Many Jars of Snakes | God's World News
Many Jars of Snakes
Science Soup
Posted: January 01, 2024
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    Greg Schneider holds a jar containing snake specimens in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in October 2023. (AP/Mike Householder)
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    Please DON’T pass the pickled snakes! (AP/Mike Householder)
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    Greg Schneider studies part of the museum’s new gift—salamander specimens. (AP/Mike Householder)
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    Greg Schneider reaches into a jar of dead snakes. Would you? (AP/Mike Householder)
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    The donated snakes came from Oregon State University. (AP/Mike Householder)
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Yum, pickles . . .

Look again. Those aren’t pickles. They’re DEAD SNAKES!

Greg Schneider studies rows of liquid-filled glass jars packed with coiled snakes. He has more. Many, many more. Mr. Schneider works at the University of Michigan Museum of Zoology. That institution now has the largest reptile and amphibian collection in the United States. Mr. Schneider thinks it may have the largest in the world.

In the fall of 2023, Oregon University gave the museum a donation. The gift? Tens of thousands of dead reptiles and snakes in jars. Water snakes. Garter snakes. Woodland salamanders. Dusky salamanders. Would you enjoy such a gift? (Would your parents?!)

The canned critters aren’t just for looking at. Scientists will use them for research. Some amphibian and reptile populations are shrinking. That’s usually a bad sign. “Amphibians, unlike people, breathe at least partly through their skin, which is constantly exposed to everything in their environment,” Mr. Schneider points out. Trouble for these vulnerable creatures can show that an ecosystem is out of balance.

Scientists also plan to study the specimens to see how traits pass from mother snakes to their snakelets. (Yes, baby snakes are called snakelets. Does that word make you imagine having a bitty snake wrapped around your hand or foot like a bracelet or anklet? Eek!) A better understanding of trait inheritance could help people design new medical treatments.

But first, paperwork. Mr. Schneider has yet to complete the long, hard process of cataloging the new material. He must make an organized list identifying the critters—more than 45,000!

So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them. — Matthew 7:12

Note: People tend to have STRONG opinions about snakes. What is yours? Love them? Hate them? Wish you had a snakelet of your own? Let us know at

Why? Studying many snake specimens may lead to greater knowledge and medical discoveries.