Do you know why one of Indiana Bones’ favorite vacation destinations is Ireland? Our resident paleontologist and ophidiophobic (snake phobia) loves Ireland because Ireland does not have any native snakes. Legend states St. Patrick, the Christian missionary, rid Ireland of all snakes in the fifth century. Upon being attacked by a slithering band of snakes he chased all of Ireland’s snakes to the sea1. While there is no doubt this is folklore, there is some truth to it. Ireland’s fossil records indicate snakes never inhabited the lush, verdant country. Researchers believe that Ireland was too cold for the reptiles during the Ice Age 10,000 years ago and with no land bridge to a neighboring country the legless species lacked the mobility to travel to Ireland2. The country did have a land bridge to England but it was overtaken by ocean long before snakes could make their way across. Sure, sea snakes could get there, but it would be too cold for their liking. While various mammal species made their way to Ireland in the past, their slithering counterparts in the animal kingdom did not make the journey.
Unlike Ireland we have many snake species in the Americas. They come in a variety of colors and sizes. From the bright green emerald tree boa, to the small worm snake these highly diverse animals fulfill a niche in our world. With the ability to stealthily traverse on land, burrow through soil and sand and slither up trees, these ambush predators are key players in their community. They help maintain rodent, bat, frog and even other snake populations. Our native species are middle-order animals, meaning they are both prey to some animals and predators to others. They help to maintain a balance in the food web.
In honor of St. Patrick’s Day and in celebration of the green country we would like to spotlight the emerald tree boa.
The GSC is home to a young, male, emerald tree boa. This vibrantly colored, non-venomous snake is native to South America. There it can be found in lowland rainforests, typically resting in the trees above water. Their bright green color helps them blend into their lush leafy background and their white pattern mimics sunlight coming through the tree leaves. They are constrictors that prey on lizards, rodents and bats.
Ireland may be known for its lack of reptiles, but it is even more famous for its beverage of choice, beer, and more specifically, Irish stout! Legend even says St. Patrick had his own brewer. And we are all familiar with Ireland’s most famous brewery, Guinness, whose humble beginnings go back to Arthur Guinness3 in 1756.
The Greensboro Science Center is uniting the preservation of species and hoppy beverages at our annual Brews & Bubbles. Join us on April 23rd for an evening of great beers, wines and ciders, yummy snacks, live entertainment and explore the GSC’s collection of critters. Not to worry, all snakes at the GSC are safely nestled in enclosures! But do take a moment to visit the Emerald Tree Boa and see just how majestic these specialized reptiles really are!