Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Aerospace, Physics, and Space Sciences

First Advisor

Hamid Hefazi

Second Advisor

Michael Grace

Third Advisor

Chelakara Subramanian


Predicting the behavior of snakes has been an interest to several scientists for the last few decades. Even though considerable amount of research has been carried out pertaining to snakes, there remains a degree of curiosity regarding their striking ability, live prey detection at locations where visual clues are unobtainable, thermosensation and the phenomena that drives these conducts. Researches carried out so far have moderately disregarded the perception of sensitivity of facial pits of snakes and its characteristics under contrasting temperature domains. This thesis attempts to undertake a computational analysis of the sensitivity of facial pits of Burmese pythons under varying environmental conditions. The sensitivity analysis has been carried out by using radiation heat transfer analysis and by using COMSOL Multiphysics software, a CFD package based on advanced numerical methods for modelling and simulating physics based problems. The main objective was to perform the thermal analysis as a result of temperature contrasts resulting from an endothermic prey over facial pits of varying thicknesses under temperatures ranging from 45 degrees Celsius to 15 degrees Celsius and humidity levels at low 35% RH and high 70% RH. The results indicated that pit temperature was observed to be lowest for low environmental conditions and increased gradually as the environmental conditions were higher. Change in pit membrane temperature depicted an increase when the distance between the snake and prey was decreased. Pits less than 0.005 m showed less temperature absorption at any given condition. Furthermore, the ambient temperature presented a pivotal role in affecting the pit sensitivity. While, in previous research the snake might respond to temperature changes of 0.003°C, there is scant information in public domain to comment on the sensitivity of the pit organ responding to the temperature contrasts of the order one thousandth of a degree Centigrade or less. Evidence for quantum detection for such an order of temperature variance is presently undiscovered. The new sensitivity analysis is conducted for a range of environmental and geometrical parameters where the python is subjected to an endothermic prey. This will enable biophysicists to perceive behavioral indications of thermal detection in pythons. Finally, the computational results indicate that the temperature deflections at low order of magnitude are achieved in short period of time which is consistent in behavior of snake. It is expected that this study would help to provide a foundation in obtaining greater insight regarding the pit organ response subjected to various environmental temperatures with respect to the pit sizes. The conclusions would be beneficial to any early stage biophysicist whose interest lies in advancing the snake behavioral studies. Also, it may provide several ideas in engineering aspects of sensors and their applications.


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