Indirect evidence. Snake skins

Dusty Miller

Alexander Pearce
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A snake's scales are not living tissue, and so cannot grow. To grow, a snake must shed each set of scales, and the tissue that connects them.

As the skin is about to shed (or slough), fluid is exuded between the new scales and old. The snake will generally retreat to a quiet place at this time, as its vision is impaired temporarily. The fluid is not transparent, but rather milky. Snakes tend to be more likely to bite during this phase. New snake skin can be damaged by rough handling at this stage.

When the skin is ready to slough, the snake will use objects to run against. The nose is usually the first area to break. Skins may come off in a single piece, either fully extended or rolled like a condom. Colour is not indicative of the colour of the snake, most skins being pale to dark brown. Younger snakes tend to shed more often than older snakes, related to their relatively higher growth rate.

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Some skins are well preserved, other are rolled up and the scales not visible. Often, enough scales are visible to identify the snake. Important scales that can be found even on incomplete skins are the number of dorsal rows in the midbody section (Take the piece of skin nearest the middle) and the anal or vent scale, if present. This may be found on the skin since it will not be directly joined by tissue to the scale behind it.

DSC02944.jpg
Upper surface. Note that the tissue connecting the scales is visible, due to strecthing, unlike when on the snakes, where some overlap is usually present. This means that any skin will have a larger diameter (and length) than the snake it came from. People frequently panic when they see very large skins left near their home or tent.
 

Dusty Miller

Alexander Pearce
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Here is cause for looking carefully at where you put your feet.

skin1.jpg
This skin was mostly in a small bush. It was complete and could be used for scale counting. Total length just shy of 6 feet.

skin2.jpg
The head is broad, and the arboreal location makes it likely that this belonged to a python.
 
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