What makes this subfamily unique is that all member species share a common characteristic: a deep pit, or fossa, in the loreal area between the eye and the nostril on either side of the head. These loreal pits are the external openings to a pair of extremely sensitive infrared-detecting organs, which in effect give the snakes a sixth sense to help them find and perhaps even judge the size of the small, warm-blooded prey on which they feed. Osine triphosphate, monoamine oxidase, generalized esterases and acetylcholine esterase have also been found in it. When prey comes into range, infrared radiation falling onto the membrane allows the snake to determine its direction. Experiments have shown, when deprived of their senses of sight and smell, these snakes can strike accurately at moving objects less than 0. 2 Â°C (0. 36 Â°F) warmer than the background. The paired pit organs provide the snake with thermal rangefinder capabilities. These organs are of great value to a predator that hunts at night, as well as for avoiding the snakeâs own predators.
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