Looking much like a waterlogged root, Southeast Asia’s Tentacled Snake (Erpeton tentaculatum) is one of the few fully aquatic serpents available to pet keepers. This fascinating creature is unique among snakes in possessing a pair of scaled tentacles sprouting from its head…the function of which has puzzled herpetologists for more than a century.
Fishing in Murky Waters
Building on earlier work at Tennessee’s Vanderbilt University, biologists there have now completed nerve impulse studies on the Tentacled Snake’s unique appendages. In doing so, they discovered that tentacles are every sensitive to water movement, and likely assist in locating the fishes upon which the snake feeds. This makes good sense when one considers that the Tentacled Snake typically inhabits thick vegetation in murky, tannin-stained waters where visibility is quite limited.
Other proposed uses of the tentacles – camouflage and prey or mate attraction – remain to be investigated.
A Unique Hunting Strategy
All who keep Tentacled Snakes, I included, invariably comment on their unique method of striking at fishes. Holding their upper bodies in the shape of a “J”, the snakes seem to strike in a somewhat backward direction, and not directly at the fish.
Earlier studies at Vanderbilt University revealed that the odd snakes actually “feint” in order to startle their prey, and then strike at the spot where the fish will be a fraction of a second after it attempts to escape (please see the article and video below for further information).
Please see this Vanderbilt University article for more on the Tentacled Snake’s hunting strategy.
Natural History Info – Introducing the Tentacled Snake.
Don’t miss this Vanderbilt University video – slow motion shots of a Tentacled Snake “scaring” fishes right into its mouth!