paper based on the USDA Python/Cold Study along with a quote.

Cold weather and the potential range of invasive Burmese pythons
Michael L. Avery • Richard M. Engeman • Kandy L. Keacher • John S. Humphrey • William E. Bruce • Tom C. Mathies • Richard E. Mauldin

http://usark.org/wp-content/uploads/201 ... lltext.pdf

"Pythons were not subject to round the clock surveillance, but during routine maintenance we observed behavior seemingly contradictory to a cold weather survival instinct."
I believe I was told that snakes don't hibernate, they brumate (brunate?). And I've been told that bears don't hibernate, they do something else, too. In a nutshell, what's the difference between those things, and hibernating?
I'm not sure about in a nutshell but this link should be helpful. I'm not a big fan of semantical debate when it comes to nature. The key to reading is remembering what's important and forgetting everything else.

http://theobligatescientist.blogspot.co ... umate.html


One of my favorite quotes from the legendary theoretical physicist Richard P. Feynman .

"I was terrible in English. I couldn't stand the subject. It seemed to me ridiculous to worry about whether you spelled something wrong or not, because English spelling is just a human convention - it has nothing to do with anything real, anything from nature."


Ernie Eison

BethH
Posts: 112
Joined: May 12th, 2013, 5:47 pm

Re: Hibernation questions

Post by BethH » December 25th, 2015, 4:05 pm

You've given me a LOT to think about. And I found the article about the snakes that kept heading out the door at night and freezing very interesting, and similarly, I enjoyed the aritlce about brumation and hibernation. I'll stick to the term hibernation.

Might I ask, rather than a behavior issue, where boas and pythons don't respond to the cold (a behavior), could the issue be that their bodies don't recognize cold (a neurological issue)? I don't imagine they have the most highly developed brains. Could the part of the brain that recognizes temperature have been rewired to handle something else, during those thousands of years that they have been in the tropics?

In Yellowstone, I know there's some kind of a boa. Rubber boa, maybe? They're native, so they must be one of the few boas that recognize when winter's coming, and take appropriate precautions. Are they likely to be found in wetish places, or dry sagey places, or ???? Are they isolated boas, or as you go south, are there other types of boas they overlap with?

Thanks for the information on the intergrades, too. Someone mentioned that eastern diamondbacks and canebrakes can breed--they hybridize. Can those hybrids breed, or are they like mules? (Do "mules" exist in snake hybridization?)

Beth

User avatar
Kelly Mc
Posts: 4299
Joined: October 18th, 2011, 12:03 pm

Re: Hibernation questions

Post by Kelly Mc » December 25th, 2015, 4:50 pm

WSTREPS wrote:
One of my favorite quotes from the legendary theoretical physicist Richard P. Feynman .

"I was terrible in English. I couldn't stand the subject. It seemed to me ridiculous to worry about whether you spelled something wrong or not, because English spelling is just a human convention - it has nothing to do with anything real, anything from nature."


Ernie Eison

I think that depends on the person, and their command of language and root word concepts. If I make a mistake in spelling what I feel is an important piece of a sentence, say spelling climatic, climactic, I feel that is a real mistake, that could be misunderstood as culminating, instead of climate, it helps me remember , to correct mistakes, if I catch them. As I know I've mispelled it before.

I'm only a fair speller, and don't mind trying to spell better. It proves no degree of rogue-dom, to not care. Unless one IS a legendary Physicist.

User avatar
Kelly Mc
Posts: 4299
Joined: October 18th, 2011, 12:03 pm

Re: Hibernation questions

Post by Kelly Mc » December 25th, 2015, 5:59 pm

Boas and pythons and other tropical snakes and lizards dont need to 'recognize' when its cold. There is no 'inability ' or recognition as a 'missing' factor.

Boas and pythons are fully innervated, even though considered more basal than the temperate colubrids.

They are successful organisms where they exist.

The threshold of kinetic energy to temperature isn't as low for them as it is for temperate snakes. That's really all there is to it probably.

User avatar
walk-about
Posts: 567
Joined: June 14th, 2010, 11:04 am
Location: 'God's Country' aka western KY
Contact:

Re: Hibernation questions

Post by walk-about » December 25th, 2015, 6:20 pm

Kelly - I like your 'apple in a blanket' analogy. And then I just saw that Geiko 'pig in a blanket' commercial on tv. And then I remembered my Uncle Fred used to have a pig that loved to eat big red apples....and he (the pig and not my Uncle) had his own blanket with pictures of apples on it....and then it just got all confusing. Ha-ha. Merry Christmas!

