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SCV Outdoor Report: Our Local Superhero

If you spend any time in a Biology class, you can’t help but pick up a few Greek words, which sometimes can be useful outside the classroom.  Suppose, for example, you get into a discussion about your favorite comic Superhero. 

Did you know that Iron Man, the Marvel Comic superhero, has both an exo- and an endo-skeleton?  Exo means “outside” in Greek, so Iron Man’s exo-skeleton means an “outside supporting structure”.  But Iron Man is also human, which means he has an endoskeleton.  Endo means “within”, so endo-skeleton means “inside supporting structure”. 

And Superman, the DC Comics superhero, can produce an exo-thermic blast of “heat rays” which can heat up anything in its path.  Now I can’t melt chocolate with a blast of “heat rays”.  I need a stovetop or a microwave.  So it seems to me that superheroes must possess “powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men.”

Using that definition, we have a local superhero of our own:  the Southern Pacific Rattlesnake.  This rattlesnake has the power and ability to sense heat at a distance, something you or I cannot do. These snakes can pick out objects 0.1 degree warmer or colder than their surroundings and can “detect the warmth of a human hand from a distance of 1 foot”. (Animal Senses by Robert Burton)

Where does the Southern Pacific Rattlesnake get this superhero power?  There are two openings on the side of its face, just below and behind each nostril.  These structures, known as Loreal pits, are packed with temperature receptors.  This allows the snake to seek out warm-blooded prey at night and also to avoid warm-blooded predators.

Now some might argue that a poisonous snake can’t be a superhero;  it must be a super-villain.  They raise a good point – but – we don’t live in a comic book universe.  In real life, even the best superhero has his faults and the worst super-villain has some redeeming qualities.  And in the real world, without snakes, we would soon be overrun by rodents.

Upcoming Outdoor Events:

Saturday, May 9th and 23rd, and every Wednesday, 8:00 AM.  Trail Maintenance Volunteers at Towsley Canyon.

Come join our trail maintenance volunteers for camaraderie and a heart-thumping workout.  For more information contact Steve Ioerger at 661-291-1565.

Saturday, May 9, 9:00-11:00 AM.  Wildflower Hike in East/Rice Canyon.  Just in time for Mother’s Day.  Spend a couple of hours with her while searching out the Spring wildflowers.

For map and directions go here.

Sponsored by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.

Saturday, May 16, 8:00-10:00 AM.  Morning Bird Hike in Towsley Canyon.  Towsley Canyon is a year-round home for birds.  They like our Mediterranean climate, the local bounty and the California sunshine.  Bring your binoculars and meet at the entrance.  For map and directions go here.

Sponsored by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.

You can listen to stories like this every Friday morning at 7:10 a.m. on “The Hike Report”, brought to you by your hometown radio station KHTS (AM1220) and by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.

For the complete MRCA hike and activity schedule and for trail maps, click here or go to

SCV Outdoor Report: Our Local Superhero

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