Monday, April 25, 2011

The beauty of a Garter Snake's scales...

Yesterday before Matty, Rick and I headed over to my parent's house for Easter dinner (yum--very good, Joni), we went to the Little Miami for a hike. We wanted to see how high the river had climbed, and I wanted to revisit a stand of Jack-in-the-Pulpits to make sure they weren't under water. At one point, Matty saw a Garter Snake slithering through the grass, and when I looked down I found this beauty curled up in the leaves by my feet. At first I photographed him with the long lens, but he was so comfortable with my presence I switched to the short lens! At times I was less than a foot away...it was very cool to say the least.

A close-up of an Eastern Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis) shows his beautiful scales.

...this guy definitely has a round pupil, so you know he's nonvenomous.

...an Eastern Garter Snake's pattern is easy to identify. It has three light stripes with a dark background. I just read in "Ohio's Reptiles" (a free guide written by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife) that a Garter Snake's name "derives from the longitudinal stripes on the body which resemble the design on once-stylish sock garters." Who knew?

...the beautiful and colorful keeled scales of a Garter Snake. Some snakes have smooth scales, while others have "keeled" scales. A keeled scale has a longitudinal ridge on it.

Curled and coiled in the leaf litter, there is no denying his beauty.

A snake's scales are made of keratin, just like our hair and nails. They are formed out of the skin. The skin between the scales is soft and stretchy, which comes in very handy when a snake swallows a mouse or frog! You can see this in the photo above...the scales on the left side of the photo are compact and overlapping, while the scales in the middle have a space between them. Those black and white areas are the skin...stretched to accommodate his latest meal. As a snake grows, he doesn't grow more scales...they just get larger.

29 comments:

Betsy from Tennessee said...

Great pictures, Kelly... But--since I'm not a snake person, I'm sure I don't appreciate the 'beauty'.... I'd be running FAR away from ANY snake... ha ha

Hope you all had a wonderful Easter.
Hugs,
Betsy

Montanagirl said...

Really cool photos of this guy. That's interesting about their scales!

Anna said...

Kelly I probably continue with my long lens, lol.

It is so nice to see you do these things with Matty, this is what I do with my Matthew too. When he goes outside, he collects flowers, leaves, sticks, chases birdies, runs through the bushes and has always good time ....

Beautiful gallery of photos as always, Anna :)

Roy said...

Excellent shots, Kelly!

holdingmoments said...

Amazing shots Kelly. Love the close ups of the scales. A real beauty.

Kathy A. Johnson said...

Lovely photos and very interesting post. You may turn me into a snake admirer yet.

dAwN said...

Awesome photos! The skin looks like a basket weave...beautiful..thanks for sharing!

Nicole MacP said...

Seeing the beauty in everything -that others miss!! Very cool pictures!

Linda said...

Happy Easter Kelly! Thanks a lot for this enjoyment of gazing at the magnificent scales and learning about them. Excellent macro work, cheers! Linda

Shelley said...

The coiled one was my favorite. I'm very afraid of snakes but I will say your photos almost made him appear friendly......almost....
lol!

Laure Ferlita said...

The scales look like something woven to me...such a cool pattern! I can see myself getting lost in a painting of those scales for days! Very cool, Kelly!

Jain said...

Beautiful shots! The stretched skin in the last photo is especially interesting.

Michael Bartneck said...

very cool! For some reason I can picture a velociraptor body attached to that head, especially when you magnify it like that! Awesome Kelly,great shots!Hey an since your trekkin the area,be real careful, the saturated ground is causing big trees to fall,like creek bank and steep slopes,i almost got flattened.see my look out below blog!http://trekkingohio.blogspot.com/

Mike Whittemore said...

Beautiful pictures, kelly! I stumbled upon many timber rattlesnakes during my internship with the forest service last summer. You'd probably rather use a telephoto lens for those :)

Grizz………… said...

Just terrific close-up shots, Kelly. I love the colors and the scale-pattern. I've not see a garter snakes so far this year, but back in March, on those few warm days we had, I was cleaning up the yard and came across several queen snakes, which are close relatives to garter snakes. BTW, I'm sure you know those keeled scales are characteristic of water snakes (which garter snakes and queen snakes are considered to be) and that the keel helps them to "track" more effectively when swimming.

Maybe I told you before, but I've really been enjoying your recent close-up work.

Hilke Breder said...

Fascinating, Kelly! Lots of good information and great close-ups! It must be a lot warmer where you are. Ours haven't come out yet.

Janice K said...

YOur pictures are fantastic! I am enjoying so much seeing them through your eyes/lens, because even though my eyes might enjoy his beauty, the rest of me would be leaving as quickly as possible. I must admist, he is wonderfully made. Thank you.

Out on the prairie said...

Lots of beauty in this snake.I had one home that had lots of them around, it must have been the perfect area.

Tammie Lee said...

awesome and gorgeous detail in your slithery nature find!

Ken. said...

Hi Kelly.
First of all I hope you had a nice Easter.
It is always nice seeing photo's of other wildlife apart from birds, especially as you have a lot more on offer than we do.
Love your latest snake photo's.

Paul Wells said...

Beautiful shots, Kelly! I got some fairly close shots of a garter snake a couple of years ago, but nothing like what you have!

Wren said...

Great photos, Kelly. Very brave snake, to let you so close.

I love the detail visible in the scales and the eyes. Glad you could take advantage of the photo op and share with us. and it's a lesson in why to always, always take your camera.

Mermaid's Palette said...

Kelly- these photos are amazing! I am so not a snake person, but thank you for getting that close since I wouldn't!

Kelly said...

Betsy...:-)

Mona...thanks!

Anna...I still do things with Matty and will miss him terribly when he goes off to college--just two years away! thanks...

Roy...thank you!

Keith...thanks. They are gorgeous, aren't they!

Kathy...the more you know about them, the more you'll love them (the nonvenomous at least!)

Dawn...thanks...you're so right. The pattern has been revered throughout history...

Thanks, Nicole! When you see them up close, it's easy to see the beauty.

Thanks, Linda!!

shelley...thanks! He was friendly, or at least he wasn't scared or bothered by me...

Laure...I was thinking the same thing. This guy screams for a detailed watercolor!

Jain...thank you! That one intrigued me too. i really didn't notice until I was reviewing the photos at home!

Michael...yikes! Thank you...I was listening and watching on my walk yesterday....

Mike....Yikes again! Timber Rattlers are dangerous. I'm careful around logs when I'm up in Shawnee and Hocking hills...

Grizz...thanks for pointing out what the keels are used for! I should add that in... I hope you stay safe along the river--just a few more days of rain...

Hilke...it's been in the 60s and 70s....warm but nonstop rain!! Thanks!

Janice...thank you! You made me laugh!

Pairie....we've seen three on the river in the past week. I think the rain and warmer temps are driving them up.

...thank you, Tammie :-D

Thanks, Ken. Thank you! We had a wonderful Easter. I hope you did too...

Paul...thanks...I couldn't believe how close I got to him. Less than a foot...maybe 8 inches away...

Wren...once this summer I was at Shawnee and didn't take my camera...and saw a Bobcat in the distance. ACK...A BOBCAT and no camera. The one time I didn't bring one... :-)

Sheryl...thank you! If you hang around me for a while, you might turn into one! :-)

Carole Meisenhelter said...

...such an incredible patterned garter snake. It intruiges me your comments re scales aren't replaced; they just expand etc. Quite unlike what I ever understood, that snakes 'shed' their skin. This garter snake obviously has a unique skin type compared to those I refer. I actually have a snake skin, intact (minus the snake thank heavens). I've learnt something today and that is so much fun; I will be able to bounce it off someone else sometime soon.

Kelly said...

Carole...he does shed his skin, but when he does, the scales grow larger. The skin he sheds is the stretchy part. It's pretty amazing...

Matteo Grilli said...

Beautiful photos!

Caroline said...

These are most fabulous! That snakeskin looks woven. Fab close ups - what a treat and inspiration it is to visit your blog!

Ryan Ankeny said...

Very beautiful macro shots of his scales.