Dave

User avatar
Kelly Mc
Posts: 4299
Joined: October 18th, 2011, 12:03 pm

Re: Hibernation questions

Post by Kelly Mc » December 25th, 2015, 6:55 pm

That's a delight to picture, and Christmas card worthy!

Merry Christmas hope its as cozy as pigs in apple blankets!

User avatar
Kelly Mc
Posts: 4299
Joined: October 18th, 2011, 12:03 pm

Re: Hibernation questions

Post by Kelly Mc » December 25th, 2015, 7:36 pm

WSTREPS wrote:I don't believe anyone was projecting mammalian or anthropocentric warmth seeking behaviors onto the pythons. The idea that they would be attracted to warm shelters when temperature's drop is directly based on commonly seen reptilian behavior. This was pointed out in the first Barker paper I linked to. When I designed my outdoor enclosure's and placed the pythons in them. My, I wouldn't say expectation's but more along the lines of hopes were based on what I had seen in the adaptive behavior of other reptiles. Redfoot tortoises for example come from tropical climates, do not burrow or seek out other structures to protect themselves from the cold but can quickly learn to use heated shelter's . The tortoises learn to recognize and anticipate the onset of cold temperature's and the need to take refuge from it.

Snakes don't hide/seek shelter exclusively for protection against predation. They also do it as a means of thermoregulation. They choose places that best provide for this need. Not just from periods of dangerous cold or heat (estivate) but as part of their basic daily routine. It seemingly makes perfect biological sense that a cold python would instinctually be attracted to a warm hiding area, have a thermoregulatory reaction that would allow them to escape freezing temperature's if given the chance. But....

In terms of thermoregulation for the giant snakes going into hiding /seeking shelter is centered on finding temperature stability (comfort). It's never been about protection from the cold. They have never had a need for this type of thermal adaptive protective behavior. It's not in their play book. They do not exhibit the ability to learn or inherit this behavioral trait the way some other reptiles do.

Another point is that these animals are nocturnal. They never had to evolve a defense mechanism against straying from a warm shelter into potentially deadly night time temperature's. When it gets dark that is a cue to go out and hunt, become active. It has been proven that the big snakes will leave the security of a warm resting place and crawl into the dark in deadly low temperature's. They don't possess the specialized behavioral triggering and morphology that is found in species that are capable of successful hibernation/bromating however you want to say it, during extended periods of lethal cold. The giant snakes do not recognize cold as a threat and so fail to (simply put) willingly protect themselves from it.

Below is a title and link to the paper based on the USDA Python/Cold Study along with a quote.

Cold weather and the potential range of invasive Burmese pythons
Michael L. Avery • Richard M. Engeman • Kandy L. Keacher • John S. Humphrey • William E. Bruce • Tom C. Mathies • Richard E. Mauldin

http://usark.org/wp-content/uploads/201 ... lltext.pdf

"Pythons were not subject to round the clock surveillance, but during routine maintenance we observed behavior seemingly contradictory to a cold weather survival instinct."
I believe I was told that snakes don't hibernate, they brumate (brunate?). And I've been told that bears don't hibernate, they do something else, too. In a nutshell, what's the difference between those things, and hibernating?
I'm not sure about in a nutshell but this link should be helpful. I'm not a big fan of semantical debate when it comes to nature. The key to reading is remembering what's important and forgetting everything else.

http://theobligatescientist.blogspot.co ... umate.html


One of my favorite quotes from the legendary theoretical physicist Richard P. Feynman .

"I was terrible in English. I couldn't stand the subject. It seemed to me ridiculous to worry about whether you spelled something wrong or not, because English spelling is just a human convention - it has nothing to do with anything real, anything from nature."


Ernie Eison

No one said thermoregulation wasn't an impetus for changing station, including a sheltered chamber. They have acute relationship with surfaces, spatial and air temperatures.
But boas and pythons don't "move out of the cold" because when thoroughly chilled they are physiologically inert, and can't.

User avatar
WSTREPS
Posts: 485
Joined: June 9th, 2010, 3:03 pm

Re: Hibernation questions

Post by WSTREPS » December 25th, 2015, 9:00 pm

But boas and pythons don't "move out of the cold" because when thoroughly chilled they are physiologically inert, and can't.


The topic point isn't and has never been about what the snakes do after they are already to cold to move, it is centered on why they do not retreat to warm shelters as the temperatures are dropping, why they fail to acknowledge the impending danger dropping temperature's present. The snakes have the opportunity to move to warmth even after temperatures reach the danger point before becoming completely inert but do not.

