The Evolution of Rattlesnakes

Several years ago, I heard a story about rattlesnakes evolving so that their tails no longer rattle. A quick Google search returned an article that provides evidence of how some rattlesnakes in South Dakota are evolving with atrophied tail muscles. The reason is rather simple. The rattle was meant to be a warning sign. “You are in danger – please move away from this rattling sound!” However, for those who hunt rattlesnakes, the rattle does not serve as a warning from the snake; it’s the target giving away its hiding place. The rattle becomes its death knell. The snake’s venom is meant to kill its natural prey – it’s not a weapon for war. It’s a signal of peace. The rattles is an aid in helping others avoid danger, neither a threat of nor an invitation to violence.

So, when reading/hearing about how some rattlesnakes are evolving away from their namesake, it sounds like the nearest thing to an identity crisis for a snake. But then, another realization. The rattlesnake did not give itself its name – we did! We’ve actually named everything that know has a definition. No thing has ever named itself. The monsters we fear the most, are monsters of our own definition. Therefore, it’s not at all weird for a rattlesnake to evolve to no longer rattle. That’s natural under the given circumstances of its environment. It’s only weird because what do we call rattlesnakes in the future if they all evolve to no longer rattle? Do we change their name to the Silent Shaker Snake? Do we continue to rename and redefine these snakes based on how they appear to us? We’ll likely never get the snakes’ insights on these matters.


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Aspiring Stoic and Doting Father

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