Watch: Decoding rattlesnakes’ insistent signals

The rattlesnake’s shaking rattle can send shivers down the spine of anyone who gets close. But get even closer and the rattling picks up speed. It may be a trick to make it seem like the rattlesnake is closer than it really is, researchers believe. In a study published in Current Biology, Boris Chagnaud, a biologist at the University of Graz in Austria, devised a series of tests to study Western diamondback rattlesnakes’ (Crotalus atrox) changing rattles. Testing college student responses, the researchers found the subjects mistook a faster rattle for a closer rattlesnake. Or, Chagnaud said, faster rattling could be a way to get the listener’s attention.

Read more in the New York Times, and watch a video on their study below.

Header Image: A western diamondback rattlesnake is poised to rattle. Credit: Tobias Kohl