A quote from the Posted Barker paper

"Sometimes when we checked at night we would find them prowling slowly in the cold air, even below freezing "

Even as they were freezing the snakes still had the chance to move into the warmth but did not. I never let my snakes get this cold but at 50 degrees and dropping I would find the pythons still actively crawling out in the open and completely ignoring the heated areas provided. It was already far below the normal temperatures these animals would experience and getting colder, but moving into the warmth as natural as it might seem was not a choice they would make.
Boas and pythons and other tropical snakes and lizards dont need to 'recognize' when its cold. There is no 'inability ' or recognition as a 'missing' factor.

Boas and pythons are fully innervated, even though considered more basal than the temperate colubrids.

They are successful organisms where they exist.
To be clear how the big snakes evolution perfectly serves them in their naturally occurring range was not part of the discussion.

The point of the discussion surrounding these animals was based on the comments quoted below and how the big snakes behavior's apply to circumstance's that would require a need to recognize when its cold. How this then becomes an inability and subsequently becomes a missing factor in the animals survival .
I assume the invasive pythons and anacondas in the Everglades do not have any hardwiring that says to go hibernate. Is hiberntion a physical metabolic thing, or do those invasive snakes not even ever seek out hidy-holes?

That is not to say that they will not seek out a place to shelter from the cold- that is programmed into them also. They get down into stumpholes, under house foundations, cracks in the limestone, etc and try to wait it out.
Government employed alleged experts speculated, insisted that despite never having a use for cold recognition or for evolutionally defense's to protect them from fatally low temperature's, the big snakes would somehow instinctively adopt these behavior's . The link to the Dorcas, M. E., J. D. Willson and J. W. Gibbons experiment that I posted were the efforts to prove this. They did not.

The results proved that the big snakes inability to adjust to cold is certainly a missing factor when considering a species ability to adapt to regions that experience fatally low temperature's for these animals. The reasoning behind the snakes failure to use what could be described as reptile common sense to escape the cold can be speculated on / guessed at but not fully understood.

Ernie Eison

User avatar
Kelly Mc
Posts: 4299
Joined: October 18th, 2011, 12:03 pm

Re: Hibernation questions

Post by Kelly Mc » December 25th, 2015, 10:24 pm

I think that the pythons metabolism and energy level drops quick in those temps. They are slow to react to anything at all when in that range.

How do you know its a behavioral failure to follow through *when it starts getting cold? What changes in heart rate and circulatory after how many minutes of starting to get cold? What are the effects of breathing starting to get cold air in the boid lung? Air that is immediately cold in the pulmonary system of a tropical poikilothermic animal?

Starting to get cold is how long the exposure?


There are many mysteries in behavior but I don't think this is one of them

User avatar
Kelly Mc
Posts: 4299
Joined: October 18th, 2011, 12:03 pm

Re: Hibernation questions

Post by Kelly Mc » December 25th, 2015, 11:06 pm

Before calling something a behavior, a physiological reason is always examined first.

I notice lots of things called 'behaviors' from bleeding out of the mouth after getting hit by a car to being so calm drinking" when a snake was just dehydrated.

The word behavior isn't a synonym for physical reaction to any and all deleterious impacts.

MCHerper
Posts: 443
Joined: September 22nd, 2012, 5:13 pm

Re: Hibernation questions

Post by MCHerper » December 26th, 2015, 11:31 am

Kelly Mc wrote:Before calling something a behavior, a physiological reason is always examined first.

I notice lots of things called 'behaviors' from bleeding out of the mouth after getting hit by a car to being so calm drinking" when a snake was just dehydrated.

The word behavior isn't a synonym for physical reaction to any and all deleterious impacts.
I thought that behavior was generally agreed to be a response to a particular stimulus?

Also, for clarification, am I understanding that Ernie is saying that the large constrictors in question will not respond to the stimulus of being cold because they don't recognize it, where your argument is that they physiologically can not because they are becoming torpid?

User avatar
Kelly Mc
Posts: 4299
Joined: October 18th, 2011, 12:03 pm

Re: Hibernation questions

Post by Kelly Mc » December 26th, 2015, 12:50 pm

Having a seizure for example, or an internal injury bleed isn't a "behavior".

I don't agree with the recognition theory. I think the anomalous temps are just another physiological type event, or thermal trauma if you want a word there.

User avatar
Kelly Mc
Posts: 4299
Joined: October 18th, 2011, 12:03 pm

Re: Hibernation questions

Post by Kelly Mc » December 26th, 2015, 1:29 pm

Being in a state, or process doesn't mean features of it aren't recognized just because we have made "recognition" a behavioral value per temperate species. I think there is sensate awareness and a disabling of the body. One doesn't have to choose one over the other.

