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Scientists discover invasive snake turns its body into a 'lasso' to climb

Wednesday, January 20th 2021, 4:21 pm - Did anyone have 'lasso snakes' on their 2021 bingo card?

Invasive brown tree snakes were accidentally introduced to Guam after WWII through military transports.

The species is aggressive and venomous and it prey on several animals, including small rodents and reptiles, but it prefers birds. It has eliminated 9 of the 11 native bird species in the area and now, scientists have better insight into why.

In new research published in Current Biology, scientists say the snakes wrap their bodies around trees like lassos, and 'shimmy' upwards.

Experts have never seen reptiles move this way before.

"Only four major types have been recognized for nearly 100 years, and we have discovered a fifth mode," co-senior author Julie Savidge of Colorado State University (CSU) says in a statement.

Wikipedia - brown tree snake Photo courtesy: Wikipedia CC BY-SA 2.0.

The observation is important because it can help researchers devise better ways to protect the animals the snakes prey on.

"Understanding what brown tree snakes can and cannot climb has direct implications for designing barriers to reduce the dispersal and some of the deleterious effects of this highly invasive species," co-senior author Bruce Jayne of the University of Cincinnati says in a statement.

The authors say they will use the findings to develop equipment the snakes can't get around, and use the technology to better protect birds. Further tests will need to be conducted to determine what the snakes can and cannot scale.

The snakes aren't just a problem for animals. According to an archived post on the U.S. Department of State website, it's not uncommon for them to enter people's homes, finding their way inside through air ducts or sewage lines.

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