Citizen science adds venom to database on snakes’ habits


Citizen science adds venom to database on snakes’ habits

Using Facebook, scientists have gathered information about the reptiles’ feeding habits and 75% of it is new

Senior science reporter

It took two reptile scientists and scores of reptile-loving citizens to figure out the mysterious eating habits of snakes.

Over the past century, only about 23 individual feeding records for snakes were documented each year in Southern Africa, but now a husband-and-wife team at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) has spent the past five years building up a database of information through Facebook. The approach has revolutionised our understanding of snakes’ role in the ecosystem.

A few years ago, Dr Robin Maritz and her husband, Dr Bryan Maritz, from the department of biodiversity and conservation biology, noticed that many people were posting photographs of reptiles on social media...

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