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The Weatherman of Coorg


Malabar Pit Viper, Coorg -


Most of us have grown up to develop a very healthy dose of cynicism about most things in life. While the promises and peccadilloes of our politicians is at one end, the bumbling fallibilities of our weather forecasters is at the other, and rarely fails to bring a smile that both mocks and forgives in the same breath. Rare is the weatherman whose predictions are in the same pin code as the actual weather, and chances are that if they predicted a clear day, we’d set out armed with umbrellas. Just in case! The expert weatherman of Coorg, however, has it down to a fine art; an exactitude in measuring temperature that would be comforting, if it weren’t so fraught with danger. Meet the Malabar Pit Viper, a common resident of Coorg, and an uncommonly accurate assessor of ambient temperatures. This viper gets his name from the ‘pits’ or holes near his snout which are highly evolved heat sensors that help in identifying warm blooded prey even in absolute darkness. Sensitive to infrared radiation, these pits can sense even a minute 0.2 degree centigrade variation of temperature, which helps him to not just find prey, but also judge the size of his meal portion to a nicety. The accuracy of his radar also helps decode the heat sensitivity of the ambient colors to choose the right camouflage. After all, when you dress for dinner, it wouldn’t do to stand out like a sore thumb. Normal service includes servings of rodents, frogs and smaller snakes, but the camouflage helps the Pit Viper to also avoid becoming someone else’s dinner…Monitor Lizards, King Cobras, Goshawks and Kites for instance. Just as with us humans, perhaps not everyone in the animal world looks upon the weatherman with a benevolent eye.


Photograph: Vijay Rao Story: Rajesh Ramaswamy

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