User avatar
Kelly Mc
Posts: 4299
Joined: October 18th, 2011, 12:03 pm

Re: Hibernation questions

Post by Kelly Mc » December 26th, 2015, 3:12 pm



"Sometimes when we checked at night we would find them prowling slowly in the cold air, even below freezing "

This is exactly it. prowling slowly

If a snake is moving slowly - it must be prowling?

If the above temperature and observation is accurate, then what was being seen is the way a living snake moves when capillaries are splintering.


Behavior doesn't have authority over tissue matter.

BethH
Posts: 112
Joined: May 12th, 2013, 5:47 pm

Re: Hibernation questions

Post by BethH » December 26th, 2015, 6:21 pm

So is this a chicken-egg thing at this point? The snakes won't react to cold temperatures because for eons they simply haven't had to deal with this, so they "ignore it," even to the point of death.

I love the apple with the blanket idea.

Thanks for the information. Beth

MCHerper
Posts: 443
Joined: September 22nd, 2012, 5:13 pm

Re: Hibernation questions

Post by MCHerper » December 26th, 2015, 8:21 pm

Kelly's never seen an endothermic apple. :lol:

User avatar
Kelly Mc
Posts: 4299
Joined: October 18th, 2011, 12:03 pm

Re: Hibernation questions

Post by Kelly Mc » December 26th, 2015, 9:30 pm

It sounds nice though MCHerper :)

User avatar
Kelly Mc
Posts: 4299
Joined: October 18th, 2011, 12:03 pm

Re: Hibernation questions

Post by Kelly Mc » December 27th, 2015, 11:50 am

I posted alot on this thread not really in contention with Ernie, as he said there is much we don't understand.

I don't underestimate the complexities of behaviors and never considered pythons and boas simpleton snakes, just because they have been on earth longer.

I could believe there was a failure to recognize cold factor if somehow it could be proven or investigation methods refined to try. But behaviors are like glow in the dark outlines ethereally connected to the way reality is experienced by them, not what we know and what we see as a valuable factor.

But what we do have is the ability to examine The Body and its physics , and what happens to it in conditions. We have some data on that, and like the tropical snake "being so calm" or the shocky kingsnake crawling away injured but looking fine on the outside, the physical effects of cold temps must be factored in first, just like it is in medical protocol.

There is of course a possibility of absent recognition, but because we can get physiologically relevant data we should look at that first to see whether it is just disorientation induced by the cold on systems of the body.

User avatar
WSTREPS
Posts: 485
Joined: June 9th, 2010, 3:03 pm

Re: Hibernation questions

Post by WSTREPS » December 28th, 2015, 5:37 pm

The snakes showed no ability whatsoever to recognize that they needed to get out of the cold. This held true even when the dropping temperatures began and the snakes were in close proximity to heated shelters.
.
The giant snakes do not recognize cold as a threat and so fail to (simply put) willingly protect themselves from it.
So no one gets the wrong idea pythons certainly can tell cold from warm. When I say they don't recognize cold I mean they don't react to it as a danger. Hopefully everyone caught that from the two underlined quotes taken from my previous post.

Temperature changes including cooling do invoke behavioral response's. It's how they react to deadly temperature drops that's puzzling. The fact they don't show any type of direct survival instinct when there is plenty of opportunity to act. The snakes behavior is to try to conduct business as usual. As one published scientific study put it,

" we observed behavior seemingly contradictory to a cold weather survival instinct."

Pythons are extremely temperature sensitive. By basking the snakes are reacting to temperatures that are to cool by raising their body temperature. Feed an ice-cold rabbit to a python. The snake might initially be attracted to the rabbit by the scent but as soon it gets close, maybe makes slight contact the snake is repulsed, because the rabbit is cold. When the rabbit hits a suitably warm temperature the snake goes over and eats it. The rabbits not cold any more the snake can sense this. When brooding eggs if the temperatures start to drop the females recognize this, they tighten their coils and begin to shiver. Brooding female pythons instinctively shiver to generate heat to keep the eggs warm when the temperature starts to drop. It gets to cold for the eggs. They need to raise the temperature. They recognize cold, sometimes. But...............

Insularly note: The response to the Richard P. Feynman quote clearly missed the point. He was so dead on with his appraisals of academia.
If a snake is moving slowly - it must be prowling?
Under the circumstances . Yes, that's what it's doing. I noted the quote was from the Barker paper I posted the link to. In my comment above I told how the snakes nocturnal behavior plays into the overall bigger picture of its cold climate behavior.

