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Rattlesnakes UPSC NOTE



  • Rattlesnakes are venomous snakes that form the genera Crotalus and Sistrurus of the subfamily Crotalinae (the pit vipers). 

  • All rattlesnakes are vipers. 

  • Rattlesnakes are predators that live in a wide array of habitats, hunting small animals such as birds and rodents.

  • Rattlesnakes receive their name from the rattle located at the end of their tails, which makes a loud rattling noise when vibrated that deters predators.

  • Rattlesnakes are native to the Americas from southern Canada to central Argentina, with the majority of species inhabiting arid regions.


  • The rattle serves as a warning for predators of the rattlesnake.

  • The rattle is composed of a series of hollow, interlocked segments made of keratin, which are created by modifying the scales that cover the tip of the tail. 

  • The contraction of special "shaker" muscles in the tail causes these segments to vibrate against one another.

  • Thus making the rattling noise (which is amplified because the segments are hollow) in a behavior known as tail vibration.

  • The muscles which cause rattling are some of the fastest known, firing 50 times per second on average, sustainable for a duration up to three hours.

  • In 2016, Allf et al published a paper proposed that tail vibration in response to predator threat could be the precursor for the rattling system in rattlesnakes, an example of behavioral plasticity.

Findings of the recent study

  • A new study from Loma Linda University near San Bernardino, California, found that the venomous rattler appears to take comfort in being close to its own kind, much like people.

  • The research showed that the snakes seem to gain a sense of well-being when they wriggle into sort of a group hug with other rattlers.

  • The findings challenge the notion that reptiles are solitary hunters that display little in the way of complex social behaviour.

  • Ethology, the study of animal behavior, has long recognized that birds and mammals, including humans, find comfort from being physically close to their own kind. 

  • Such proximity tends to make reptiles more relaxed, lowers their heart rates and reduces stress - not much different from people.

  • The calming effect when creatures are in close proximity with their own kind is called social buffering.



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Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam: Rattlesnakes UPSC NOTE
Rattlesnakes UPSC NOTE
Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam
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