As expected, day one at the Biology of Pitvipers conferences was not a disappointment. The keynote address “A Long View of Pitvipers: Past and Present,” by Harry Greene was great. He talked a bit about about the morphology of snake jaws and how snake eat such large meals, then discusses the ancient and fascinating coevolutionary relationship between snakes and primates. He concluded his talk by highlighting how scientists and snake enthusiasts can inspire appreciation for pitvipers.
The rest of the day was devoted to devoted to talks about snake behavior, venom, education, pitvipers in a cultural context. I cannot summarize all of the fantastic talks from yesterday, but i can give a couple of highlights. The Talk by Terry Farrell of Stetson University on the feeding behavior of Pigmy rattlesnakes had some great video clips of pigmy rattlesnakes depradating on centipedes and skinks. Theses snakes vary they feeding behavior based on prey type. Cool stuff. Bill Hayes of Loma Linda University gave a neat talk linking specific venom components to specific symptoms experienced by snakebite victims.Melissa Amarello of Advocates for Snake Preservation (Yeah, ASP) gave a great talk telling us about their great new advocacy and outreach group. If you are a snake nut, you need to join this group! The last talk of the day was by Aaron Krochmal, Travis LaDuc, and myself about the last 25 years of pitviper research. I gotta say Krockmal gives a good talk. We highlighted the value of the venom research and stressed the importance for more natural history related work. Less than 10% of the current research on pitvipers (which are distributed from southeast Asia through North, Central,and South America) is on ecology, morphology, and behavior.
The day ended with a poster session. I lament to say I spent the entire poster session standing near my posters discussing my current work on rattle fluorescence and operant conditioning in rattlesnakes. A quick burn around the room though suggested that posters ran the gamut from thermal physiology to population genetics, to education and conservation.
I have no doubt that today’s talks will as enlightening as yesterdays. I’ll keep you posted.