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Tentacled snakes born at National Zoo

Eric Pfeiffer
The Sideshow

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Eight tentacled snakes were recently born in captivity (Wikicommons)

Indiana Jones and Samuel L. Jackson may need to start their own group therapy session: Eight tentacled snakes were recently hatched at the Smithsonian's National Zoo.

These babies belong to an aquatic species of snake native to Southeast Asia, formally known as Erpeton tentaculatus, according to the Mother Nature Network.

Scientists say it is the only known species of snakes to have tentacles, which are used to sense vibrations from fish swimming by. The snakes are relatively small, usually growing to lengths of about 20 to 35 inches.

The tentacled snake spends almost all of its life hiding in murky waters, and scientists say its venomous fangs are not a threat to humans.

Beyond its unusual sensory devices, the tentacled snake has some other impressive evolutionary traits as well, including the ability to predict where a startled fish will maneuver, allowing the tentacled snake to literally guide the prey into its open mouth. A 2009 report from Science Blogs explains in detail how tentacled snakes use their sharp senses and incredible speed to trap their prey.

"I haven't been able to find reports of any other predators that exhibit a similar ability to influence and predict the future behavior of their prey," Vanderbilt University professor of biological sciences Kenneth Catania said in a statement.

You can watch video of the tentacled snake capturing a fish here.

And in unsettling development for those suffering from ophiophobia, or the fear of snakes, the tentacled snakes also reportedly grow very quickly.

"Within a few hours of being born, the snakes were already acting like adults," Matt Evans, a keeper at the Smithsonian's Reptile Discovery Center, said in a statement. "Instincts took over, and they were hunting. We don't know much about this cryptic species, but we're already learning so much just watching them grow."

For those living in or visiting the Washington, D.C., metro area, four of the baby snakes are currently on display at the National Zoo's Reptile Discovery Center.

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An up-close image of a tentacled snake (Kenneth C. Catania/Wikicommons)

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