"All of the large pythons were observed to move outside in dangerously low temperatures --- always at night " Dave / Tracy Barker

Move outside, at night, prowl. Follow their nocturnal instinct.

The snakes can certainly feel the sharp temperature decline when their face leaves the heated enclosure and hits the cold air, but unlike the frozen bunny scenario they don't pull back, they follow their instinctual nocturnal behavior and go out, prowl around. Die.

" But sometimes snakes would move in the night after our last check." Dave /Tracy Barker

From what I've seen in the wild. The big snakes love to crawl late in the evening , when it starts to comparatively cool down. In the Everglades that might mean going from 93 to 84 degrees but non the less it is a temperature drop. The snakes are accustomed to moving as the temperature is dropping, so for them the natural thing might be to move from a comfortable resting spot into the cooler night air. It could be their internal thermostat does not have a low point warning response in this situation. Its dark, it's cool , it's all good. Unlike the frozen rabbit scenario where the temperature disables the feeding response, the prowling response is not turned off by the cold. The animals roaming instinct is completely dictated by the need to complete specific life goals, and only shuts off when the needs are meant or some cue other then cold tells them it's time to check in.
But if an animal, or any object isn't producing heat - the temperature of it will not be sustained in close space.

If you wrapped up an apple in a wool blanket, it would not keep warm. The same with a snake. Even if the apple or snake and the blanket all started out warm, temperature of the snake, the apple and the blanket would eventually drop to the ambient of the surroundings because none of them create any heat to conserve.
Apples don't thermal regulate, snakes do. Snakes typically don't crawl from one cold place to another place with unstable temperature's to keep warm, Snakes that are cold typically move to a place where the temperature's are elevated and offer thermal stability from the surrounding cooler areas. They are doing more then trying to sustain their heat they putting themselves into a place that has some sort of sustained heat compared to the colder surrounding's.

Like taking an apple from the refrigerator and putting it in the oven. As long as the oven stays warm the apple stays warm. Cold snakes like to find ovens that stay warm.

Ernie Eison

User avatar
Kelly Mc
Posts: 4299
Joined: October 18th, 2011, 12:03 pm

Re: Hibernation questions

Post by Kelly Mc » December 28th, 2015, 5:53 pm

Ok Ernie :)

User avatar
Kelly Mc
Posts: 4299
Joined: October 18th, 2011, 12:03 pm

Re: Hibernation questions

Post by Kelly Mc » December 28th, 2015, 6:17 pm

Ernie if you look at my posts I rarely if ever use emoticons in snarky ways. I hate that s*.

I'm honestly deferring and I'm going to read your posts again more carefully, as I could have misconstrued.

Also, I do have a problem with the prowling thing, as , and I'm borrowing a term I learned recently from another thread, in that the simplified beau-plan of snakes makes a set of movement expression possible. In freezing temperatures there are changes to tissue, that may perhaps incite a disabled attempt to flee adverse stimuli, ie the crystallization and rupture of capillaries is speculated as being quite painful, which is why freezing snakes as a euthanasia method has fallen out of favor.

I do not believe a snake would be prowling when under duress of those circumstances, which I believe would derail any normal foray activity. That's what really sticks out in my mind, the physical realities of freezing on the systems of the body.

User avatar
Kelly Mc
Posts: 4299
Joined: October 18th, 2011, 12:03 pm

Re: Hibernation questions

Post by Kelly Mc » December 28th, 2015, 6:43 pm

By fleeing adverse stimuli, in a slow crawl, I mean the discomfort of tissue changes in the body. This has been seen in the restless marching of leopard geckos with pancreatitis and other reptiles with injuries, that unlike mammals and birds, do not "favor" or change locomotive styles when injured (often causing more self injury) perhaps because being non developmental in movement stages and skills, having full hardwired repertoire of motion from day one.

So I see the slow crawl as motion yes, probably rectilinear, but subdued greatly from the temperature and dysphoric.

User avatar
Kelly Mc
Posts: 4299
Joined: October 18th, 2011, 12:03 pm

Re: Hibernation questions

Post by Kelly Mc » December 28th, 2015, 7:29 pm

It would be much easier to accept the points you made, which are very compelling, if the prowling Below Freezing item was not included. That's what stops the rationale for me.

BethH
Posts: 112
Joined: May 12th, 2013, 5:47 pm

Re: Hibernation questions

Post by BethH » December 29th, 2015, 4:28 am

I nevver thought about snakes (and others) having their full repertoire of locomotion from the get-go before. TThat's a neat fact.

