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snakesWhen to Blend and When to Show Off

Species that blend into their environment (e.g., this Western Diamondback Rattlesnake) are said to have cryptic coloration. Species that are conspicuously-colored (e.g., this Sonoran Mountain Kingsnake) are said to have aposematic coloration. If you are a delicious morsel, then you want cryptic coloration. If you are poisonous, there are two strategies -- use cryptic coloration so as not to be found in the first place, or use aposematic coloration to warn the potential predator that you are dangerous, thus saving the potential predator from poisoning and you from a bite or from wasting any precious venom.

But alas! This Sonoran Mountain Kingsnake (Lampropeltis pyromelana) is NOT venomous, it is just mimicking the coloration of the Coral Snake that is venomous. This is called Batesian Mimicry, and the Sonoran Mountain Kingsnake is referred to as the Batesian mimic and the coral snake is referred to as the model.

hognose snakeThen again some species --like this Western Hognose Snake (Heterodon nasicus) -- have both cryptic and aposematic coloration. Normally, the snake is cryptically-colored and difficult to spot, but when the snake is threatened, it will coil up and show its underside that is aposematically-colored orange and black (it is also feigning dead). Note: this snake has only mildly toxic venom and is not prone to bite humans.