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Jannia comments on An Alien God - Less Wrong

80 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 02 November 2007 06:57AM

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Comment author: Jannia 02 November 2007 08:07:29AM 7 points [-]

Maybe predators are wary of rattles and don't step on the snake. Or maybe the rattle diverts attention from the snake's head.

The point of a rattle, as I understand it, is that it's metabolically expensive, and time consuming, to produce poison. A snake that can chase off a dozen threats a day by wagging its tail is much better off probability-of-producing-offspring-wise than one that can only bite and poison three threats before being left defenseless for a few days.

It does leave me wondering what benefits the intermediate mutations provide though, since going from a normal snake tail to a rattle seems like it would take more than one step.

Comment author: puls 18 June 2010 05:12:07PM 5 points [-]

I have observed that more ordinary snakes that have not developed a rattle often vibrate their tail in a similar manner, which often makes a warning buzz that is merely somewhat quieter than a rattlesnake's rattle. So incremental improvements to this rattling mechanism, which started with a regular tail, would just slowly increase the loudness, and thus warning ability, of a snake's tail.

Comment author: Larks 18 June 2010 05:22:14PM 1 point [-]

Alternatively, maybe the buzz attracts attention away from the head of the snake, making it easier to attack.

Comment author: puls 25 June 2010 03:36:34AM 1 point [-]

Yes, and it would sustain less critical damage. I'm sure that both benefits contribute to the preservation of tail-rattling traits.

Comment author: MoreOn 10 December 2010 04:05:17AM 7 points [-]

All of these sound like a posteriori justifications than a priori predictions. Good ones. But still.

Comment author: Icehawk78 30 December 2010 03:43:06PM 8 points [-]

That's kind of the point of this article. Evolution doesn't "choose" something, it just has changes happen, and if, like a rattle happening to scare off threats or reduce lethal damage, it aids survival, then it increases in the population.

Comment author: sboo 30 December 2013 10:25:22PM 4 points [-]

even if poison were cheap, every fight has a risk. better to neither fight nor flee.