It’s World Snake Day: 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Snakes

World Snake Day is July 16, but how much do you know about the legless reptiles?

From the Book of Genesis in the Old Testament, where God found out that the serpent had deceived Eve, and immediately cursed the snake and commanded him to crawl on his belly forever, to modern movies that feature snake villains (Snakes on a Plane and Anaconda), snakes get a bad rap. But in reality, they’re fascinating creatures. Read some of the facts below to learn more about the nearly 3,000 species of snakes in the world.

1.  Where do snakes live?

Snakes are found in every continent except Antarctica and in almost every habitat including the sea, forests, deserts, prairies, your backyard, and even the Himalayan Mountains. However, most snakes are found in tropical regions.Their presence is important for healthy ecosystems as they are predators as well as prey for other species.

2. What do snakes eat?

Snakes consume a variety of items including rats and mice, birds and their eggs, chipmunks, frogs, gophers and other small rodents. Snakes eat their prey whole and are able to consume prey three times larger than the diameter of their head because their lower jaw can separate from the upper jaw. Very large snakes will even eat small deer, pigs or monkeys. And here’s an interesting fact: to prevent their dinner from escaping, snakes have rear-facing teeth that hold their prey in their mouths. 

3.  How do snakes behave?

All snakes are carnivorous cold-blooded reptiles, or ectotherms, with scales. This means they rely on the environment to regulate their body temperature. Snakes are often seen basking in the warm sun in order to get warm. When they become too warm, they find shade to cool off. They are generally not aggressive and only attack for the purpose of hunting for food or in self-defense. They must shed their skin three to six times a year.

4. How do they defend themselves?

Snakes use a variety of techniques and adaptations to defend themselves, including camouflage, as well as bluffing, biting and envenoming animals that threaten them. Others may curl up in a tight ball with the head in the middle to avoid being seen. Most snakes seek to remain undetected by threatening animals and will flee if given the slightest opportunity. However, snakes that are unable to escape may engage in a variety of defensive displays such as rattling their tail.

snake-hatching-from-egg

Photo Credit:thinkstock

5.  How do they have babies?

Seventy percent of the world’s snakes lay eggs. These snakes tend to live in warmer climates. Live-birthing snakes, the other 30 percent, tend to live in cooler regions, where the ground is too cold for the eggs to develop on their own. With the exception of some python species, eggs and young start their young lives off alone, since snake moms and dads do not rear their young. Baby snakes must fend for themselves in the wild.

6.  Which are the biggest and the smallest snakes?

Weighing in at 550 pounds, the giant anaconda is the largest snake in the world considering its length-to-weight ratio. This species, also known as the green anaconda, averages about 17 feet in length. Wow! At up to 30 feet long, the reticulated python is the longest snake. On the other end, the smallest snake in the world, the Barbados threadsnake, is just 4 inches long, about as thick as spaghetti, and looks more like a worm than a snake. 

rattlesnake

Photo Credit: thinkstock

7. How many species of snakes live in the U.S.?

There are hundreds of species of snakes in the U.S., but around 90% of them are in the non-venomous family Colubridae: of these, the most common species are garter snakes  or related species such as ribbon snakes. Garter snakes come in a large variety of color patterns from checkered to striped and with oranges, reds, turquoise, browns, blacks, greys and yellows. That leaves the small percentage of poisonous species, all of which are pit vipers, with the exception of brightly-colored coral snakes (see beginning of post). Most of the pit vipers are rattlesnakes (see above).

8. Which are the deadliest snakes?

Here are six of the deadliest snakes on the planet: the saw-scaled viper, which inhabits parts of India and the Middle East and is responsible for more human deaths annually than any other snake; the king cobra, which delivers enough neurotoxins to kill an Asian elephant; the tiger snake, from southern Australia and Tasmania; and the inland taipan, whose bite can kill a human being in less than an hour. Finally, there’s the faint-banded sea snake, believed by many to be the most venomous snake in the world, and the black mamba (see below), the fastest snake in the world and also one of the deadliest. 

black-mamba

Photo Credit: thinkstock

9.  Which snakes species are threatened? 

A number of sea snakes are considered either critically endangered or endangered. The short-nosed sea snake and the leaf-scaled sea snake fall into the former category, while the dusky sea snake is regarded as endangered. Amongst constrictors, the Round Island boa, Round Island ground boa, Round Island keel-scaled boa, Cropan’s boa, Mona Island boa and Ramsay’s python are all on the endangered list. Four types of garter snake are also endangered: the Somali garter snake, southern Somali garter snake, black garter snake and Usambra garter snake. 

10. Why are snakes endangered?

Snakes are not hunted in great numbers and many live without fear of predation, so conservationists believe that environmental factors are to blame their declining numbers, mainly habitat destruction and climate change. A study of snakes published in the U.K.’s Royal Society journal Biology Letters stresses there is no proof of the cause of the losses, but the researchers say they “suspect” loss or deterioration of habitats and declining prey are among the main problems faced by snake populations.

Celebrate World Snake Day by learning all about snakes, but it’s best to leave all snakes alone, just like any wildlife. They have their place in nature and would certainly prefer to leave us alone as well.

 

146 comments

Peggy B
Peggy B28 days ago

Interesting article.

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David C
David C28 days ago

I think staying away from snakes and letting them be is my idea of a good idea, but without snakes we'd probably be over-run by rodents

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Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill1 years ago

As long as they stay away from me and mine, they are fine.

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Jennifer H.
Jennifer H1 years ago

Snakes are fascinating. I agree with Amanda W. I stay away! But I also greatly appreciate the role they have in keeping the ecosystem in balance.

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Hent catalina - maria

thanks

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Carole R.
Carole R2 years ago

Thanks for posting.

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Melania Padilla
Melania P2 years ago

If you don't like them just leave them alone, all species deserve to live.

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heather g.
heather g2 years ago

There is nothing I admire about snakes, so I prefer to keep a healthy distance away from them. Having seen one swimming, still gives me the creeps.

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Valentina R.
Valentina R2 years ago

Snakes are beautiful.

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