These are 2 of 4 snakes (3 Brown Snakes, 1 Eastern Garter) that were found
together under the bark of a log on 10 June, 2007 south west of Ithaca, NY.
So why is it so interesting to see new critters in a new corner of the world? In part, it comes from an appreciation of the diversity of life that is out there and being involved with like-minded individuals that share that same appreciation.
As can be seen in the 3 Brown Snakes in the photo above, there's plenty of individual variation within most any species (often, even within small local populations). In short, the more divergent the evolutionary histories of two organisms, the more recognizably different they tend to be.
A natural next step after recognizing the many similarities and differences between related species or subspecies leads one to wonder about the how and why behind it all. For example, why does the Redbelly Snake have a red belly? Might it have anything to do with why the locally occurring Northern Ring-necked Snake (Diadophis punctatus edwardsii) also has a colorful underside? Why do these two (more distantly related) species share this characteristic, while the Brown Snake does not?
Ah, such fun questions - so little time... too bad my thesis chapter won't write itself while I'm blogging! ;)