Humans are not able to see infrared radiation without specialised equipment, but certain snakes can detect infrared radiation. See how they use it to deadly advantage.
- The pit viper uses special sensors in its snout to detect thermal radiation.
- Thermal radiation is given off from objects like warm-blooded animals, such as bats.
- In near darkness the snake can pounce accurately on the bat.
- Snakes are cold blooded so can carry these thermal sensors.
Bats use ultrasound to navigate through the darkest of caves.
But this super sense doesn't offer much protection from the sophisticated hunter lying in wait.
The pit viper is lightning fast and able to snatch its prey out of the gloom.
But how can it do this with such precision in near total darkness?
As well as their eyes, which can pick up visible light, pit vipers have special sensors in their snout, which are sensitive to infrared light.
On the electromagnetic spectrum, infrared radiation lies at a frequency below that which can be picked up by the human eye.
Infrared waves are thermal, meaning they are given off by warm objects.
This radiation is inherent to every warm-blooded animal on the planet.
This is commonly revealed by infrared cameras, where the heat is picked up and displayed in a very distinct way.
The sensors in the snake's snout detect thermal radiation alerting the snake when a bat is nearby, allowing it to pounce at just the right moment.
But this is not a skill that human beings could ever develop.
The sensor works because the snake is cold blooded – if we were to have these sensors, we would effectively be blinded by the glow of our own bodies.