Snakes
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About Snakes

Snakes are mysterious reptiles that belong to the kingdom Animalia, class Reptilia, and order Squamata. They have captivated human attention for centuries with their unique characteristics and adaptations. With over 3,000 known species, snakes can be found in diverse habitats around the world.

Most people instinctively know snakes from other types of animals.  They are easy to identify because of their unique and distinctive characteristics.  Here is a quick look at some of these characteristics:

  1. Elongated Bodies: Snakes are known for their long and cylindrical bodies. They lack limbs, allowing them to move in a sinuous manner by using their muscles and scales.
  2. Scales: Snakes have scales covering their bodies, which provide protection and help reduce water loss. These scales are made of keratin, the same material found in our hair and nails.
  3. Forked Tongue: Snakes possess a forked tongue, which they use to sense their environment. They collect scent particles in the air and transfer them to a specialized organ in their mouth called the Jacobson’s organ, aiding in the detection of prey and potential threats.
  4. Flexible Jaws: Snakes have highly flexible jaws that allow them to consume prey much larger than their own head. Their jaws are connected by stretchy ligaments, enabling them to swallow their food whole.
  5. Ectothermic: Snakes are ectothermic, meaning they rely on external sources of heat to regulate their body temperature. They bask in the sun or seek out warm surfaces to raise their body temperature and become active.

Types of Snakes:

There is a wide variety of snake species, but let’s explore ten of the most popular ones:

  1. Anaconda: The anaconda is one of the largest snakes in the world, known for its impressive size and strength. It is a non-venomous constrictor found in South America, primarily in the Amazon rainforest.
  2. Mamba: The mamba is a venomous snake known for its speed and agility. The black mamba, one of the most feared snakes, is found in sub-Saharan Africa and is known for its potent neurotoxic venom.
  3. Cobra: Cobras are venomous snakes that are famous for their iconic hood, which they display when threatened. The Indian cobra and the King cobra are well-known species, and their venom can be deadly.
  4. Boa Constrictor: Boa constrictors are large non-venomous snakes found in the Americas. They subdue their prey by coiling around them and squeezing until the prey cannot breathe. Boa constrictors are powerful constrictors.
  5. Water Moccasin: Also known as the cottonmouth, the water moccasin is a venomous snake found in the southeastern United States. It is known for its aggressive behavior and is often found near water bodies.
  6. Black Mamba: The black mamba is a highly venomous snake found in sub-Saharan Africa. It is known for its incredible speed and is considered one of the deadliest snakes in the world.
  7. King Cobra: The king cobra is the world’s longest venomous snake. It is found in Southeast Asia and is known for its iconic hood and potent venom.
  8. Copperhead: Copperheads are venomous snakes found in North America. They are known for their distinctive copper-colored heads and are found in a variety of habitats, including forests and rocky areas.
  9. Rattlesnake: Rattlesnakes are venomous snakes recognized by the rattles at the end of their tails. When threatened, they produce a rattling sound as a warning. They are found in the Americas and exhibit a wide range of patterns and colors.
  10. Garter Snake: Garter snakes are non-venomous snakes found in North America. They are small to medium-sized and are known for their vibrant colors and distinctive stripes.

Summary

Snakes are fascinating and mysterious creatures with a diverse range of species and adaptations. From the venomous cobras and vipers to the powerful constrictors like the boa constrictor, each snake species has unique characteristics and plays a vital role in their respective ecosystems. 

Understanding their biology, behaviors, and ecological significance can foster a greater appreciation for these fascinating reptiles.  Scroll down and look at the variety and different characteristics of some of the world’s snakes.

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Types of Snakes

Anaconda

The Anaconda, primarily found in South America, is one of the world's largest and heaviest snakes, renowned for its aquatic lifestyle and immense strength.

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Black Mamba

The Black Mamba, native to Africa, is infamous for its speed, aggressive defense, potent venom, and is one of the world's deadliest and fastest snakes.

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Blue Viper

The Blue Viper, known for its striking blue coloration, is a venomous snake with a fearsome reputation, found in SE Asia's tropical forests.

Boa Constrictor

The Boa Constrictor is a large, non-venomous, heavy-bodied snake native to the Americas, known for its distinctive method of killing prey by constriction.

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Bush Viper

The Bush Viper, with its distinctive keeled scales & vibrant colors, is a small, arboreal African snake, renowned for its striking, bristly appearance.

Copperhead

The Copperhead, a venomous snake found in North America, is known for its distinctive coppery head, patterned body, and a propensity to freeze when threatened.

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Coral Snake

The Coral Snake, famous for its vibrant red, yellow, and black bands, is a highly venomous species found in the Americas, known for its neurotoxic venom.

