Profiles - Stories
There are some weird beliefs which have grown up about reptiles and amphibians, relating both to the appearance and lifestyles of this group of creatures. These stories are rooted in genuine observations though, about the animals themselves and their lifestyles.

A turtle travels only when it sticks its neck out.
An ancient Korean proverb.

One of the most widespread stories was that if you picked up a toad, it would give you warts. This arose simply because of the similarity between the swellings on a toad’s body and that of warts, which are most common on the hands.

The way in which reptiles live has also often been misunderstood, as reflected by the names of some common species today. Milk snakes (Lampropeltis triangulum) for example were thought to feed on milk, as they were often found in barns and fields alongside cattle, but in reality, they were simply hunting rodents in these surroundings. The same applies in the case of corn snakes (Pantherophis guttatus), which were also common in agricultural areas, but did not feed on this crop, in spite of stories to the contrary, which sadly led to these snakes being persecuted for a time.

Behaviour too can be misinterpreted. It is still said that snakes can hypnotise their prey, by swaying movements of their heads. In reality however, a snake behaves in this way to judge the position of its prey accurately before striking. There is also appearance too, which can create myths. Coachwhip snakes (Masticophis flagellum) (see right) were said to be able to beat people to death, simply because their tail looked like a braded whip!