Blunt-headed Treesnake (Imantodes cenchoa) from Guyana (photo by Todd Pierson)

Blunt-headed Treesnake (Imantodes cenchoa) from Guyana (photo by Todd Pierson)

Admittedly blunt-headed tree snakes do not have a very good common name (indeed the appellation sounds a bit like a puerile joke).  Likewise, the genus name “Imantodes” for this group of colubrid tree snakes from Central and South America is hardly euphonic.  However what the little snakes lacks in their names, they make up for in appearance.  These snakes look like living cartoons: they have comically oversized eyes (complete with cat-like vertical pupils), large square heads on wire slender necks, and invisible smiling mouths which yawn open to alarming size.

Amazon Blunt Headed Tree Snake

Amazon Blunt Headed Tree Snake

The snakes make their living by impersonating vines—a strategy which simultaneously protects them from predators and hides them from their own prey.  They live on small lizards, frogs, and insects as well as whatever sort of bird, amphibian, or reptile egg they can fit in their mouths.  I wonder how many of the vines in tropical rainforests of Central and South America are actually these small disguised snakes!

Bluntheaded tree snake

Bluntheaded tree snake

Chunk-headed or blunt-headed tree snake (Imantodes cenchoa) in Panama (photo by Arthur Anker)

Chunk-headed or blunt-headed tree snake (Imantodes cenchoa) in Panama (photo by Arthur Anker)