Some people fear snakes while others love them. However you feel about them, one thing’s for sure, they’re a unique addition to our world. Their evolution is fascinating and their existence bewildering.
From the ability to clone themselves to replacing parts of their body, snakes are a continued scientific marvel. Here’s what we know about these mysterious creatures. Unsurprisingly there are many interesting facts about snakes.
57 Super Interesting Facts about Snakes You Might Not Know
Currently, there are just above 3600 species of snakes that have been documented by scientists around the world. Occasionally more snakes are found, identified, then added to the list. Scientists believe that there are unidentified species living in the ocean and other difficult to explore areas.
Out of all the snakes known to the world, only about 600 of them are venomous. These varying species of snakes can be found almost all over the world.
While some venom is so strong it could melt your flesh (more on flesh melting venom later), other types of venom aren’t actually all that dangerous.
Snakes are one of the few species of animal that occur on every continent across the earth. Due to environmental conditions, no species of snakes are endemic to regions like Russia, Norway, and Antarctica. There are also no snakes endemic to certain parts of Canada, Ireland, Greenland, and Hawaii.
Virgin births are a common occurrence in typically asexual insects. Snakes and lizards are the only sexual vertebrates in the world that can perform parthenogenesis. This entails females reproducing nonsexually, essentially cloning themselves.
Due to their ectothermic nature, snakes need optimal environmental conditions to thrive, this means the environment can trick a decapitated snake head into believing it is ‘alive’. Scientists are not sure if the snake understands whether or not it has been decapitated.
The decapitated snake head is still able to bite and inject venom. Scientists have debated whether or not the head is cognisant of its actions or if the biting is an involuntary action of self-defense.
Snakes can only eat and digest meat. They do not have the teeth to break down any green materials and their stomachs aren’t equipped for it. This is why snakes have such wonderful reputations for destruction like twisting, crushing, and biting their prey to death.
A fear of snakes is quite common. Most people will consider it an irrational fear as we’re unlikely to ever really come into contact with these creatures. However, Ophidiophobia is the official phobia of snakes, which is much more severe than a common dislike or fear of them.
Herpetology is a section of zoology that deals with amphibians and reptiles. While the study of snakes is a specialization called Ophiology.
Many snake owners will attest to the fact that some snakes have personalities. Similar to a dog or cat breed, certain species of snakes are well known for certain behaviors and characteristics.
While no conclusive studies have been done on snakes, other studies on reptiles suggest that they tend to have a personality in terms of boldness vs shyness.
10. The Largest Snake Fossil
In 2004, Titanoboa was first excavated in Colombia. This has been described as the largest snake fossil to ever have been found. The fossil is related to anaconda and boa species although the Titanoboa was speculated to weigh around 1.25 tons and reach an average length of 42.7 feet long.
11. Venom and Poison are The Same
While the English language distinguishes between venom and poison as two separate things – most languages tend to use one word to cover both definitions. Venom being something injected and the poison being something ingested. There are snakes in the world with both venomous and poisonous defense mechanisms.
12. Snakes Were Used as Executioners
Poena Cullei was a Roman death penalty law that involved a sack and an animal. The accused would be trapped inside a sack with a snake, dog, chicken, or monkey and would then be thrown into a body of water. During imperial times, only snakes were used to carry out the death penalty.
While some snake breeders advertise Corn snakes to be great starter pets, truthfully, snakes naturally require a lot of space and freedom. Many people have come to care for snakes and hold them captive as pets despite their specific needs. In some parts of the world, snakes are considered illegal and exotic.
Endothermic vs ectothermic refers to the way animals keep warm. Humans are endothermic and snakes are ectothermic. This means that snakes rely on their environment to keep them warm and their bodies stable.
Most snakes are brown, woody looking, or camouflaged. This is to ensure that the snakes survive during their lifetime. In some parts of the world, green snakes are generally the order of the day but in other parts like the USA, the California Garter Snake can be unusually multicolored.
Some snakes are bred in captivity to sell as pets, but it is truly unwise to hinder the natural behavior of such a deadly creature. So, many people suggest feeding your snake live animals like mice, rats, and rabbits.
Certain snakes will refuse to eat dead animals as it goes against their instinctual predatory nature.
Breaking wind is a common occurrence in the human world. This is attributed to our omnivorous diet. Snakes, however, don’t eat greens and therefore are less likely to pass gas for digestive purposes. Although, snakes can pass gas, and occasionally, they will.
In 2013, a group of scientists discussed how toxins should be categorized. We won’t bore you with all of the nitty-gritty details though. While we’re accustomed to poisonous and venomous animals, the suggested term ‘toxungen’ would refer to the spitting method of toxin delivery. This is present in animals like skunks and the spitting cobra.
The S-shaped slither of snakes is quite a common attribute to their movement. However, snakes can move in a straight line. This is called rectilinear locomotion. Most snakes are capable of it but heavy-bodied snakes tend to use it more. It is mostly used when stalking prey as the flexing of their muscles to move forward is stealthier than lateral undulation.
