Sunday, March 18, 2012

Creature Feature: Rhinoceros Rat Snake.

So, I should be polishing my field report on my trip to Wat Dhammaran, a Thai Buddhist temple in Chicago. It's strange how at-ease I feel around Asian temples. This one's favorite theme was the image of Buddha enthroned and sheltered by nagas. That alone was enough to put me in heaven.

For those of you who have been corrupted by the internet, nagas are the rough Hindu/Buddhist equivalent of dragons - both the East and West kinds. They are often based off of cobras, which are themselves revered as the kings among serpents. They can also be hybrids of snakes and humans. Nagas are often respected as deities of water, with their own special type of water-borne fire in Thailand's Mekong River. That's not the only thing unique about them...

Nagas! on Twitpic

Remember how I said nagas are usually based off of cobras? Thai nagas are very not cobra-like. They have hoods if you squint, but that crest of 'fire' takes all of the attention away. It is almost as if they combined a cobra with an oarfish. Aside from the oarfish, however, there is one other animal that these giant dragon-snakes remind me of:

It's a living naga! Sort of. It's actually a Rhinoceros Rat Snake (Rhynchophis boulengeri). These snakes are native to China and Vietnam - no, not quite Thailand, but perhaps close enough to provide inspiration. They eat rodents, birds, and other small vertebrates.

The most outstanding thing about this colubrid is, of course, the scaly formation on the nose. It is excellent camouflage; see vine snakes and Baron's Racer for other examples of eerily-pointy snakes. It has green scales, too, so it'll look even more like part of the scenery.

Rhino rat snakes are expensive and among the more delicate captives. They are slightly tricky to breed, but not impossible. The females in particular are being bred for more blue in their palette. If you're an experienced keeper and are looking for something to add to your already-exotic collection, it's harder to get weirder than a unicorn-snake.

P.S.- new poll up! I'm equally fond of all of the ideas, but voted "La Vie En Blanc" just so that I could see what others were voting. XP

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