The dens are the winter home of tens of thousands of red-sided garter snakes (Thamnophis sirtalis parietalis). These pits are the largest concentration in the world of this particular type of snake. Their winter dens are subterranean caverns formed by the area’s water-worn limestone bedrock. In the spring, they come up from their dens to the snake pits, where they engage in mating rituals. Then they disperse into the nearby marshes for the summer. The conservation area is open to the public. The snakes are most active during the spring and fall - in late April to early May, which is the mating season, and also in early September, when the snakes slither back down to their winter dens.
Ancient Egyptian limestone statue of a married couple named Nebsen and Nebet-Ta. Artist unknown; 18th Dynasty, reign of Thutmose IV or Amenhotep III (ca. 1400-1352 BCE). Thought to come from Dahamsha; now in the Brooklyn Museum. Photo credit: David Liam Moran/Wikimedia Commons.
The Laotian rock rat or kha-nyou (Latin: Laonastes aenigmamus), sometimes called the “rat-squirrel”, is a rodent species of the Khammouan region of Laos. Upon their initial discovery, Jenkins and coauthors (2005) considered the Laotian rock rat to represent a completely new family. Jenkins et al. (2004) did not compare the specimens to known rodent fossils. After such a comparison, Dawson et al. (2006) were of the opinion that the Laotian rock rat belongs to a previously described family which had only been known from fossils, the Diatomyidae. The discovery of the Laotian rock rat means an 11 million-year gap exists in the fossil record where no diatomyids have been found. Mary Dawson described Laonastes as the “coelacanth of rodents”.