Last updated on May 5th, 2023
54. How about snakes as pets?!
Over 1.1 million people own pet snakes. Most of these are harmless smaller snakes, but some owners do have large pythons or venomous snakes (sometimes illegally) as pets.
55. Metabolic control
Snakes can go such a long time between meals because they can slow their metabolism when food is scarce. Some species can slow their metabolism over 70% and go nearly a year in between meals.
56. Unique defence against predators
The Japanese grass snake has the most interesting defense mechanism of virtually any snake. It eats poisonous frogs or toads and when threatened it secretes those very poisons stored from past meals to defend itself or warn off predators.
57. In existence for more than 140 million years
Snakes have been around planet Earth for a very long time. Current estimates are that snakes evolved 142 million years ago in the late Jurassic period.
58. Flexible spine to accommodate prey
Snakes have very unusual bones. They not only have an enormous number of ribs, but their spine is among the most flexible and some snakes have jaws that they can unhinge to swallow extra-large prey before popping it back into place once ingestion starts.
59. Heaven for the Burmese Pythons
The Everglades ecosystem is dying due to an infestation of Burmese Pythons. These were illegal pet snakes that got dumped, but the Florida Everglades were the perfect ecosystem for them to thrive in a predator-less environment.
60. Immune to snake venom
Some animals developed an immunity to snake venom as a defense. One famous example is the mongoose, which is why it’s known as a cobra killer.
61. Strike Speed: 100 milliseconds
The Death Adder has the fastest strike of any venomous snake in the world as it can attack a target, inject venom, and be back ready to strike again in a scorching 0.15 seconds.
62. Yes, snakes can fly!
There are 5 species of “flying snakes” that have distinctive traits that allow them to glide, sometimes for hundreds of feet, through the air.
63. While drinking water
Snakes can drink water without lips. They use suction to pull water into their throat and down their bodies, sometimes needing to fully emerge their heads to do so.
64. Hunted for skin
The Arafura file snake only eat about once a month on average and are known for their incredibly loose skin. So much so, that they are hunted by indigenous people as the skins make for great drums.
65. Eggs vs live birth
Despite being reptiles, only 70% of snakes lay eggs. Many species of snakes actually give live birth to their young.
66. Tentacles for catching prey
Tentacle snakes live in Southeast Asia and are aquatic snakes with two small tentacles that act as sensors to find prey. This works the way forked tongues work for most snake species seeking information around their environment.
67. Aquatic snakes
There are aquatic snakes known as elephant trunk snakes that mainly prey on fish and are evolved to grip and swim in water — but can barely move at all on land!
68. Hibernate but during the summer
Some snakes hibernate during the summer instead of the winter. This is common with desert snakes, with the African rock python of the Sahara Desert being a common example.
69. The rarest known snake
The rarest known snake is the St. Lucia Racer with only a mere 18-100 of these snakes left in the entire world.
70. Most deaths per year
Over half of all human deaths from snakes happen in India due to the very venomous nature of many snakes and poor access to good modern healthcare outside of the cities. It’s believed that anywhere from 40,000 to 100,000 people die per year due to snake bite.
71. About 8,000 venomous snake bites a year
In the United States there are only about 8,000 venomous snake bites a year on average and out of all of those only 5-6 people die. Even half of those deaths usually involve an allergic reaction, someone who started out in poor health, a delay in medical treatment, or a combination of all those factors. In the United States people are more likely to get hit by lightning than die from a snake bite.
72. In ancient mythology
Snakes represent many things in ancient mythology ranging from the duality of existence to rebirth, passion and desire, love, or even royalty or evil.
73. In Australia, horses, cows, and dogs are more dangerous to humans than snakes
Despite being a continent renowned for having many of the deadliest snakes in the world, comparatively few human deaths were caused by snakes in Australia. In fact, snakes were tied for fourth deadliest in Australia. From 2001-2017 the three biggest animal dangers to man by total deaths in the country were horses, cows, and dogs, with snakes tying kangaroos at 4th place, both barely edging out bees and sharks.
74. Can kill even after they are dead
Be careful around dead snakes. Even decapitated pit vipers have been known to bite hours after their death due to the heat sensors in the snake’s head.
75. Rattle is keratin
A rattlesnake’s rattle is made up of keratin, the same stuff that makes up human fingernails and human hair. Gnarly.
76. To save life
If a snake that just finished eating feels threatened while digesting, it will throw up its meal to lighten up and get away.
77. The most common
Garter (often called gardener) snakes are the most common and numerous in the world.
78. An ideal pet snake
Corn snakes are the most popular pet snakes because they are very friendly, easy going, and even perfectly cool with being handled, making them ideal for a pet snake.
79. A unique way of protection from predators
Many non-venomous snakes protect themselves by copying the coloration of dangerous snakes. The most famous example is the King Snake that looks very similar to the venomous Coral Snake. Hence the rhyme “Red touch yellow, kill a fellow, red touch black, venom lack.”
80. No eyelids
Snakes don’t have eyelids. That doesn’t mean their eyes aren’t protected: they have a clear scale over the eye that protects the eye itself while allowing them to see.
81. The Narcisse Snake Dens of Manitoba
Canada is home to what many would consider a nightmare, as the Narcisse Snake Dens of Manitoba are home to the breeding site of an estimated 75,000 snakes that come together to breed each year.
