Navigation Links
Snakes Make Your Skin Crawl? Study Suggests Why

By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Dec. 12 (HealthDay News) -- The poet Emily Dickinson greatly feared the "narrow fellow in the grass," writing that she "never met this fellow/Attended or alone/Without a tighter breathing/And zero at the bone."

Dickinson was not alone in her ophidiophobia (fear of snakes) and, it turns out, humans have good reason to fear the slithering serpent, whether it is found in the grass or elsewhere.

A new study in the Dec. 12-16 early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences documents frequent python attacks on a tribe of preliterate, hunter-gatherers in the Philippines, one of the first studies to actually quantify the danger that snakes pose to humans.

And the danger, it turns out, is quite real, at least among the Agta Negritos of Luzon Island.

Anthropologist Thomas N. Headland, lead author of the new paper, lived among the Agta Negritos his entire adult life, starting in 1962, and had the opportunity to interview 58 men and 62 women about their experiences with pythons.

Fifteen of the men (26 percent) and one of the women (1.6 percent) had lived to tell of python attacks and many of them bore scars from the encounter.

Tribespeople also recollected six fatal attacks that occurred between 1934 and 1973.

This amounted to one "traumatic python incident" -- either fatal or nonfatal -- every two or three years, the authors stated.

Fatalities included a brother and sister who were smothered by a python that had slipped unnoticed into their hut at twilight. The father killed the snake as it was coiled around and swallowing one of the children headfirst, but not in time to save the child.

Several years before that, a python swallowed an adult male. The man's son located the snake the next day, cut it open and retrieved the body so it could be buried.

Meanwhile, none of the interviewees recalled deaths from Japanese soldiers during World War II, venomous snake bites or from the giant crocodiles that inhabit this archipelago.

According to the paper, an adult male Agta has just over half the mass of a large female python, "not a heavy meal by snake standards." Pythons routinely eat pigs weighing up to 130 pounds, the authors stated.

But Agta, too, represent a threat to pythons. Headland himself was witness to a nearly 23-foot-long snake carcass killed by Agta hunters, which provided 55 pounds of meat.

Agta and python also share many favorite dishes, including deer, wild pigs and monkeys. So it makes sense that humans have a natural distrust of their reptilian neighbors, the authors stated.

"This data supports the theory that we have genetic phobia," said Headland.

And modern-day psychiatrist Dr. Bryan Bruno, acting chairman of the department of psychiatry at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, agreed that the lingering fear people have today may indeed date back to human ancestors who were even more vulnerable to serpent attacks.

"When a car comes at me on the highway, it scares me, I get out of the way fast. But when we see snakes, the hair of the back of our neck goes straight up. It's more than being scared of a car. It's a tremendous fear," said Headland. The fear, he added, is "human universal."

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has more on phobias.

SOURCES: Thomas N. Headland, Ph.D., international anthropology consultant, SIL International, Dallas; Bryan Bruno, M.D., acting chairman, department of psychiatry, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City; Dec. 12-16, 2011, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, online

Copyright©2010 ScoutNews,LLC.
All rights reserved  

Related medicine news :

1. Despite Treatment, Employees with Depression Generate Higher Absentee Costs, According to Thomson Reuters Study
2. American Council on Exercise (ACE) Study Reveals Kettlebells Provide Powerful Workout in Short Amount of Time
3. TV drama can be more persuasive than news program, study finds
4. Study carried out into biological risks of eating reptiles
5. Neuroimaging study may pave way for effective Alzheimers treatments
6. Study finds racial gaps continue in heart disease awareness
7. Luth Researchs IndicatorEDG(TM) Study Finds Americans Hopes of Achieving Their Dreams Are Fading
8. First blinded study of venous insufficiency prevalence in MS shows promising results
9. Soothing infants with food focus of childhood obesity study
10. People with anxiety disorder less able to regulate response to negative emotions, study shows
11. American Heart Association Rapid Access Journal Report: Study Finds Racial Gaps Continue in Heart Disease Awareness, Low Knowledge of Heart Attack Warning Signs Among Women
Post Your Comments:
Related Image:
Snakes Make Your Skin Crawl? Study Suggests Why
(Date:11/27/2015)... ... November 27, 2015 , ... Lizzie’s Lice Pickers just announced a ... customers 10% off of their purchase of lice treatment product. In addition, customers will ... to a company spokesperson. “Finding lice is a sure way to ruin the holidays, ...
(Date:11/27/2015)... ... November 27, 2015 , ... MPWH, the No.1 Herpes-only dating community in the world, revealed that ... ). More than 3.7 billion people under the age of 50 – or 67% ... WHO's first global estimates of HSV-1 infection . , "The data shocks us highly!" ...
(Date:11/27/2015)... ... 2015 , ... A simply groundbreaking television series, "Voices in America", which is ... an array of issues that are presently affecting Americans. Dedicated to providing the world ... is changing the subjects consumers focus on, one episode at a time. , ...
(Date:11/27/2015)... Los Angeles, CA (PRWEB) , ... November 27, 2015 , ... ... the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) awarded accreditation to its ... exclusive list of CAAHEP accredited colleges, as only one of twelve colleges and universities ...
(Date:11/27/2015)... ... November 27, 2015 , ... Avid collector, Andrew Hawley from ... boxing style concert posters. This is one of Joplin's most famous and beautiful concert ... the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. The According to Hawley, "It is hard ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:11/26/2015)... 3D bioprinting market is expected ... new report by Grand View Research Inc. Rising prevalence of ... kidney transplantation is expected to boost the market growth, as ... transplantation. --> 3D bioprinting market is expected ... new report by Grand View Research Inc. Rising prevalence of ...
(Date:11/26/2015)... STOCKHOLM , November 26, 2015 /PRNewswire/ ... --> Juntendo universitetssjukhus ser potential att ... av magnetresonansbilder (MR-bilder) för patienter med ... tecknat ett forskningsavtal med SyntheticMR AB för ... kliniska forskningsprojekt på sjukhuset. Med SyMRI kan ...
(Date:11/26/2015)... , Nov. 26, 2015 Research and ... of the "2016 Future Horizons and Growth ... Market: Supplier Shares, Country Segment Forecasts, Competitive Intelligence, ... --> --> ... of the Italian therapeutic drug monitoring market, including ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: