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Theodore Roosevelt (1858–1919). Through the Brazilian Wilderness. 1914.

Page 20

  Doctor Brazil informed me that the mussurama, like the king-snake, was not immune to the colubrine poison. A mussurama in his possession, which had with impunity killed and eaten several rattlesnakes and representatives of the lachecis genus, also killed and ate a venomous coral-snake, but shortly afterward itself died from the effects of the poison. It is one of the many puzzles of nature that these American serpents which kill poisonous serpents should only have grown immune to the poison of the most dangerous American poisonous serpents, the pit-vipers, and should not have become immune to the poison of the coral-snakes which are commonly distributed throughout their range. Yet, judging by the one instance mentioned by Doctor Brazil, they attack and master these coral-snakes, although the conflict in the end results in their death. It would be interesting to find out whether this attack was exceptional, that is, whether the mussurama has or has not as a species learned to avoid the coral-snake. If it was not exceptional, then not only is the instance highly curious in itself, but it would also go far to explain the failure of the mussurama to become plentiful.
  For the benefit of those who are not acquainted with the subject, I may mention that the poison of a poisonous snake is not dangerous to its own species unless injected in very large doses, about ten times what would normally be injected by a bite; but that it is deadly to all other snakes, poisonous or non-poisonous, save as regards the very few species which themselves eat poisonous snakes. The Indian hamadryad, or giant cobra, is exclusively a snake-eater. It evidently draws a sharp