Snakes have rather complicated jaws. Their mandibles are detached, unlike humans, which makes it easier for them to ‘chew’ food twice the size of their bodies.
Snakes have ligaments that join their bottom jaws and allow them to move independently of each other. This action allows their jaws to ‘walk’ forward while they eat their prey.
Many sea snakes are known to make a home of the deep sea. Although these snakes live there, they cannot physically breathe underwater. They have to come up to the surface for air every seven or eight hours. Most snakes can ‘breathe’ through their skin and have a large lung encompassing almost half of their length to retain oxygen.
Snakes like pythons and boas are known to have remnants of hind legs still lingering inside their bodies. The legs don’t form fully and instead are left inside the body as vestigial bones. While the legs don’t serve any purpose, it has been speculated to aid some species in mating.
Some snakes are prone to deformity. A phenomenon known as bicephaly can cause a snake to form two heads. Like twins, two snakes can emerge from one embryo. Sometimes, the separation process within the embryo is incomplete. This results in a snake with two fully formed heads.
Albinism is a naturally occurring recessive gene in snakes. Many albino snakes, in the wild, do not live very long as their camouflage abilities are stifled, and the hunter becomes the hunted. It is scientifically possible to mate two albino snakes and create a line of pure white snakes.
Since snakes do not have regular male and female parts protruding from their bodies, the sex of a snake is determined by either probing or prodding their cloacal opening. Male snakes have hemipenes that are tubular shaped and sit just inside the body. If you’ve got a really good eye you’ll notice that a male’s tail is longer and thicker than a female’s.
The Chrysopelea genus is known for its strange methods of getting around. Snakes like the Golden Tree snake and Paradise Flying snake, found in Southeast Asia, maneuver through the forest by flying or gliding from one tree to the next. This allows them to cover more distance in a quick jump.
So, we know that snakes can fart due to digestive reasons. They can also expel air to avoid predators. Similar to the warning of a rattle or hiss, Sonoran Coralsnake and Chihuahuan Hook-nosed Snake (among some others) are known to pass gas when they feel threatened, directing it toward the threat.
It’s a strange concept to imagine, a snake asleep, with eyes open, hanging from a tree. Snakes usually sleep for about 16 hours a day. Some snakes prefer sleeping at night and others sleep during the day. Snakes don’t have a specific pattern or behavior to show that they’re asleep, so you’ll have to guess this from inactivity.
While snakes don’t have the regular skin flap type of eyelid as humans, they do possess a kind of coverage that protects the eye. Snakes have a brille or a spectacle that covers the eye, made up of a scale-like transparent skin. The skin becomes cloudy when the snake prepares to shed.
Snakes don’t have a normal nose, instead, they use something called Jacobson’s organ which is located on the roof of their mouths. They use their tongues to transfer the scent from the air into their mouths so that their brains can process the smell-inducing chemicals present in the environment.
As these magnificent creatures shed their skin and eyelids, they also have to lose old fangs to develop new ones. Their fangs are important in conveying venom and play a vital role in killing their prey. As this leads to blunt fangs, snakes will produce new teeth every six to eight weeks to maintain their sharpness.
Snakes don’t have an outer ear or middle ear as humans do. Instead, they make use of an inner ear, situated right behind their eyes. They have a middle ear bone that is connected to their jaws. This allows them to hear sound waves as vibrations. For this reason, snakes can mostly hear lower vibrational frequencies.
For the most part, snakes have terrible eyesight. Since they’re basically on the ground, long-distance sight won’t do them much good. Instead, they have terrible eyesight which allows them to only make out general shapes.
Terrible distances aside, snakes have other differences. They can’t see as many colors. Their eyes are bichromatic, this means that their color vision is limited to green and blue. Although, since some snakes hunt at night, they have developed UV light sensitivity.
Another interesting aspect of snake sight is that some snakes can see heat patterns, thanks to their pit organ. As previously mentioned, their eyesight isn’t great. This has allowed snakes to adapt to their surroundings by developing infrared sight. This is particularly useful at night when they hunt.
Snakes go through a crazy amount of color changes. For one, snakes will go through what is called the ontogenetic color change. This means that a baby snake will change color as it ages. This is mainly an adaptive change that allows the snake to blend into whatever environment.
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Along with their ability to change over a lifetime, snakes also shift shades lighter (or darker) throughout the day. Most wild snakes will reflect color differently based on when they head out to hunt. The ability to lighten or darken their shade helps them camouflage to successfully catch prey.
We all know vertebrae as the discs along your spine which allow us to stand upright. For snakes, their skeleton is made up mostly of ribs and vertebrae. With about 100 – 450 vertebrae in their body and 10 – 25 along their tail, snakes have over 300 – 400 lightweight bones in their bodies.
