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Just out of curiosity, could a large constrictor such as a python or a boa evolve to rely on camouflaging itself as a branch, with the right colouration and positioning, in the jungle canopy and ambush its prey (prey such as primates, rodents or birds etc).

After all, we have discovered a genus of colubrid snakes, the vine snakes, which through natural selection have disguised themselves as vines to ambush unsuspecting prey.

So could a constrictor, a python for example, evolve to mimic branches to catch prey, if so what traits could the snake need to blend in among the trees and how could such a large snake support its weight while hanging from the tree trunk?

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    $\begingroup$ you mean like a lot of snakes already do? $\endgroup$ – Fl.pf. Jun 19 '17 at 14:29
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    $\begingroup$ @Fl.pf. branch, not twig. He’s asking about a large snake. The question could be clearer, acknowledging the twig snake and emphasizing the “support its weight” and maybe putting or asking about limits. $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Jun 19 '17 at 15:55
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    $\begingroup$ Unoriginal idea, the Book of Exodus did it. $\endgroup$ – Mystagogue Jun 19 '17 at 20:03
  • $\begingroup$ So what's the big deal? $\endgroup$ – Alexander R. Hunt Jun 19 '17 at 22:01
  • $\begingroup$ Another thing isn't that the Hebrew Bible or something, and how's a fictional serpent mimicking a branch have anything to do with a staff turning into a flesh and blood snake? $\endgroup$ – Alexander R. Hunt Jun 19 '17 at 22:19
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You mean like a Spear-Nosed snake?

Here's the only decent image I can find that shows it camouflaging itself as a branch:

Spear nosed snake pretending to be a stick

It wouldn't fool our human brains (which are particularly good at spotting snakes), but it is good enough to fool its intended prey.

Snake in branches

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I don't see why not.

There are already snakes that mimic branches. The twig snake is just one example. Pythons and boas are already ambush hunters. All you need is for a constrictor snake to look like a branch and you are good to go.

Some arguments could be made that since such a snake doesn't exist that it could be sub-optimal for a large snake to look like a branch when a more splotchy pattern will do the job well enough. I wouldn't worry about it unless you're writing a bio paper.

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Like a branch?
Probably not. Constrictors are much too big and heavy to hold the appearance of a stiff object. The best you could make them do is appear as a growth on a branch, e.g. the Tree Boa or Tree Python.

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A few different things are needed for camouflage:

  • Colour

    This is the first thing most people think of, but it's not much of an issue here. There are plenty of snakes with very effective mottled colours for camouflage. Bear in mind that it has to work for whatever prey your snake is targeting - so colours don't have to be that accurate for something like a rodent, but much more accurate for birds or humans.

  • Posture

    A large snake is unlikely to be able to support most of its body sticking out from a tree trunk. But it could lie flat against the trunk for most of its length, and then just have the head sticking out at an angle like a branch.

  • Shape

    A normal shaped snake would not be able to pull off the above posture, since the round cross-section will lead to strong shadows between the body and the trunk, making its presence obvious. The snake will need a solution something like the mossy leaf-tailed gecko - loose flaps of skin with rough edges on the sides of the body. Ideally, the snake should be able to flex its ribs to flatten its body, and in doing so extend these skin flaps to either side. That would allow it some very effective camouflage.

  • Movement

    Again, not really an issue. Movement will give away its position but all it needs to do is to move into position under the cover of darkness and then wait. Snakes are good at waiting.

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If your world has a major boa eating predator species (like maybe giant eagles) then the disguise would not only enhance the snake's predatory capabilities, it would also provide a concealment defense. This would make the adaptation much more likely and thereby much more believable.

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