Snakes Not on a Plane
In India, and on certain faraway planets, snakes are revered. In the West, however snakes don’t get much respect. When they’re not offering forbidden fruit, or terrorizing planes, they’re consuming everything that moves in Florida. (Maybe a few snakes in New England would take care of Lyme disease?) But snakes were here on Earth long before humans. Truly Native Terrans, unlike us space invaders. Which race was it that seeded us, according to Star Trek?
Anyway, like most endangered natives, snakes face disease. Rattlesnakes in Illinois are succumbing to grotesque infections by Chrysosporium–a soil fungus that looks rather pretty when it’s just growing on its own, but can become a nasty opportunist.
So where did the snake-infecting strain come from? Genetic testing of infected wildlife suggests it’s a strain commonly found in black rat snakes kept as pets. So, yet another angle on the escaped pet problem–in this case, not the snake itself, but the pet snake’s pathogen that infected wild snakes. We usually think of wild animals as a “reservoir” of emerging pathogens, but we forget that pets from pet stores are swarming with invisible vermin that thrive in the cramped, stressed conditions of most commercial captive animals.
Should we care about rattlesnakes, the cause of 82% of human deaths by snakebite? According to some, some of us care too much about Earth’s nonhuman inhabitants, since God put Earth here for “our benefit, not for the Earth’s benefit.” What would Quetzalcoatl say about that.