Monday’s celestial events were eclipsed by a bright star before the sun even began its voyage along the path of totality. At 8 a.m. Pacific, pop star Taylor Swift posted a video to both her Twitter and Instagram. It was the first post Swift made since she scrubbed her social media accounts clean last week.
The 10-second video is silent, purposefully glitchy, and appears to show the appendage of some sort of slithering animal. Because Swift has been associated with snakes since her feud with Kim Kardashian, most viewers looked at the clip and assumed that Taylor, master of the hyper-aware self-own, was simply just owning her snakiness.
Not so fast, internet. According to herpetologists that Inverse spoke with, the animal in the video is just as vague as the release date of Swift’s next album. David Steen, Ph.D., a well-known wildlife and conservation biologist, told Inverse via Twitter that, “It is definitely snake-like, but I think that’s all the video is meant to portray.”
Emily Taylor, Ph.D., the director the Physiological Ecology of Reptiles Lab at California Polytechnic State University, concurred. “It’s difficult to tell due to the quality, but Taylor Swift’s clip appears to show the tail of an unidentified snake or lizard,” she told Inverse.
The terms “unidentified snake” and “snake-like” do not, however, mean Taylor’s creature is definitely a snake. Harry Greene, Ph.D., a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Cornell University, told Inverse that he’s not “convinced it’s even supposed to be a reptile.” Greene points out that at the end of the clip, there’s a pulse of hydrostatic forward, which makes it seem more like a worm.
“That is not a snake, nor other reptile,” Joseph Mendelson, Ph.D., director of research at Zoo Atlanta, told Inverse. “It actually changes the length of its body, which is what worms or octopus tentacles do. Snakes, even the couple of really odd ones out there, can’t technically accomplish this.”
Sam Sweet, Ph.D., a professor of ecology and evolution at the University of California, Santa Barbara, told Inverse that the clip is unrecognizable as a real animal, but if it was one, it’s not a snake.
“Could be a giant intestinal parasite, which would fit with what I know about Taylor Swift,” Sweet tells Inverse. Sweet does not appear to be a fan of Red.
Luke Linhoff, a Ph.D. candidate at Florida International University, says that the clip doesn’t look like a snake because of its big spiky scales, and it doesn’t look like a lizard tail because it’s so thin. “Even the most dragon-y, dragon-like snake I know, Xenodermus javanicus, doesn’t look like that,” Linhoff told Inverse in an email.
What it could be, he hypothesized, is an octopus leg or a “funny-looking” brittle star.
“But let’s be honest,” says Linhoff. “I’m guessing T-Swifty has just been watching a lot of Game of Thrones and wants to do some ‘dragon from the ashes’ sort of PR stunt. Lame. Should have gotten some Xenodermus javanicus involved.”