Mimics Survive -- Camouflaged Reptiles

Grade Levels: 5 - 12

The milksnake, kingsnake, and coralsnake have similar coloration. The harmless kingsnake and milksnake appear to be mimicking the patterns and colors of the poisonous coralsnakes.


Students will recognize how successful the mimicry strategy is for confusing predators...in this case, them!



  1. Cut out the figures of the two snakes, color them in as indicated, and hand them out to groups of three to four students.

  2. Have students examine both figures independently and talk about the identifying characteristics (colors and patterns). Point out that the coralsnake can defend itself with a poisonous bite. Have students put the figures out of sight until step 4.

  3. Discuss how bright and distinct coloration is used to warn predators away from toxic prey. Give other examples of animals that use warning colors, such as the eastern newt and monarch butterfly.

  4. Now have the students mix the figures up and try to identify which figure is which species. Can they tell them apart? Would you go near any of these snakes in the wild? What advantage does the Mexican milksnake gain from mimicking the coralsnake?
View background information on Reptile and Amphibian Defense Systems.

Excerpted fromHands-On Herpetology.

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