Only 1% of people manage to recognize this animal that fascinates scientists

This specimen of a well-known living animal is very complicated to recognize, very few people succeed.

Only 1% of people manage to recognize this animal that fascinates scientists

This specimen of a well-known living animal is very complicated to recognize, very few people succeed... and even fewer its prey.

Are you able to distinguish which curious animal we are going to talk about? Before determining, here are some explanations. In the kingdom of predators, some actively hunt their prey, while others prefer to wait patiently for their meal to fall fully cooked (or almost) into their mouths. The spider-tailed viper (Pseudocerastes urarachnoides from its Latin name) is definitely part of this second category, but with a remarkable trap: it uses the tip of its tail to deceive its prey.

And this part of its anatomy has an incredible peculiarity: by moving it very quickly, this venomous viper manages to transform the tip of its tail into a crawling spider, an imitation so perfect that it fools even an informed human observer. Whose you? In reality, this "spider" that dances at the end of the snake's tail is an outgrowth of skin, with long tentacles on each side. At rest it seems harmless, but in an instant it can come to life.

The effect is all the more impressive as the rest of the snake's body blends in with the scenery, most of the time rocky. Frozen in broad daylight, the puppeteer is almost invisible to the surrounding birds. The latter, who pounce on the false spider to devour it, are unaware that they are in fact about to become the snake's meal. Scientists went decades without knowing this unique specificity.

The only preserved specimen of the spider-tailed viper was forgotten at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago for 35 years. It was only in 2003 that scientists found another viper of the same type, without yet knowing its incredible abilities. At the time, very little was known about the unusual hunting techniques of this snake. Bird remains were found in the stomachs of some specimens, but it was not clear how the viper caught prey in mid-flight.

After years of observing the spider-tailed viper in its natural habitat, Iranian researchers finally published their results in 2015: Scientists discovered that these vipers spent on average a third of their time waving their tails in key hunting sites. When a bird entered their field of vision, the intensity of the snake's tail movement increased about four times.

Although other vipers and snakes also use similar tail tail tactics when hunting (what scientists call "tail seduction"), the imitation used by the spider-tailed viper is exceptionally sophisticated. According to initial data, the viper's subterfuge could work better on migratory birds, less familiar with the risks of coming across a false spider in this region of the world...

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