Over the entire anatomy of a snake, nothing is as strange as its internal organs. Snakes physically have two lungs, on the left and right sides.
The left side is considered vestigial because it is under-developed and not necessarily needed by land snakes. Instead, they’ll use only the right lung which is connected to the bronchi.
Snakes do not have a diaphragm. This is what keeps human hearts in place but it is absent in snakes so that they can easily digest large prey. As their meal moves down the esophagus, their heart can shift in the body as a manner of protection. It is also encased in a pericardium which doubles the protection.
Although sea snakes cannot breathe underwater, their lungs have adapted to retain air for longer so they can successfully live underwater. They have one lung which is approximately the size of their bodies. This lung is broken up into three sections that allow the snake to function underwater.
Similar to humans, animals need to shed their outer layer. While we shed skin cells in an unnoticeable manner, snakes remove their scales altogether, allowing their body to be rid of any parasites or infections. It is considered to be a vulnerable and uncomfortable time for the snakes.
There are islands in the world where snakes roam freely without much interference from the human world. Snake island or Ilha da Queimada Grande is about 110 acres of rainforest and grasslands off the coast of Brazil.
Since one of the deadliest venomous snakes in the world is endemic to this region, most people avoid the area completely.
The title of the rarest snake tends to switch and change every few years. This is either due to extinction, change of habitat, or the snake’s IUCN rating. The Saint Lucia Racer is a critically endangered species found in Saint Lucia. It is estimated that there are fewer than 20 snakes out in the wild.
There are about 98 species of snake that are classified as endangered according to the IUCN. Most have been culled through destroying their habitats, effects of climate change, alien and invasive predator species, and sometimes disease or over-harvesting.
Flesh melting venom is a terrifying thought. Luckily, these snakes only live on an island off the coast of Sao Paulo in Brazil. Considered as one of the most venomous snakes in Latin America, the Golden Lancehead Viper is well known for the dire effects of its venom. Side effects include swelling, nausea, vomiting, blood blisters, and severe muscular necrosis.
Arboreal snakes are classified as a group of several snake species that are mostly tree-dwelling. These snakes tend to have a few differences which make them exceptionally unique. A noticeable difference is that arboreal snakes, like the Emerald Tree Boa, have much better eyesight and can see more details than just shapes.
The Barbados Threadsnake is similar in appearance to an earthworm. An adult can grow up to 3.94 inches. The conservation status of the snake is of concern as Barbados has very little forest habitat remaining. This snake was originally found in the forest under rocks and identified as a species in 2008.
Snakes as pets are quite popular. Most first-time snake handlers would be advised to choose something small and docile. This is why Corn Snakes are usually the first option and therefore the market allows them to be affordably priced.
Be sure to find a reputable breeder if you’re interested in owning snakes. It is vital to NEVER attempt to take home a wild snake.
The record for biggest snakes in the world has always gone to Anacondas and Pythons. The biggest species of snake is the Green Anaconda, found in South America. This is a common water snake that is both the longest and the heaviest of the many snake species. A Green Anaconda can grow over 30 feet long and can weigh about 550 pounds.
The Inland Taipan is considered the deadliest snake in the world. With about an 80% mortality rate and a high toxicity rate, the Inland Taipan is considered to be the most venomous snake on earth based on studies of median lethal doses.
While almost all sea snakes are venomous, the Hydrophis Belcheri is by far the most dangerous. The faint-banded sea snake is somewhat timid and would need to be triggered before attacking. This snake can be found in the Indian Ocean near the Philippines, New Zealand, or Thailand regions.
The Guinness World record for the fastest swimming sea snake is held by the yellow-bellied sea snake, which covers 1m/sec. The nomads of the ocean, these snakes can be found wherever the temperatures are favorable. The fastest snake is also deadly with venom, containing neurotoxins and isotoxins.
According to Guinness World Records, the longest snake can be found in a haunted house in Kansas City, USA. The Reticulated Python, Medusa, is about 25 feet long and currently holds the record for living snakes. While it is possible that there are longer snakes in the world, you can imagine why this may be difficult to pinpoint.
Despite being an unfair trade to the animals, the pet snake market values snakes displaying recessive traits like albinism. The most expensive snake in the world is the Lavender Albino Ball Python. This is due to the exotic nature of contrasting lavender and yellow. The snake can sell for upwards of $40 000.
Not only can snake venom be used to create anti-venom, but it is also a helpful additive in medications for diseases like arthritis and cancer. Doctors and scientists seem to believe that the active ingredients in their venom can be helpful in analgesics and cancer treatments.
At the end of it all, snakes are a part of the ecosystem and natural food web. They eat mostly rodents and maintain a healthy balance between pests, prey, and predators out in the wild.
There we have it, while snakes may not be for everybody, they truly are a unique species. Snakes are formidable, resourceful, and adaptable. If you’re looking for something a little bit cuter than our ssslithery friends, read our interesting facts about penguins next or interesting facts about ladybirds.