Monday, August 20, 2012


There's a rotting stump at the corner of my lawn -- a huge one, five feet in diameter. It's in the way of connecting the main clearing around my house to a nearby slot in the woods. I'd like to be rid of it in order to open up a bit more of a vista from my front porch.

Yesterday I kicked at it to assess its resistance. A big chunk fell off, exposing the head of a snake. The snake whipped around 180 degrees in less than one second and disappeared up the burrow next door before I could decide what the hell it was. Based on replaying the hippocampal video, it was about 8 inches long and gray. It could only have been a snake, no invertebrate could react and move so quickly.

How does it propel itself? The perceptible openings in the wood were, to my eye, tiny. There were pits here and there, but no way to tell which, if any of them, led to burrows occupiable by an 8" snake. Yet this creature knew exactly where to bolt, moved instantly and fast. It somehow possesses a physical mechanism to propel itself through a burrow scarcely larger than its own diameter; and it has a three-dimensional map in its brain of the interior of the rotting stump it lives in.

It kind of makes me hesitate to remove that stump.

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