Today’s post is part of a special series here on Planet Pailly called Sciency Words. Every Friday, we take a look at a new and interesting scientific term to help us all expand our scientific vocabularies together. Today’s word is:
Ouroboros is not a word I ever thought of as a sciency word until I saw this:
Please note: I recommend watching the video with the audio muted. While the video does have educational value, whoever filmed it seems to find a little too much humor in the suffering of animals.
Ouroboros is an ancient symbol depicting a snake or sometimes a dragon curled into a circle, biting its own tail. The image has a lot of historical and mythological significance and has been referenced by many famous philosophers. It usually symbolizes stuff like eternity, rebirth, or the endless circle of life.
After seeing a real-life ouroboros, I think we can guess that the symbol probably originates in something ancient people observed in nature. I can’t imagine snakes commonly try to eat themselves, but if one animal engaged in this self-destructive behavior, surely others have done so as well.
But why would a snake do this to itself in the first place? According to an article from I Fucking Love Science (an awesome name for a website, by the way), this behavior may be the result of stress or perhaps overheating. Snakes are cold blooded and cannot regulate their blood temperature the way mammals do. For the snake in this video, the ouroboros does not represent the circle of life or anything of the sort; it is probably the unfortunate result of someone leaving the heat lamp on for too long.