BIO 203

I'm so interesting...

One thing that I have found interesting through this research adventure is the origin of the common name of cottonmouth, and it makes sense but is still pretty interesting.  During the threat display of any of the three species of Cottonmouth, the snake will gap its jaws to expose its mouth (oooh scary!). The inside of the mouth is completely white.  So the name came to represent the color of the mouth observed when the snake opens its jaws.


It may not surprise very many people, but there is evidence to suggest that some species in North America are actually poisonous snakes, I know it’s shocking isn’t it?  But, I can say with a great deal of certainty that not many people will know that there are only three species of venomous water snakes in all of North America, one of which is the Western Cottonmouth; the other two are from the exact same subspecies of snakes (the cottonmouths).




During any threat display, a snake will open its mouth.  Most snakes when they open their mouth will automatically expose their fangs, but the western cottonmouth when opening its mouth, will not display their fangs.  The fangs are instead concealed. Below on the left is the western cottonmouth, and on the right is another species of snake


The Western Cottonmouth has earned the reputation of being overly aggressive to anything and everyone.  This is false. The thought occurs because of the tendency of the snake to stand its ground when threatened and bite.  The biting however only occurs when attacking prey or the snake will bite purely out of defense.

When comparing the Western Cottonmouth to other water snakes, you can compare the obvious things such as morphology (physical features), genetics, and other things, but what is really interesting is how the snake will swim.  Compared to other water snakes, the Western Cottonmouth will swim differently; the head above the water.  Normally water snakes swim with their heads (and the body) below the water.



When a snake bites, it injects the venom into the prey, after so it consumes the prey if the attack is successful.  But in such a small organism, how long would you imagine that it takes the Western Cottonmouth to reproduce all of its venom again?  Surprisingly it takes the snake 3 weeks to fully restock its venom supply once it is all gone.  Three weeks is an incredibly long amount of time for such a small quantity of venom.