Fun Facts About Snakes

The western diamondback can strike at a distance of half its body length -- not too shabby for a creature that can grow 4 feet (120 centimeters) long.
Credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

A slithering, legless carnivore, the snake is a common creature on nearly every continent. There are more than 3,000 species of snakes in the world ranging from the 10 cm thread snake to the 30-foot (9 meter) reticulated python.

Snakes have long, narrow bodies encompassing their head on one end and tail on the other end. Their skin is covered in overlapping scales that can feel vibrations in the ground.  Snakes don’t have eyelids or ears like we do. They rely on vibrations to “hear.” They live mainly in burrows or under rocks and some snakes stay dormant in very cold winters. Most snake species reproduce by laying eggs but a few give birth to young.

Only vipers, cobras and other related species use their venom to hunt. Most other snakes kill their prey simply by swallowing it whole. Larger snakes can strangle prey to death. A snake can eat prey three times larger than the size of its head because its lower and upper jaw can separate. [Photos: 7 Shocking Snake Stories]

indian cobra
Indian cobra
Credit: Kamalnv, Wikipedia

Other facts about snakes

Snakes have a forked or split tongue that helps them to smell and taste chemical composition in the air. This tongue is constantly in motion and even works for snakes that live underwater like the anaconda.

Like most reptiles, snakes are cold-blooded or ectothermic which means they rely on the environment to control their body heat.

Snakes shed their entire skin, or molt, nearly three times a year. Snakeskin has a smooth, dry feel.

Corn Snake
These corn snakes are able to angle their scales outward to make them better at catching and digging in to the bark's rough surface. This scale angling created twice as much friction against the bark (compared with the scales remaining flat), pushing the snakes up and letting the snakes sit in trees for an extended amount of time.
Credit: Tim Nowak and Hamidreza Marvi

Snakes come in a large variety of colors. Snakes that have dull coloring use it for camouflage, while those that are brightly colored and patterned are usually poisonous.

After a meal, snakes can survive for a long time without eating again because they have a very slow metabolism rate. A King Cobra can live for months without food.

The venom of a King Cobra is strong enough to kill an elephant. The snake stores venom in glands at the back of its head and releases it through hollow fangs when killing prey.

The paradise tree-snake of South-east Asia can swing through the air by flattening its body into an s-shaped ribbon.

The largest snake fossil ever discovered is called a Titano boa. This creature lived 60 million years ago and would have been 50 feet (15 meters) long.

Other resources:

National Geographic- Snake Pictures and Facts

Idaho PBS - Snake Facts for Kids

South Dakota Department of Wildlife - Snake Facts

BBC Nature - Snakes

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