Field of Science

Name the Bug # 48

What is this animal and what is it doing?

Attribution (as always) to follow.

Update: Identity now available here. Photo from here.


  1. I'll go with the obvious (and sneakily wrong?); a California Kingsnake waning off intruders (by rattlesnake improv)?

  2. Bandy-Bandy (Vermicella annulata), a fossorial species of elapid snake that is widely distributed through Australia. Coloration of snakes in this genus is apparently aposematic and functions to confuse potential predators by creating a visual illusion when the snake moves rapidly. I can only presume that the coiling behavior is a defensive posture.

  3. Yeah, I'll concede that it is indeed the Bandy Bandy;

  4. Yes, that's a bandy-bandy (it was helpful of Christopher to include the bit of text that hints at that being a 'Gondwanan' species). The bandy-bandy is an elapid, but (by Australian standards, anyway) it's pretty harmless. Except to other snakes, notably blind snakes Ramphotyphlops, which are its main prey. The coiling is, indeed, apparently a defensive posture.

  5. I'm sure the bandy-bandy diagnosis is correct, but if so... it's an Elapid, and the defining characteristic of those is the fangs which enclose a venom chanel, and lack of or reduced teeth on the remainder of the maxilla.

    Without getting bitten, how would you distinguish it from a Colurabidae, such as the California Kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula californiae), which has an astonishing number of color variations including a black/white banded one. There are Australian Colurabids too- are they sufficiently distinctive that they can be ruled out?

    Not a point grab. :) I'm asking the question because I don't know.

  6. Ok, the bandy bandy ID was made pretty quick. But I still have an opportunity to point out that it ain't necessarily V. annulata, there are a bunch of other Vermicella species that all look damn-near identical. All I can say for sure is that it isn't V. multifasciata, the northern bandy bandy, which has much more closely spaced, numerous bands.
    As for tf's question. There are very few 'colubrids' in Oz and none that have the black and white banded pattern.

  7. OK, I have never seen this snake but Dr Taylor - if you leave the website link at the bottom of the picture, it's not too hard to find. It took me precisely 30 seconds. So, by my score, that's a dud and points should be suspended (I'm taking this quite competetively y'all). Or, you should give me the points just for sparing you the embarrassment of making this crass schoolboy error ever again!

  8. Well, I think you should give ME the points for:

    A) Not cheating
    B) Obliquely demonstrating the ID with a pop-culture reference
    3) Erykah Badu in leather pants.

  9. I knew the website was there, but I know that my readers have too much pride in their own abilities to resort to using it :-P.

    I'm giving three points to beetlesinthebush, two to Dartian, and one to Neil (yep, for the pants). But as beetlesinthebush only needed one point to reach ten, he is now the new winner of Name the Bug! Ted, get in touch with me to claim your underwhelming prize of a guest post or a post on the subject of your choice. Everyone else, I'm afraid you have to get back to the start.

  10. "Everyone else, I'm afraid you have to get back to the start."

    Again? Now I know how Sisyphus felt.

  11. I think I'd originally said two rounds out, but the second round took longer to finish than I expected. Back you come, lad.

  12. Woot! I'll be in touch.

  13. Ah - so you choose to ignore the glaring fallacy of this round, which was effectively to give the game away from the start? Bah! Humbug! I look forward to the next Name the Bug, where you tell us what it is and ask us to google its wikipedia page. Bah! Humbug! Yours with Nil Points, R

  14. Remember that the rules of Name the Bug mean that merely knowing the identity of the subject does not necessarily ensure victory...

  15. Indeed. But knowing the name of the bug because you provided the web link, googling the first available scholarly reference of the latin name, and abridging the abstract, makes for a lame win:
    Abstract of Shine 1980 - Reproduction, feeding and growth in the Australian burrowing snake Vermicella annulata:
    "Vermicella annulata is a strikingly-colored (black-and white-banded) fossorial elapid snake, widely distributed through Australia (...) Behavior of captive specimens suggests that the banded coloration of Vermicella (i) is aposematic, and (ii) functions to confuse potential predators by creating a visual illusion (flicker fusion) when the snake moves rapidly." Adding the word "apparently" to make it appear like you have marshalled your own thoughts seems mighty close to cheating. Apparently.(sniffs mightily and stalks off).


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