Snakes and Humans

‘Arms Race’ Exists Between Snakes and Humans

Sarah C. P. Williams, ScienceNOW

At sunset on 13 March 1973, a reticulated python (Python reticulatus) slithered into a thatched hut in the Philippines and killed two siblings: a 4-year-old girl and a 3-year-old boy. The third child in the family was saved when his father returned to the hut and killed the reptile with a bolo knife.

That’s one of many observations described in a new analysis of snake attacks on the Agta Negritos, a rural hunter-gatherer culture that thrived in the isolated mountain regions of Luzon island until the 1990s. The new data, based on interviews with Agta adults, reveal that snakes were more than just a rare nuisance to the people. They were prey, predator, and competitor all at once. The complex relationship helps reveal the evolutionary pressures that humans and snakes once put on each other.

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