Animal Poachery

Hummingbird Snake Swan

Ξ Poem Snake Notes
© 1992..2009 by Andreas Wittenstein. Some rights reserved. (CC)

nacreous: Snakeskins have a pearly sheen because they consist of many thin translucent glossy layers.

slack: During ecdysis (shedding of the skin) in the snake, the new layer of skin underneath secretes a milky fluid containing an enzyme that softens the old layer, causing it to separate and balloon out. While this is happening, the snake is blind, vulnerable, and irritable.

skein: The scales in a sloughed snakeskin are quite transparent, while their edges are relatively opaque, so that the shed skin looks like a net or loose coil of pale thread.

slough: Every few months, snakes slough off their whole skin in one piece (including their spectacles) within a few hours, rather than continuously sloughing a few million individual cells or dandruff flakes every day as humans do.

scarce: scarcely

slipped: Snakes crawl out of their old skins, slipping out of them much as Houdini out of a straightjacket, but with musculature naturally suited to the purpose.

'gainst scrape-snagged strewn stick stacks: Shed snakeskins are so light and close-fitting that they are difficult even for snakes to escape, so their owners often snag them on sticks or rocks and scrape them off.

slate-stroked: Many snakes have stripes along their sides, often in black, gray, or brown, but sometimes in more saturated colors.

streak: In the normal sinuous motion of a snake, the entire body slithers along in the track set by the head and neck, propelled forward by simultaneously pushing and pulling different parts of its body against the ground in opposite directions with sliding friction so that the lateral forces cancel out, using the same physical principle as an ice skater when skating with both skates on the ice.

scoots: Snakes have no legs, other than vestigial spurs in a few species, and have developed many types of locomotion that seem strange and almost magical to legged animals such as humans. On a suitably tractive surface such as grass, snakes can even propel themselves rectilinearly, scooting in a straight line by lifting their belly scales forward and pushing them back down in a cycloidal pattern, essentially walking on their scutes.

silk-sleek: The keratinous skin of the snake is as smooth and slippery as our fingernails, but nearly as soft as our skin.

slink: With no feet to plant and lift, just silently sliding along, snakes are the perfect slinkers.

scute: any of the broad plates on the belly of the snake.

To slake stark pangs from six weeks' naps: Snakes eat their prey whole, without any chewing: fur, scales, feathers, teeth, bones, and all. Depending on the size of the prey, this unprepared meal can take from one to six weeks to digest. During this time, the snake tends to be lethargic, and often sleeps.

stalks meek meat steak snacks: All snakes are strict carnivores, eating only animals which they have just killed.

sixth-sense heat-pits' night-sight glance: Pit vipers such as rattlesnakes have special pit organs between the eyes and nose that act as directional infrared light sensors, so they can see the heat emitted by their prey even in utter darkness.

skip-sleep: Snakes have no eyelids, so it's hard to tell whether they're asleep or awake.

slit: The pupils of most venomous snakes' eyes are vertical slits like cats' pupils, whereas those of nonpoisonous snakes are usually round like humans'.

stare: Snakes cannot turn their eyes, which are nearly flat and covered with spectacles attached to their skin, so they always seem to be staring, their pupils centered in their eye sockets.

tongue sniffs scant sips: The snake is a superb tracker, and smells not just with its nose, but also with the help of its tongue, which has no taste buds of its own, instead picking up scent particles from the trail with its sticky saliva and transferring them to the secondary nostrils, called Jacobson's organs, on the roof of its mouth.

flicks quick: Snakes flick their tongues out and in to sniff their environment at a rate of up to a hundred flicks per minute.

split licks: Snakes have forked tongues, and spread the tips apart or even move the tongue between tip touchdowns to sample different parts of their environment, which they deliver to separate Jacobson's organs to provide stereo olfaction.

lips of glass: The lips of a snake are thin, stiff, beady, and glassy. Not the sort of lips to arouse desire in humans.

sly smug smirked…grin: A snake's mouth is enormously wide, extending all the way to the back of the head, far behind the eyes, and usually curving up toward the back, so that it appears locked in a perpetual grin.

gapes: Because the jaw of a snake is hinged at the back of the head and can fold all the way open, the snake's normal gape is up to twice the size of its closed head. But by unhinging and spreading apart the unfused bones in the lower jaw, a snake can open its mouth far wider still — wide enough to accommodate an animal several times its normal diameter.

sink lance-keen spikes' tips: Snakes have two rows of teeth in the upper jaw and one row in the lower jaw. These teeth are all sharply pointed and curved toward the back of the mouth like barbs to prevent their prey from backing out. In about a quarter of all snake species, the vipers, one row of upper teeth is reduced to a pair of long hollow or grooved fangs, sometimes retractile, through which they inject a deadly venom to disable or kill their prey.

feckless: Snakes nearly always strike successfully.

clasped with slick-scaled stiff-necked snare's fast grasp: Most nonpoisonous snakes are constrictors, who suffocate their prey by coiling around them and squeezing the air out of their lungs. Other nonvipers suffocate them by swallowing them head-first.

For more information on snakes, see the Wikipedia Snake article.

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