The blunthead slug snake is the cutest nope rope we’ve seen

By Bec Crew | August 12, 2019

The jumping spider of the snake world, the blunthead slug snake is so adorable, even the most phobic among us would struggle to have a problem with it.

Contributor

Bec Crew

Becky Crew is a Sydney-based science communicator with a love for weird and wonderful animals. From strange behaviours and special adaptations to newly discovered species and the researchers who find them, her topics celebrate how alien yet relatable so many of the creatures that live amongst us can be.

THE BLUNTHEAD slug is like a Disney character come to life; a plucky little nomad with a sack full of slugs and a dream.

Found in Southeast Asia, including in southern Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines, the blunthead slug snake (Aplopeltura boa) is tiny, non-venomous, and non-aggressive. 

Docile and easy to handle, it’s about the least intimidating snake you could encounter; its large, round eyes giving it a far more approachable air than your average cat-eyed viper

But here’s the thing – not all round-eyed snakes are as sweet as this little guy. Despite what the internet might tell you, you can’t pick a venomous snake from a non-venomous snake just by looking at its eyes. Things in nature are never that simple.

If you’re a snail or a slug, though, the blunthead slug snake is your worst enemy. These little snakes can’t get enough of them. 

And, weirdly enough, their love of a good, slimy meal has caused them to evolve specialised jaws and teeth to feed on gastropods as efficiently as possible.

If you look closely at a snail shell, you’ll see that it will very likely be dextrally coiled, meaning it spirals in a right-handed, or clockwise, direction. In other words, most snails are right-handed. 

In fact, more than 90 per cent of gastropod species have right-handed shells, and those very rare snails that find themselves born left-handed often end up dying along, because their genitals are on the ‘wrong’ side for mating with right-handed snails.

In response to this trait, the blunthead slug snake has evolved a strange, hook-like jaw filled with more needle-like teeth on its right side, which makes extracting snails from their right-handed shells a breeze. 

(Image credit: Rushenb/Wikimedia)

A recent study that looked at how these snakes cope with sinistrally coiled – or left-handed – snails found that the bluntheads could only extract about 23 per cent of them, and with considerable effort.

The asymmetrical jaw of the blunthead slug snake is a very rare feature among the world’s snakes – and animals in general – and it’s the most notable feature of the Pareidae family of snakes from Southeast Asia.

Other than its wonderfully weird jaws, not a whole lot is known about the shy blunthead slug snake. The good news is that, despite there being little information on its population numbers, it’s not giving conservationists any reason for concern.

Which is just as well, because look at that little face:

(Image credit: Bernard Dupont/Flickr)

Here’s one filmed on Penang Island in Malaysia: