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Two headed snake uses tail side head to fake-out predators, and prey.

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Monkeys are going to stay away from any two headed snakes after reading this article.

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One species of venomous sea snake shows the advantages of being two-faced. This slithering reptile twists its tail so its hind end appears to predators as a second head.

The clever sea snake, called the yellow-lipped sea krait (Laticauda colubrine), relies on the ruse to keep it safe from sharks and other enemies. Even though L. colubrine packs some of the most potent venom, the animal becomes relatively defenseless while foraging, a time when its head is stuck in crevices of coral reefs rather than on the lookout for attacks.

The thinking goes, if predators detect a vigilant head they'll steer clear. Apparently the trick can even fools unsuspecting scientists.

Arne Redsted Rasmussen of the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, School of Conservation in Copenhagen discovered the phenomenon while diving off the coast of the Bunaken Island in Indonesia. There, he watched as a yellow-lipped sea krait probed the crevices of corals. From his perspective, the snake seemed to be foraging with its tail, since its "head" was facing the scientist.

Shortly thereafter, the diving scientist watched as the snake pulled "another head" out of the crevice. He noted that each time the snake poked its snout into a coral opening, its tail twisted around the length of the snake's body and began to move about (like any head would) to, apparently, monitor the scene and keep a lookout for danger.

When the snake swam away, this perceived head showed itself as the snake's flattened paddle-like tail.

Rasmussen and Johan Elmberg of Kristianstad University College in Sweden found L. colubrine has a bright yellow horseshoe marking on both its tail tip and snout, distinctive from the rest of its body.

They also analyzed other sea krait species from museum collections, finding a similar distinctive color pattern in nearly 100 such species. The museum findings suggest other sea snakes might employ the guise observed in L. colubrine, the researchers say. But further studies are needed to firm up this hypothesis, Elmberg noted.

The new discovery will be published this week in the journal Marine Ecology. chronicles the daily advances and innovations made in science and technology. We take on the misconceptions that often pop up around scientific discoveries and deliver short, provocative explanations with a certain wit and style. Check out our science videos, Trivia & Quizzes and Top 10s. Join our community to debate hot-button issues like stem cells, climate change and evolution. You can also sign up for free newsletters, register for RSS feeds and get cool gadgets at the LiveScience Store.

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