A Serpent's Tale

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World religions and ancient mythology are replete with snake imagery and folklore. Whether we fear them, love them, pray to them, keep them as pets or eat them to increase virility, snakes have fascinated humans for millennia. IDEAS contributor Hassan Ghedi Santur discusses the mysterious evolutionary history of snakes and their fearsome reputation. Along the way, he confronts his own case of ophidiophobia - you guessed it: the "abnormal fear of snakes."

"Snakes, we mythologize them, worship them, loathe them, honour them, capture them, dream them and fear them... Not just a natural animal, he remains the most universal and the most potent symbol humankind has ever devised."
 -  Snakes in Myth, Magic, and History: The Story of a Human Obsession by Diane Morgan

serpants-tale-hassan.jpgMost of the world's religions and cultures have written about serpents in the form of symbols, myths and allegories. Type snakes on the New York Times website and you will come across hundreds of recent articles on the subject. And the latest findings by snake paleontologists always make world headlines.

But where did snakes come from? How did they evolve to into this ubiquitous and highly diversified species?

serpants-tale-hassan-2.jpgIt has been said that there is an evolutionary gap in our knowledge of snakes, and for a good reason. Finding intact snake fossils is notoriously difficult for scientists. That's why the debate about the exact origin of snakes continues.

IDEAS contributor Hassan Ghedi Santur explores the origins, myths and facts about one of the world's most misunderstood creatures.

But first, he must go through a kind of cognitive behavioral therapy to deal with his own severe case of snake phobia to bring us this IDEAS episode: A Serpent's Tale.

 
Resources

Participants

Diane Morgan, author of Snakes in Myth, Magic, and History: The Story of a Human Obsession.

Dr. Michael Caldwell, Vertebrate Paleontologist, University of Alberta.

Dr. Johannes Muller, Paleozoologist at the Museum of Natural History, Berlin.

Cheryl Sheridan, Head Zoo Keeper and Educator at Reptilia Zoo.

Dr. Robert Mason, Professor of Zoology at Oregon State University.

Dave Roberts
, Wildlife Landand Habitat Specialist, Manitoba Conservation.

Chris Friesen
, Ph.D Candidate, Department of Zoology, Oregon State University. 


Related Websites

Reptilia

Amniotes - Johannes Muller Laboratory

Mason Lab - Dr. Robert Mason, Oregon State University

Nature's North - Narcisse Snake Dens
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