And I'm sorry if asking about whether snakes might not be able to sense if it was "cold" was goofy--I just wondered because, if bears don't see all that well, and humans--as someone pointed out--are so lame at many things, I wondered if the snakes could have lost the ability to detect low temperatures.

Anyway, thank you for your explanations. It's making sense.

Beth

User avatar
chris_mcmartin
Posts: 2429
Joined: June 8th, 2010, 11:13 pm
Location: Greater Houston TX Area
Contact:

Re: Hibernation questions

Post by chris_mcmartin » December 29th, 2015, 5:58 am

Kelly Mc wrote:It would be much easier to accept the points you made, which are very compelling, if the prowling Below Freezing item was not included. That's what stops the rationale for me.
Even in temperatures below freezing, if a snake is moving from a warm hiding place to being exposed to those below-freezing temps, it's not going to freeze instantaneously. It would be interesting to track the rate of a snake's body temperature drop in such conditions (e.g. moving from a 50-degree hiding place to a 25-degree location).

I imagine a snake not accustomed to such extremely cold conditions may depart its hiding spot, start crawling around, and then as parts of its body succumb to the cold, the snake thinks, "I've made a huge mistake." By then it's too late to retreat to safety.

User avatar
Kelly Mc
Posts: 4299
Joined: October 18th, 2011, 12:03 pm

Re: Hibernation questions

Post by Kelly Mc » December 29th, 2015, 6:31 am

I know that Chris. There was no thought of "instantaneous freeze".

Low temps sinking in from the outside in are what enable the snake to function until fascia is penetrated and vital organs become impacted, causing death.

Before trying to imagine what the snake is thinking, it may be better to know what's actually happening.

User avatar
WSTREPS
Posts: 485
Joined: June 9th, 2010, 3:03 pm

Re: Hibernation questions

Post by WSTREPS » December 29th, 2015, 9:35 am

I imagine a snake not accustomed to such extremely cold conditions may depart its hiding spot, start crawling around, and then as parts of its body succumb to the cold, the snake thinks, "I've made a huge mistake." By then it's too late to retreat to safety.
That could be it sometimes. But what is seen in the behavior of the pythons like I already mentioned is that the snakes have plenty of time to get out of the cold before it reaches the critical stage. The snakes have the incredible ability to detect minute changes in temperature, precise thermal regulation is how they survive. To cool / bask , to hot get in the shade. Pythons have heat sensory pits along the edges of their lips that are part of the snake's somatosensory system which detects touch, temperature and pain. This is what tells the snakes that an ice cold rabbit is not good to eat. It should be what tells the snake to avoid the cold. The lower the surrounding temperature the more effective the heat sensory pits work in detecting warmth. As the temperature's drop the more warm retreats standout. They don't fail to react because they are physically unable, they clearly could get to a warm refuge. They don't make the right choice because they have no warning system in place to alert them that they need to.

But they do have other instinctual programming / behavior's, ones that are counter productive to their survival in a cold situation.

What is observed is that the snakes follow their regular routine in good temps or dangerous temps. They act the same way if going to be a 70 degrees at night or 30 degrees at night. The animals demise is centered around it's behavior. What I think is taking place is that the heat sensory pits will send the warning single that something is to cold to eat. But it does not send a warning single that's it's to cold to leave a warm refuge or seek a warm shelter when out in dropping temperature's. The low end protective temperature warning was never built into the animal, why would it be ? They never needed it. . Except for a couple of days in 2010 in Florida. No Burmese python has ever seen freezing temperature's or temperatures that could be life threatening if action was not taken. There are tropical reptiles that show some cold weather tolerance or adaptability. The big snakes don't. No giant python has ever hibernated or had a need to escape the cold.

Ernie Eison

stlouisdude
Posts: 412
Joined: June 7th, 2010, 7:30 pm
Location: St Louis, MO / Hartford, CT

Re: Hibernation questions

Post by stlouisdude » December 29th, 2015, 10:02 am

I can't wait to get a year round outdoor breeding program going in Maryland. http://www.usgs.gov/newsroom/article.as ... oLKS1n20l2According to the USGS, it should be no problem.

User avatar
Kelly Mc
Posts: 4299
Joined: October 18th, 2011, 12:03 pm

Re: Hibernation questions

Post by Kelly Mc » December 29th, 2015, 2:58 pm

The question remains in watching a python arduously moving if that alone constitutes it 'going about its normal routine'.

There's a whole lot of snake going on inside, besides what we think we see.

