Snakes Appear to Comfort Each Other

How ssssssssweet
By Steve Huff,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 22, 2023 7:10 AM CDT
Snakes Appear to Comfort Each Other
A Louisiana pine snake bluffs in a posture to defend itself against predators.   (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Only the most adamant reptile lover would use words like "cuddly" or "sweet" where snakes are concerned. New research, however, has found that the cold-blooded creatures may have some semblance of emotional life, even comforting fellow legless wonders when they are upset. CNN reports that a study published in Frontiers in Ethology found Southern Pacific rattlesnakes had lower heart rates in stressful situations if they were with another snake. Snakes by themselves were noticeably more agitated. "We showed ... they could buffer each other's stress response, much like what happens to humans when they endure a stressful event together," says lead author Chelsea Martin of Loma Linda University in a news release.

The research "lets us know as humans that, hey, we're not that different from these snakes," Martin tells Reuters. "They are doing something we do." Martin's co-author and adviser William Hayes pointed out that humans rarely credit "rattlesnakes and other lower vertebrates and invertebrates" with having emotions. While humans "are eager to just chop their heads off," according to Hayes, "the animals are sentient, capable of emotions." Hayes reportedly had the idea for the study when he noticed that snakes he captured to move from homes in Southern California to safer wild locations appeared to calm down if another rattler was with them.

Owners of nominally less dangerous reptiles like boa constrictors have been asking questions and making conclusions about snake emotions for years. Numerous articles have been written instructing snake owners in reading their pet's emotional state. A blog entry published by A-Z Animals categorically states that snakes have emotions and says that we "know for sure that they can feel and show fear and aggression when they're disturbed," but "may also show contentment and familiarity." The most important takeaway from the Loma Linda study of rattlesnakes, however, is that another rattler may help them remain calm. Humans won't be cuddling frightened diamondbacks any time soon. (More snakes stories.)

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