Nature’s Nightmares: Snakes in a Cave

Halloween has its share of imaginary monsters: vampires, werewolves, zombies… But some of the most pervasive symbols of Halloween are real animals, animals that (rightly or wrongly) strike fear in countless people. When you think of Halloween, what creepy creatures come to mind? Bats? Snakes? Cockroaches? Toads?

Imagine being surrounded by these animals. All of them. Starting to sweat? You should be, because you’re deep inside a stiflingly hot cave, in utter darkness, mired ankle-deep in bat guano. You can’t see the bats, but you know they’re there; you can hear them squeaking as they fly overhead, and feel them as they brush past your skin. Does this sound like a nightmare?

It’s just an average day in a Puerto Rican bat cave, and it’s an environment that I recently chose to enter voluntarily. None of the cave’s inhabitants posed any real threat to me. But that didn’t mean that entering their bizarre subterranean world wasn’t a bit… unsettling.

In August, when I was in Puerto Rico conducting research on anoles, my friend Nate and I went on an expedition to find a particular cave, where – according to the stories we had heard – Puerto Rican Boas (Epicrates inornatus) would hang from the cave walls and capture bats in mid-air as the bats emerged to hunt for insects at nightfall. To a couple of die-hard biologists like us, it sounded too good to be true! Did we find the boas and witness their amazing hunting behavior? Watch the video to find out!

National Geographic Young Explorer Neil Losin (UCLA) and his colleague Nate Dappen (University of Miami) are biologists, photographers, and filmmakers. You can see more of their work at Day’s Edge Productions.


Neil Losin is a National Geographic Young Explorer. He is a biologist, photographer, and filmmaker pursuing his Ph.D. in UCLA’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, where he studies the evolution of territoriality in lizards. When he isn’t doing his own research, Neil uses photography and video to help fellow scientists communicate about their work. He is the co-founder and Editor of SustainableFocus.org, a web community and magazine promoting visual communication about science and the environment. You can see his photography at www.neillosin.com, and check out his videos and blog at www.daysedgeproductitons.com.
  • BobH

    This is awesome! I hope Biology Road Trips is going to be a regular television show…

  • Janet Elson

    Great Story. I hope the location stays a ‘secret’

  • Maximino Hernández Martínez

    Muy interesante. En las cuevas hay mucha biodiversidad. En el sureste de México, hay mucho de esto.

  • carol satterfield

    Thanks Nate and Neil. That was amazing. I have never seen anything like that before. The filming was excellent.

  • micheal zadoc

    Good job! Please try and make some of things (video) available for popular/general consumption I.e cds

  • […] Read more at  National Geographic Daily News for October 30, 2011 […]

  • GiGau

    Awesome indeed. Looking forward seeing more !

  • […] dangling off the rock walls of the of the cave.Take a watch of the video below for the full story.Nature’s Nightmares: Snakes in a Cave [National Geographic] & Bats & Boas: Back from Puerto Rico [Day's Edge Blog] […]

  • gege smith


  • ParinelloTF

    Great Story!!
    When I lived in Texas and Arizona the reality of Snakes as well as Scorpions were a reality. Baby Rattlers are as small as a worm and more potent than the adult and Baby Scorpions are as small as an ant and can slip through the tiniest little crack – I’ve stepped on a few in my house and sometimes felt my tongue getting numb.
    Snakes love cool temperate cave areas to hang out in.

  • Noah McGill

    Asome, interesting, and intertaneing. You should walch it.

  • Ash

    This is amazing… trust me we puertoricans know a lot of “secret caves” and never reveals them bc of the harm that outsiders (an i mean everyone) can do. We also have one or the smallest frog on earth, its called coqui sabanero and thanks to a commercial development and no help from agencies is suffering and an endanger specie. it was discovered in 2009 and in the 2012 its in danger….ironic.

  • […] The adaption is rare but not unheard of—another cave in Puerto Rico is reported to be home to Puerto Rican boas (Epicrates inornatus) that are known to pluck bats out of the air. […]

About the Blog

Researchers, conservationists, and others share stories, insights and ideas about Our Changing Planet, Wildlife & Wild Spaces, and The Human Journey. More than 50,000 comments have been added to 10,000 posts. Explore the list alongside to dive deeper into some of the most popular categories of the National Geographic Society’s conversation platform Voices.

Opinions are those of the blogger and/or the blogger’s organization, and not necessarily those of the National Geographic Society. Posters of blogs and comments are required to observe National Geographic’s community rules and other terms of service.

Voices director: David Braun (dbraun@ngs.org)

Social Media