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A big old snake

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Posted by: ALT at Mon Mar 7 15:28:23 2011  [ Report Abuse ] [ Email Message ] [ Show All Posts by ALT ]  
   

"I think this is quite likely the largest specimen of a snake in any museum in the world," said Harry Greene, a Cornell University herpetologist and professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

In 1915, US Army administrator Norman McJunkin was on a hunting expedition on the Philippine island of Luzon. He and his guides were startled one night by a noise and he fired his shotgun in the direction of the sound. Moments later, they heard something huge fall from the trees but did not investigate until morning. What they found was stunning. McJunkin had shot and killed a twenty-six foot long reticulated python! Since the carcass was too large to carry, they left it among some large ant hills and continued their expedition. Several days later, they returned to find the skeleton picked clean.

Those bones remained a family heirloom for decades, until Norman’s son Reed decided to donate the specimen, nick-named “Ralph”, to his alma mater. In the Cornell University Museum of Vertebrates, Dr. Greene and snake anatomy experts David Cundall and Frances Irish from Lehigh University articulated the skeleton, and it is now mounted in a massive mahogany display case in the museum’s hallway, right outside our evolutionary genetics lab. It is a unique and amazing specimen; the bones providing insight into the life of a giant snake in the Philippines as well as inspiring researchers, students, and visitors for years to come.

I get the privilege of walking past this display several times a day. Takes some of the pain out of being a herpetologist stuck in an ornithology lab.



   

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>> Next Message:  RE: A big old snake - venmus93, Tue Mar 8 10:23:56 2011