Super Mom Pit Viper (Protobothrops)

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Hans Breuer (twoton)
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Super Mom Pit Viper (Protobothrops)

Post by Hans Breuer (twoton) » July 1st, 2011, 4:52 am

This bulldog-faced lady is a four-foot long Taiwan Habu (Protobothrops mucrosquamatus), and an old friend of mine. My kids call her "Mother Gui", in reference to the Chinese name for this species, "gui ke hua" (turtle-shell pattern).
Mother Gui is currently sitting in one of the drainage pipes in an anti-landslide wall right next to a forest road in Yangmingshan National Park, at about 1800 feet elevation. She's been sitting in that hole since at least June 16, when I first discovered her this year. I say "this year", because the first time I saw her in that hole was in summer 2009. That year she stayed in the hole for an amazing five weeks, a feat she repeated in 2010, and had also performed in 2008, when a herpetologist friend of mine recorded her sitting in the pipe for the first time.

The reason why she's sitting in that pipe for over a month every year is that she's laying eggs in there. And not only that - after she's done with the laying, she guards the eggs until they're hatched, and then even watches over the neonates for a few more days. Pitvipers are arguably the most evolved of all snakes, and some species dazzle with quite amazing displays of parental behavior. (Krait moms, for one, really should take a leaf out of the Habu's book, instead of just squirting the kids into a corner, skedaddle, and then gobble them up the next time they meet)

In case you were wondering: none of us have ever checked on Mother Gui's eggs, - for obvious reasons - but the behavioral pattern is clear. I'm also almost 100% sure it's the same specimen. I have photos of her from every year since 2009, and it's always the same ol' dog face :-)

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KingCam
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Re: Super Mom Pit Viper (Protobothrops)

Post by KingCam » July 1st, 2011, 6:04 am

Incredible observation!!

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Re: Super Mom Pit Viper (Protobothrops)

Post by mikemike » July 1st, 2011, 7:21 am

That's awesome Hans. Thanks for sharing

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Marc Dubois
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Re: Super Mom Pit Viper (Protobothrops)

Post by Marc Dubois » July 1st, 2011, 8:56 am

Good find... i really like this pit viper 8-)

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Mike Pingleton
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Re: Super Mom Pit Viper (Protobothrops)

Post by Mike Pingleton » July 1st, 2011, 11:06 am

that's awesome - maybe you'll be around to catch a glimpse of the neonates when they emerge?

-Mike

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Correcamino
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Re: Super Mom Pit Viper (Protobothrops)

Post by Correcamino » July 1st, 2011, 11:43 am

Some geat observations Hans!
Pitvipers truely are amazing, and we are learning more all the time. The key is to quit messing with them and to just sit back and watch. We are even learning that certain rattlesnakes even babysit for each other, usually sibling females from earleir broods, or aunts. Crazy stuff! Brendan and I were just discussing that not too long ago, with rattlesnakes being so much more complex than earlier imagined, many of the old world vipers and pitvipers must surely do many of the same things, but was anybody studying this? Hope to see more!

Cheers,

Rich

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Re: Super Mom Pit Viper (Protobothrops)

Post by BChambers » July 1st, 2011, 12:21 pm

Amazing-reminds me of when the full range and complexity of Crocodilian maternal behavior was first uncovered.

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Re: Super Mom Pit Viper (Protobothrops)

Post by kkchome » July 1st, 2011, 5:07 pm

Great post, Hans. Hopefully, we'll get to see her tonight.

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Hans Breuer (twoton)
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Re: Super Mom Pit Viper (Protobothrops)

Post by Hans Breuer (twoton) » July 1st, 2011, 8:24 pm

Thanks, guys!
maybe you'll be around to catch a glimpse of the neonates when they emerge?
Around, I might be, but I most likely won't see them, as they'll probably leave through the back door. The pipe has an exit in the back of the wall, too narrow for human access, leading to the mountain slope it keeps from sliding off, and that's where the snake enters. It only sits close to the front door to catch some sun rays (that wall gets full sun every morning, probably another reason to choose it)

Correcamino: that rattlesnake babysitting pool observation is amazing!

Kevin, we're not going up there tonight, too rainy, we'll stay on Toad Road. But habus we will see, I can almost guarantee that :-)

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Re: Super Mom Pit Viper (Protobothrops)

Post by Bill Love » July 2nd, 2011, 8:40 am

Very cool observation! The vipers of the planet seem to be way more complicated in their lifestyles than was long imagined. The roster of talks at the upcoming Biology of the Rattlesnakes symposium in Tucson, Arizona July 20 - 23 portends that it's going to shed lots more light on those kinds of behaviors.

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Re: Super Mom Pit Viper (Protobothrops)

Post by Ian Jessup » July 4th, 2011, 8:22 am

That is awesome!!!! Experiences like that are the stuff of legend!

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