In the dark recesses of Aronoff laboratory, many are surprised to know that our lab has an entire room filled with rattlesnakes. In fact, most visitors don’t believe us until we show them. Behind a plain, gray door lives a group of dusky pigmy rattlesnakes (Sistrurus miliarius barbouri). This group of animals has been one of the main sources of data for our lab’s efforts in studying pit viper venom and how it relates to these animals diets and behavior. This work is currently being done by our principal investigator, Dr. Lisle Gibbs, and current PhD student Sarah Smiley.
Right now, one of our undergraduate students (Hardy Kern) is finishing a project examining how these snakes, which have been eating the same type of food for months (either mice or frogs), differ in their interest in other food items. Since some of the snakes were born in the lab, the question is pretty simple: do these animals prefer the only food they’ve ever known or do they have a preference? I’m sure Hardy will come by at some point to write about his project here, but until then I thought I’d share some photos of the pigmy rattlesnakes that we took as part of Hardy’s graduation gift from the grad students.
The photos show these venomous snakes as we see them: beautiful, gentle, and curious animals.
If seeing snakes in their natural habitat is more your thing, here are some photos of pigmy rattlesnakes we found last summer during a lab trip to Florida:
Wherever you see one, these reclusive snakes are always a treat.