MCHerper
Posts: 443
Joined: September 22nd, 2012, 5:13 pm

Re: Hibernation questions

Post by MCHerper » December 29th, 2015, 3:05 pm

WSTREPS wrote:
From what I've seen in the wild. The big snakes love to crawl late in the evening , when it starts to comparatively cool down. In the Everglades that might mean going from 93 to 84 degrees but non the less it is a temperature drop. The snakes are accustomed to moving as the temperature is dropping, so for them the natural thing might be to move from a comfortable resting spot into the cooler night air. It could be their internal thermostat does not have a low point warning response in this situation. Its dark, it's cool , it's all good. Unlike the frozen rabbit scenario where the temperature disables the feeding response, the prowling response is not turned off by the cold. The animals roaming instinct is completely dictated by the need to complete specific life goals, and only shuts off when the needs are meant or some cue other then cold tells them it's time to check in.


Ernie Eison
This answers my question and clarifies a lot for me. Interesting stuff Ernie! Thank you for the info!

User avatar
Kelly Mc
Posts: 4299
Joined: October 18th, 2011, 12:03 pm

Re: Hibernation questions

Post by Kelly Mc » December 29th, 2015, 4:23 pm

The detailed descriptions of heat pits and thermoregulatory behavior is attractive, but it still doesn't distract from the physical effects of unprecedentedly low, close to, and even quoted as below freezing temps.

That is where the choice of words ' completely dictated by..' fall silent. And somewhat ironically.

User avatar
Kelly Mc
Posts: 4299
Joined: October 18th, 2011, 12:03 pm

Re: Hibernation questions

Post by Kelly Mc » December 29th, 2015, 5:40 pm

Kelly Mc wrote:I know that Chris. There was no thought of "instantaneous freeze".

Low temps sinking in from the outside in are what enable the snake to function until fascia is penetrated and vital organs become impacted, causing death.

Before trying to imagine what the snake is thinking, it may be better to know what's actually happening.

Meaning the impact on the organs by the debilitating, tissue damaging temperature. These effects are non speculative, and predictable. If you think in terms of Matter.

Nerve fibers, and their works, the vasculature and muscle fibers will also be impacted, categorized as injury.

That normal roaming behaviors are simply askew is the fine line being discussed between behavioral theory and the process of thermal death.

User avatar
WSTREPS
Posts: 485
Joined: June 9th, 2010, 3:03 pm

Re: Hibernation questions

Post by WSTREPS » December 29th, 2015, 8:06 pm

The detailed descriptions of heat pits and thermoregulatory behavior is attractive, but it still doesn't distract from the physical effects of unprecedentedly low, close to, and even quoted as below freezing temps.

For off is anyone actually going to read thru this rather lengthy post ?

The insistence that the physical effects of cold and not instinctual behavior is at the heart of the pythons contradictory cold weather reaction, that somehow experiencing physical changes as a result of cold is directing the snakes to leave the safety of a warm shelter to crawl to their deaths or that somehow the snakes that are out crawling in dropping but still doable temperature's are disabled by the physical effects of the lowering temperature's to the point they can't respond in a manor conducive to protecting themselves from the impending cold , simply is not a tangible answer as to why the snakes do not try to protect themselves from the dropping temperatures.

Having had the chance to actually observe the animals under unnaturally low temperatures and comparing these observations with the animals behavior in normal python temperature's and with others who have done the same. The animals are not disabled or unable to navigate their surroundings before having the opportunity to find shelter. This has been said before, why the snakes don't seek refuge from the dropping temperature's clearly is not because they are unable to.

The lives of pythons are completely dictated by the need to complete life goals. These life goals dictate the animals behavior/movement's. Maintaining proper temperatures are part of this dictated behavior. Hot or cold. A python won't crawl into a fire or take a swim in pool of ice water. But they will crawl out into the cold night following the behavior that dictates their night time habits. The need to hunt, breed. The pythons urge to complete major life goals when it gets dark. Normal python behavior.

Nocturnal behavior unlike the bulk of the animals day light behavior's, basking when cool or moving into the shade when hot is not entirely centered on thermal regulation. The results of following the instinctual nocturnal behavior's that dictate the completion of life goals, is what leads to the physical effects the snakes suffer when they get caught in dangerously low temperature's. Not the other way around. The reason the pythons froze to death was the result their behavior's. Preexisting protocols that the snakes follow. Their evolved behavior's.

The snakes normal , yes normal, the typical pattern of behavior these snakes exhibit in safe temperature's is what leads to their demise. They didn't change these patterns of behavior with the onset of cold weather. There's nothing askew , they are doing what they normally do with out the acknowledgment that their lives are in danger.

