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Strange Lactation Species Diversity: The Story of the "Milk Snake"

Local to the Nogales Lactation Museum is, of course, the Milk Snake, Lampropeltis triangulum, a species of king snake. There are several interesting facts to ponder here. First of all, it is important to note that there are 24 types of milk snake though, misleadingly, only 23 actually lactate.

Also, as the greater species name indicates, it is a “king” snake which is the first clue that it is the males, not the females, of the species that lactate. The lactating glands are located, depending on the age and length of the snake, at rings 2, 4, and 24 in all 23 of the 24 lactating types.

Of these beautiful, multi-colored reptiles, in particular, the Sonoran Desert King snake, although it does mimic its lactating brethren, the vestigial glands do not produce nourishing fluid for its young. Instead, this is the one of the 24 types of “milk” snake that does not, in fact, yield milk. Instead, it relies on its mimicry to gather food for its young by the parent snake suckling on the teets of other animals and then regurgitating the fluid for its own young.

For reasons that scientists have not yet understood, it procures milk for its young for exactly 24 days! The truth is, indeed, stranger than fiction!

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