ScienceDaily keeps an eye out for creepy-crawlies with news that primate vision may have evolved *specifically* to identify snakes:
In a paper published Oct. 28 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, [Lynne] Isbell; Hisao Nishijo and Quan Van Le at Toyama University, Japan; and Rafael Maior and Carlos Tomaz at the University of Brasilia, Brazil; and colleagues show that there are specific nerve cells in the brains of rhesus macaque monkeys that respond to images of snakes.
The snake-sensitive neurons were more numerous, and responded more strongly and rapidly, than other nerve cells that fired in response to images of macaque faces or hands, or to geometric shapes. Isbell said she was surprised that more neurons responded to snakes than to faces, given that primates are highly social animals.
“We’re finding results consistent with the idea that snakes have exerted strong selective pressure on primates,” Isbell said.