All reptiles freeze to death. All reptiles hit a critical temperature, they all suffer physical effects when exposed dropping temperature's and to excessive cold. Its how they respond and when that is the difference maker. The first rule of cold weather reptile behavior is to seek warm shelter when temperature's begin to drop , the triggering instinct that's tells theses animals its time to take cover.

During the cold snap of 2010. All 10 of the radio tracked pythons died. Froze to death. They were all found lying out in the open. They did not find (seek) safe cover or remain under cover when the freezing temperature's hit.

No one was finding frozen corn snakes. None of the corn snakes in the everglades had ever seen a freezing day. But unlike the pythons they have the low end protective temperature warning. They instinctively reacted well before they hit the critical stage. This protective response is built into them. The native snakes reacted the way the government paid researched scientist said the pythons would (and obviously did not). At the Savannah River Ecology Lab near Aiken, South Carolina. The pythons exhibited the same typical/normal python behavior, with the same result(dead). The USDA experiment in Gainesville, FL produced the same behavior and result (dead), for the Barkers and myself the same result, the only difference is we saved our snakes from the certain death. In all cases the snakes showed the same pattern of behavior. The pattern of behavior that is typical/normal for pythons . Can the big pythons learn to hibernate? Well, their sure as hell not going to do it in the Everglades where no reptile has ever needed to hibernate.

Ernie Eison

I'll tack this on, I feel it's owed.

For those who might not be familiar with the Barkers, Dave and Tracy. In brief,

are scientist and the worlds foremost authorities on pythons. They have produced the most complete, most detailed research on pythons available. They have from a detailed scientific standpoint covered all aspects of python biology both in nature and captivity. Their body of work is unsurpassed. I certainly wouldn't put myself in their league. When it comes to this subject they are in a league of their own..................

Below is a series of comments from the Barkers research, these comments and observations are completely in line with what has been seen by everyone including myself who have had the opportunity to work with large pythons and made attempts to adapt them to colder then normal environments. These observations and comments are not the result of failing to considering various scenario's including physiological responses but are the result of years of first hand experience and knowledge of what is and what isn't normal python behavior. How this behavior manifest itself under what for the snakes are unnatural conditions. The behaviors that dictate how a python lives.

in the winter they were as likely to go outside when it was fatally cold as when it was only uncomfortably cold. They did not or could not make the distinction.

Based on our observations, we came to the conclusion that large tropical pythons and boas are able to tolerate “uncomfortable cold” and will modify their behaviors accordingly. Undoubtedly, some of the behaviors seen were the metabolic consequences of significantly lower body temperatures --- the snakes moved slowly, they moved less, they quit eating. However, we observed that the snakes made conscious decisions on how to react to colder temperatures. Dave and Tracy Barker

It is my observation that those species native to the tropics and other areas where low winter temperatures are unknown have no specific ability to protect themselves from periods of fatal cold. However, based on the behaviors and actions that we observed when the weather was near or below freezing, Tracy and I, much to our keen disappointment, concluded that the pythons and the four tropical boas did not appear be motivated to seek shelter in an environment of “fatal cold.” They did not appear to us to be able to behave in a manner that reflected the reality that in certain weather conditions it is not an option for a snake.

Dave and Tracy Barker

User avatar
chris_mcmartin
Posts: 2429
Joined: June 8th, 2010, 11:13 pm
Location: Greater Houston TX Area
Contact:

Re: Hibernation questions

Post by chris_mcmartin » December 29th, 2015, 8:22 pm

Kelly Mc wrote:Before trying to imagine what the snake is thinking, it may be better to know what's actually happening.
Dangnabbit! In hindsight I should've went ahead and thrown a smiley in there...was making a reference to Arrested Development.

I'm only attempting to point out a tiny thread in a sweater that ideally someone with appropriate resources could go ahead and pull to get the whole thing to unravel. :)

User avatar
Kelly Mc
Posts: 4299
Joined: October 18th, 2011, 12:03 pm

Re: Hibernation questions

Post by Kelly Mc » December 29th, 2015, 8:39 pm

I know who the Barkers are. I don't modify my questions or perspective on how famous or competent an expert is.

The Barkers observations were made with no data included on the physiological effects of hypothermia on subject pythons and how those effects, which could range from marginal to more extensive morbidities on membranes and tissues, could produce dysphoric activity from discomfort alone, with vasoconstriction and tissue rigidities, and other physically altering factors, standing on their own hard data'd merit alone.

But they were not included.

Post Reply