How can Monty see in the dark?
Most snakes – including ball pythons like our Monty – don’t really have good night vision. Mice are mainly active at night, which means if a snake wants food its best bet is to hunt in the dark. We feed Monty ourselves, but how do snakes in the wild catch mice if they can’t see? Well, rattlesnakes, boas and pythons have pit organs between their eyes and the nostril that can sense even tiny amounts of infrared radiation in their surroundings. If you look at the picture of Monty above, you can see the indents of the pit organs right along his eye to his nose in the resemblance of a reddish marking.
How do these pit organs work?
Nerve cells in the pit organ contain an infrared receptor that detects infrared radiation as heat, rather than as light. Infrared radiation heats up the pit membrane tissue and once a certain temperature is reached, an electrical signal is triggered. This signal travels to the brain and lets the python “see” the mouse’s heat signature.
How Monty might see a mouse:
Julius Lab at UCSF
Fang, Janet. “Snake infrared detection unravelled.” Nature News. Nature Publishing Group, 14 Mar 2010. Web. 29 Jan 2013.
Written by Dimitria Gomes.