New Mexico's Pet Resource SPRING 2004


How much do you know about animals? Test your knowledge. Answers at bottom.

Q. What New Mexico predator is capable of seeing its prey in complete darkness?   ANSWER

Q. There are lions practically everywhere in New Mexico. Do you know where to look for them?   ANSWER

A. Rattlesnakes [the Prairie rattler, Crotalus viridis, is most common in New Mexico] have heat-sensitive pits next to their eyes that enable them to “see” the warmth of a rodent’s body even in total darkness. These snakes prefer prey that is smaller than they are. So you can imagine when a human, a hundred times larger than it is, appears on its heat-sensor. The rattlesnake is probably a hundred times more afraid of you than you are of it. Snakes having this heat-sensing apparatus are called pit vipers.


B. The predator lion that waits for its victim at the bottom of those small, half-inch to one-inch diameter funnel-shaped pits in the sandy soil of your back yard is called an ant lion [Genus Myrmeleon], in some regions also called a doodle bug. An ant lion waits for a small insect – yes, ants too! – to fall into his pit. Then he will bite it, paralyze it with venom, and then slowly suck out the body fluids. If you look very carefully into the deepest part of the pit you might see the head and pinchers of the resident ant lion. Ant lions are actually the larval form of a desert insect that in its adult stage looks like a dragonfly or flying ant.


Source: Desert Animals, Jen Green, Dempsey Parr Books, Bath UK, 2000

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