Four Venomous Snakes Found in the U.S.
Rattlesnakes are pit vipers known for their loud rattling tails. They make noise to deter predators or warn passers-by. They would rather avoid confrontations, but they will bite if threatened. Their toxic venom causes necrosis and disrupts blood clotting. Older snakes have more potent venom. Prompt treatment can prevent fatalities.
Rattlesnakes can live up to 25 years in the wild and grow to a length of 8 feet. They have a triangular head with a heat-sensing organ near the eyes for night hunting. They typically ambush small mammals like rats, rabbits, and squirrels. Females carry their eggs for 3 months and give birth to live young.
Copperheads are true to their name with reddish brown patches throughout a stout and muscular body. They bite more people each year than any other snake in the US. Unlike rattlesnakes, they don’t give warnings for you to move away. Fortunately, their venom is not as potent and fatalities are rare.
Copperheads are solitary hunters, but they hibernate in communal dens year after year. Adults can grow to about one meter, with females being a bit longer than males. They give birth to live young, with scientists recording as much as 20 babies in a litter.
Cottonmouths coil up and display their white puffy mouth to scare predators. They may also use stinky spray as deterrent, just like a skunk. If you see one, move as far away as possible. They don’t often bite humans but their venom is potent and fatal. The toxin can inflict muscle damage, internal bleeding, extreme pain, and limb loss.
Dark-bodied cottonmouths can swim in water and crawl on land. As such, they have a more varied diet consisting of fish, reptiles, amphibians, birds, and small mammals. Males perform a mating dance to attract females, which eventually give birth to an average of 7 baby snakes.
4. Coral Snakes
Coral snakes in the US have red, yellow, and black bands for quick identification. They are up there with the black mamba in terms of venom potency. Fortunately, they are less effective in delivering poison due to short fangs. They need to hold and bite for a long time to inject enough venom. Coral snakes are reclusive and rarely bite humans.
They feed on lizards, frogs, birds, mice, and smaller snakes. Females lay 5-7 eggs at a time. Some grow up to a meter long, with flat tails that act as fins when swimming. However, they spend much of their time on land burrowing in the ground, leaf litter, or rotting wood.
Vital Organs of a Snake
Snakes have a small brain protected by a compact unit of skull bones. They have a three-chambered heart that can move around to prevent damage when ingesting large prey. It pumps oxygen-rich blood around the body.
In most species, the left lung is small, absent, or simply non-functional. The much larger right lung takes care of respiration. There’s an air sac that helps aquatic snakes adjust buoyancy. Behind the heart is a long liver, and further back is the stomach. The end is marked by the gallbladder and pancreas, as well as the spleen that filter blood.
Kidneys, reproductive systems, and other paired organs do not have the space to exist side-by-side in these slim bodies. Instead, one is located front of the other. Snakes have a unique renal portal system. Blood from the tail goes back up through the kidneys before returning to the heart.
Five Myths about Snakes
– “Snakes are deaf.” Scientists initially thought that snakes could not hear because they lack ears and were often unresponsive. However, we now know that snakes can feel vibrations and recognize sounds.
– “Where baby snakes are, mothers follow.” Unlike bears, snakes have no maternal instincts. Mothers do not protect their young, so wild baby snakes are likely hunting on their own.
– “Venom should be sucked out.” This popular movie myth is untrue. Venom spreads quickly so sucking or cutting doesn’t stop the damage. It’s best to inject anti-venom as soon as possible.
– “Snakes are boneless.” Don’t let their fluid movements and contortions fool you. Snakes are vertebrates, so they are filled with bones — just much small than ours.
– “Snakes are slimy.” Snakes do not secrete mucus. They are dry to the touch and can’t even produce sweat. Many are desert dwellers that rarely see water.
Five Characteristics of Snakes
– Limbless. Snakes do not have any arms or legs, likely due to gene mutations. Some species have embryos that develop tiny hind limbs, but these disappear before they hatch.
– Carnivorous. Snakes are strictly carnivorous creatures because their digestive system is optimized for meat. They don’t eat fruits, plants, or vegetables. Any plant matter in their gut comes from the stomach of herbivore prey.
– Elongated. The long body of snakes come with a higher than usual vertebra count along the spinal column. They usually have more than 300, while humans have 33.
– Ectothermic. Snakes are literally cold-blooded creatures. Their bodies are unable to produce much heat, so they rely on their environment for temperature regulation. They seek out sunshine or shade, depending on what they need.
– No eyelids. Snakes don’t blink. Their eyes are always open for nonstop vision, but it is protected by a transparent scale called brille. They simply constrict their pupils if it’s too bright outside.
Five Tips to Avoid Snake Bites
– Stay on the trail while hiking. Clear paths make it easy to see what’s ahead of you, reducing the risk of accidental contact with a snake.
– Wear protective clothing. Most snakes crawl on the ground so their primary targets are feet and legs. Put on boots and long pants when traveling across snake territory.
– Be vigilant. Snakes often conceal themselves and remain static as they wait for prey. Check your surroundings before you sit on a log, pick up rocks, or collect firewood.
– Resist the urge to get closer. What seems like a dead snake might just be a patient snake waiting to strike. Don’t take the risk. Back away slowly and leave it alone.
– Call the animal control agency. If a snake got into your home, go out and call the authorities so they can capture it. Don’t attempt to trap it on your own.