Bernie’s Two-Legged Snakes

In Bernie and the Lost Girl, Bernie shows Lenny and Suzie some of the creatures that live in the woods.

One creature is called a two-legged snake.  It had the ability to drop off its tail when threatened, which left an edible portion of itself behind for a predator, giving it time to escape.

There are creatures that can actually do this.  It’s called ‘autotomy’ which means ‘self-severing.’  The ability is surprisingly common and found within reptiles, amphibians, mammals (two species of African mice), and quite a variety of invertebrates (molluscs, crustaceans, spiders, and bees).

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I had personal experience with the salamander pictured below.  As a kid, I discovered they lived under fallen logs.  They would scurry away when I rolled the log back.  Naturally, I tried to catch them, only to discover that they left their tails behind (twisting and wiggling) as they scurried for cover.  I was sad to think I’d hurt them, but fascinated by the implications of what they could do.

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Later on, I found other creatures with the same ability.  I had salt water aquariums for several years and one of my hermit crabs dropped one or two of his legs whenever a particularly aggressive snail started chasing him.  (Unfortunately, the little crab eventually ran out of legs, and the snail won.)

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