Does the pilot snake pilot other snakes?

January 22, 2017 | Author: | Posted in Zoology

The pilot snake, Elaphe obsoleta, gets its popular name from the curious belief that it precedes rattlesnakes and warns them of the approach of danger. According to one version of the belief, the pilot snake is neither male nor female, but a “neuter” rattlesnake that devotes its time to piloting other snakes around. Another version of the belief is that the pilot snake, which is also known as the “companionate snake” or the “rattler’s companion,” is a hybrid resulting from a cross between the rattlesnake and the bull snake. Of course, this is all mythical. The two reptiles are structurally quite different and it is highly improbable that the two species would interbreed. Besides, rattlesnakes give birth to living young, while bull snakes lay eggs. The odd belief that gave the pilot snake its popular name probably arose from the fact that members of this species are frequently found in the vicinity of rattlesnakes. Members of the two species are often seen basking in the sunshine close together. It is unlikely that they are brought together because of any fraternal feelings for one another. In all probability the two species are entirely indifferent to each other and are found in the same vicinity occasionally simply because they see similar places to bask in the sunshine. The pilot snake or “pilot black snake” is a sluggish tree climber and is found chiefly in mountainous regions, whence it is often known as the “mountain black snake.” It is a rat snake and the pitchy black upper surface of the species resembles that of the black snake or racer, but its luster is glossy rather than satiny and the skin has white edges on the scales when stretched.

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