Snake skin is not wet
or slimy but rather dry, and in the case of the massasauga, quite
coarse. The shed skin will show the texture of the snakeís scales.
If you look closely at a snakeís shed
skin, you may see the large, clear scale (spectacle) that once covered
the eye. Since snakes canít close their eyes, spectacles offer the
snake protection while acting as its eyelids. The milky liquid
produced prior to shedding clouds the eyes and impairs the snakeís
vision. During this period, many snakes seek seclusion, since they are
vulnerable to predation or injury until molting is complete and
eyesight returns to normal.
The eastern massasauga rattlesnake belongs to the pit viper (Viperidae)
family. The name refers to the small heat-sensitive facial pit (small
opening) on either side of the face, between the eye and nostril.
The pits are used to find warm-blooded
prey through a large and highly sensitive network of nerve endings.
The brain interprets the information gathered by the two pits to
create an image of the prey animal.
Within 60 cm, a rattlesnake can find
the exact location of a warm-blooded prey species, even in complete
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