Spring Break 2018: A Very Weathered Brown Watersnake

Nerodia taxispilota, the Brown watersnake;
Monroe county, Florida (15 March 2018).
Series: Spring Break 2018.

Featured here is a rather haggard, weathered, and worn Brown watersnake, Nerodia taxispilota, just about to shed its scales through the process of ecdysis. See that blue film over the eye in the top photograph? Snakes, as you may already know, don’t have flexible eyelids. Instead, each eye is covered by a transparent ocular plate, a modified scale designed to protect each eye. When the snake goes through ecdysis and sheds all of its scales, it also sheds each ocular scale.

As beaten up as this Brown watersnake may appear in these photographs, it likely looked much fresher, healthier, and “newer” a few days later — just after ecdysis. The pre-shedding phase can be a bit difficult for some species because their vision can be somewhat limited and mobility can be less than optimal. Still, I can only imagine how awesome it must be for the snake just after shedding its scales. I like to think of this snake a few days later eating an over-abundance of fish with its new, shiny coat on.

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