Posts Tagged ‘snakes’

Did you know that the largest snake in New York lives at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum? Fantasia, a 245 lbs albino Burmese python, is always on view to the public in our Science Inquiry Center. Unless someone is hiding a mammoth snake in their bathtub (not a good idea!), Fantasia is the biggest!

There’s no more visceral way to introduce students to the concept of predation than to visit during a Fantasia Feeding Frenzy. Every other Thursday, crowds gather to see Fantasia presented with her prey on long forceps. Her tongue starts to flick, picking up the scent of her recently deceased food, and then she strikes! Check out this video of Fantasia striking at a chicken.

Of course, captive Fantasia doesn’t really have to do the work of preying on her food, but she quickly coils her constricting body over the chicken nonetheless. She’s overcome with the instinct to quickly hide and protect her food from any other potential predators looking to steal it away. Their lack of arms and legs make snakes fairly vulnerable during meal time.

This video shows Fantasia taking the final gulp of a four guinea pig meal. You can really spot her unhinged jaw and strong neck muscles pulling her furry treat down her trachea. Though Fantasia’s size makes her seem like she’s at the very top of the food chain, she’s really far from it. In the wild, Fantasia’s bright yellow color would have probably made her prey to a predatory bird or other beast as a small snake.

Try this fun outdoor Predator vs. Prey game with your kids.

  • One or two kids are assigned to be the predators. They are essentially “it”. Remind kids that there are always fewer predator animals in the wild since they’re at the top of the food chain and require the most energy!
  • Assign the rest of the kids to be prey. Have them stand inside several hula hoops bases spread out on the ground where they are safely hidden from predators and can’t be tagged.
  • Prey animals must leave their hula hoops to collect food — at least three items!  Gather some props to stand in for the prey animal’s food sources — some paper leaves or plastic bugs like these would be perfect!
  • Each round will last a few minutes and the prey that collects three food items without being “consumed” by predators wins!

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Some of the most memorable experiences we offer at The Brooklyn Children’s Museum involve adventures with our live animals. There are daily opportunities for kids to feel the scales of a snake, see a sea star extend its bright tubular feet, or let a delicate walking stick move across their outstretched hands. We’d like to introduce you to some of the animals that make teaching at the museum such a thrill.

photo by Nolynn Vega

Indigo, an albino corn snake, is native to North America. Corn snakes are found in the southeastern and central states. Their name comes from a propensity to hang around corn silos in search of small rodents, their favorite meal. Corn snakes are constrictors, meaning they kill or subdue their prey by squeezing before swallowing them whole in one big gulp.

photo by Nolynn Vega

Like all our snakes, they are gentle, non-venomous, and very unlikely to bite. My favorite part about teaching with corn snakes is that they love to move! This corn snake, Dots, loves to maneuver himself through my belt loop or key chain ring. When handling corn snakes, I’m much less likely to get the most commonly asked question: “Is that real?!”

Indigo’s beautiful “ghost morph” pattern and Dots’ “fluorescent orange” color comes from selective breeding, a deliberate  mishmash of dominant and recessive pigment genes. The standard pattern of a corn snake is a beautiful blotchy brownish-orange that blends  well into shaded forest leaf litter. Indigo’s light blue-grey color  and Dots’ vibrant orange would have made it difficult to camouflage in the wild. They would probably have been eaten as young snakes by a predatory bird. We’re so glad they’re with us!

Since we celebrated haikus in our last post…

Indigo corn snake

shines silver blue, singular

morph of gentle air.

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