BALTIMORE—Saying the probable linguistic accomplishment could very well constitute a scientific breakthrough, behavioral herpetologists at Johns Hopkins University announced Monday that they have most likely successfully taught sign language to snakes. “Uh, yeah, after 20 years of hard work and nearly $250 million in grants, we believe the snakes in our study have almost certainly learned American Sign Language,” said Dr. Lance Hutchinson, the project’s lead researcher, adding that snakes have been cut off from the speaking world for millennia by their lack of complex ear structures and that learning a few basic signs, as they seem to have done, would allow them to communicate with humans. “We’re just going to be positive and say that, yes, all that wriggling around snakes do is an attempt at verbal expression. Larry, our boa constrictor, regularly uses his body to make the letters J, L, and I, and we’re working around the clock to figure out what he’s saying. In the meantime, we gave him a kitten, as that’s what Koko the famous gorilla asked for when she learned to sign. It’s been several kittens by now, in fact, because they seem to keep getting caught in the O’s and we’re not sure Larry has learned the signs for ‘let go’ yet.” Dr. Hutchinson also said researchers believe the snakes are probably capable of teaching sign language to their young after witnessing entire snake families simultaneously making the letter S.
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