The snake that Mike saw today was a Yellow-faced Whipsnake. Whipsnakes are slender, fast moving and active during the day. They have large eyes on which they rely on a great deal as they bulk of their diet consists of lizards that are active during the day. So why are the daylight hours so critical?
One clue lies in the fact that Mike stumbled across the snake while it was basking in the light of the mineshaft. Being reptiles, snakes are ‘ectotherms’ meaning they rely on external heat sources to maintain a constant body temperature. Having no internal mechanisms to generate heat – like mammals do – they must seek out warmth. This why snakes are often referred to as ‘cold-blooded’.
It’s a good thing the snake was still relatively cold and inactive when Mike found it. Otherwise the story might have turned out very differently!
Suggested learning activities: find out how mammals regulate their body heat and list the key differences to ‘ectotherms’.