Two Heads, No Teeth

4 Mar

amphisbaena from http://www.eaudrey.com/myth/amphisbaena.htm
While poking around the other day, I came across the Amphisbaena, a mythical two headed snake.

(Not to be confused with Paula Abdul’s own cold hearted reptile.)

The amphisbaena has a twin head, that is one at the tail end as well, as though it were not enough for poison to be poured out of one mouth.

-Pliny the Elder. Naturalis Historia, ca. 77 AD

This may seem immediately ridiculous, but the truth is that this description may also fall into the “as seen while running away” category.

Behold, the Indian Sand Boa:

an Indian Sand Boa from http://www.eastbayvivarium.com/gallery/snakesgallery/indiansandboa.html

In this case the supposed dual-head isn’t of magical origin – its tail acts as a bit of camouflage, so that predators attack its non-critical rear, and not its noggin.

Of course, humanity, always eager to improve on deception, made use of the idea:

As tribute to the effectiveness of this display, many wild caught adults have scarred tails. Indian snake charmers will also disfigure the snakes tail to look more like the head and advertise them to their clients as “two-headed” snakes.

kingsnake.com

Still, it’s worth pointing out that Sand Boas and snake charmers actually have quite a bit in common – both use trickery in their own defense.

More drastic means of protection include removing the creature’s fangs or venom glands, or even sewing the snake’s mouth shut.

wikipedia on snake charming

Cobra from http://www.trekearth.com/gallery/photo1156776.htm

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2 Responses to “Two Heads, No Teeth”

  1. bmj2k March 4, 2011 at 13:57 #

    The inspiration for the cat/dog (however it is written) cartoon?

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