In “‘Arms Race’ Exists Between Snakes and Humans” (Wired ScienceNow, December 13, 2011), Sarah C. P. Williams tells us,
The new data, based on interviews with Agta adults, reveal that snakes were more than just a rare nuisance to the people. They were prey, predator, and competitor all at once. The complex relationship helps reveal the evolutionary pressures that humans and snakes once put on each other.
“Until these data, most people thought that there was a one-way relationship: snakes occasionally harming people,” says herpetologist Harry Greene of Cornell University, who helped put together the new analysis. “But this is the strongest evidence yet that it’s a much more complicated relationship.”
In all places? At all times?
Isbell calls the relationship between snakes and primates throughout history “an evolutionary arms race.” She says there is evidence that pressure to detect well-camouflaged snakes likely helped improve early humans’ eyesight. Likewise, the increasing intellect of early humans may have pressured snakes to develop new methods of camouflage and defense. Greene plans to investigate how this could be reflected in the biology of snakes today. The new numbers on frequency of primate interactions with snakes, Isbell says, strengthens those ideas. “This brings quantitative data to the story for the first time.”
Who knew snakes are smarter today? No popular local snake conservation/protection program has revealed this amazing fact.