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Garter Snake

The Garter Snake, a common, non-venomous species, is recognized for its distinctive longitudinal stripes and adaptability to various environments.

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Green Mamba

The Green Mamba, an elegant, highly venomous snake found in African coastal forests, is known for its bright green color and fast-acting neurotoxic venom.

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King Cobra

The King Cobra, the world's longest venomous snake, is revered for its imposing size, intelligence, distinctive hood, and potent venom, primarily inhabiting Asia.

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Kingsnake

Kingsnakes, widespread in N.America, are non-venomous constrictors known for their immunity to venom, diverse color patterns, & habit of preying on other snakes.

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Puff Adder

The Puff Adder, a venomous snake found in Africa, is known for its distinctive puffing defense, striking pattern, and potent cytotoxic venom causing severe swelling.

Rattlesnake

The Rattlesnake is renowned for its loud rattle. It is a highly venomous species native to Central and Northern America.

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Python

The Python features over 40 species and is found in places over most of the world. There are many colors, patterns, and sizes.

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Sawcaled Viper

The Saw-scaled Viper, small but highly venomous, is notorious for its aggressive nature, distinctive scales, and a loud hissing sound, common in arid regions.

Spitting Cobra

The Spitting Cobra, found in Africa and Asia, is known for its unique defense mechanism of accurately spitting venom at a threat's eyes, causing irritation.

Water Moccasin

The Water Moccasin, also known as a Cottonmouth, is a venomous snake found in southeastern U.S., known for its distinctive white mouth and aquatic habits.

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FAQ’s

1. What is the largest and smallest snake?

The largest snake in the world is the Green Anaconda (Eunectes murinus), which can reach lengths of over 20 feet and weigh several hundred pounds. On the other hand, the smallest snake is the Barbados Threadsnake (Leptotyphlops carlae), which measures only about 4 inches in length.

2. How long do snakes live?

The lifespan of snakes varies depending on the species, environmental factors, and availability of food. Generally, smaller species have shorter lifespans of a few years, while larger species can live for several decades. For example, some pythons and boas can live for over 30 years in captivity.

3. What do snakes eat?

Snakes are carnivorous and primarily feed on a diet of other animals. Their diet varies depending on the species and size. Venomous snakes, such as cobras and vipers, rely on their venom to immobilize and kill their prey. 

Non-venomous snakes, like constrictors, overpower their prey by coiling around them and squeezing until the prey suffocates. Once the prey is subdued, snakes swallow their food whole, aided by their flexible jaws.

4. Where do snakes live?

Snakes can be found in a wide range of habitats across the globe, including forests, grasslands, deserts, and even aquatic environments. They have adapted to various climates and can be found in both tropical and temperate regions.

5. How do snakes reproduce?

Snakes reproduce sexually, with males engaging in courtship behavior to attract females. Depending on the species, snakes may lay eggs (oviparous) or give birth to live young (viviparous). Some snake species even exhibit parental care, protecting their eggs or young until they are ready to survive on their own.

6. How do you know if a snake is poisonous?

Distinguishing between venomous and non-venomous snakes can be challenging, but there are some general characteristics to look for. Venomous snakes often have triangular-shaped heads, whereas non-venomous snakes typically have more rounded heads.

Additionally, venomous snakes often have vertical pupils, heat-sensing pits, and fangs for injecting venom. It is crucial to exercise caution and seek expert guidance when dealing with snakes to avoid potential harm.

7. What is the most venomous snake?

The most venomous snake in the world is often considered to be the Inland Taipan (Oxyuranus microlepidotus), also known as the “fierce snake.” It is native to central Australia and possesses extremely potent venom. 

The venom of the Inland Taipan is highly neurotoxic and can cause severe damage to the nervous system, potentially leading to paralysis and death if left untreated. 

8. What snake makes the best pets?

When considering a snake as a pet, it is essential to research the specific species thoroughly and ensure that you can provide appropriate care. Some popular pet snakes include ball pythons, corn snakes, and king snakes.

These species are generally docile, relatively easy to care for, and have manageable sizes. However, responsible ownership and adherence to local regulations are essential when keeping any snake as a pet.

9. What are the world's most deadliest snakes?

Here are some of the world’s most deadliest snakes:

  • Saw Scaled Viper
  • Black Mamba
  • Russel’s Viper
  • Common Krait
  • Indian Cobra
  • Puff Adder
  • Common Death Adder
  • King Cobra
  • Coral Snake
  • Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake

You want to make sure you keep a safe distance from any of these poisonous snakes.

Sources
  • Burnie, David & Wilson, Don, Animal, Smithsonian Institute, Washington DC.
  • Hickman et al, Integrated Principle of Zoology, McGraw Hill, Boston.