Snakes have fascinated and terrified humans for thousands of years. They have been revered in some cultures and religions as representing creativity and life force.
While for others, snakes are the bad guys, the creature waiting in the dark to tempt and strike.
There are more than 3,000 species of snakes in the world. These animals can be found everywhere except in Iceland, Greenland, Ireland, New Zealand, and Antarctica.
Here are some facts about these amazing creatures that would blow your mind.
Snakes rely on the sun and other external heat sources
Snakes, like all reptiles, are described as cold-blooded creatures, but their blood is not actually cold. The correct term is poikilothermic, which means that their body temperature is regulated and dependent on external sources.
Unlike mammals and birds that can regulate their body temperature internally (homeothermic), reptiles require sources of heat like the sun to warm up.
Some are more poisonous than others
Contrary to public opinion, not all snakes are poisonous. There are about 600 species of venomous snakes, and only about 200 can kill or significantly injure a human.
Nonvenomous snakes, on the other hand, range from the harmless garter snake to the dangerous anaconda. These snakes kill their prey by swallowing them alive or constricting the prey to death. Whether by venom or by squeezing to death, nearly all snakes eat their food whole, in sometimes surprisingly large amounts.
Snakes have a different idea of dieting than humans do
If you are a big fan of animal documentaries, you may have come across videos of snakes swallow animals whole.
There are even pictures and videos of large pythons that swallowed a human whole. Snakes possess flexible jaws that allow them to eat animals that are 75% – 100% larger than their head. This is because snakes have no teeth capable of chewing and can’t help but swallow their food whole.
When they capture their victims, their lower jaws unhinge from their upper jaws. The prey is held in place by the inward-facing teeth, trapping the prey in the snake’s mouth.
The digestive enzymes in their belly do all the work breaking down the food once it has been ingested. After ingesting, snakes can go on long periods without eating anything.
They smell with their tongues
Snakes have forked tongues, which they flick in different directions to smell their surroundings. This sense of smell lets them know when they are in danger or when food is nearby.
Snakes also possess pit holes in front of their eyes that detect heat given off by warm-blooded animals. The bones in their lower jaws are also able to pick up vibrations from rodents and other scurrying animals.
They live in the sea
Although snakes are mostly land creatures, there are about 70 species of snakes that live in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. These sea snakes and their cousins, kraits, are some of the most venomous sea creatures in the world.
However, they are not much of a threat to humans because they are shy and meek, and their fangs are too short to do much damage.
Not all snakes lay eggs
It is a common misconception that all snakes lay eggs and that they build nests for their eggs. Only about 70% of snakes lay eggs, and these types of snakes are called oviparous.
The other 30% give birth to their young alive, just like mammals. This is because some climates are too cold for eggs to develop and hatch.
Also, only one species of snake, the king cobra, builds a nest for its young.
Snakes don’t have eyelids
Ever wondered why snakes might creep you out? They do not have eyelids. This means they don’t blink and have to sleep with their eyes wide open. Instead of eyelids, snakes have a thin membrane called “brille” attached to each eye to protect them.
Snakes come in different sizes
Snakes sizes are as varied as the number of the species. According to National Geographic, the world’s smallest snake is the thread snake which grows only about 10 centimeters (3.9 inches) long. It is so tiny it looks like an earthworm.
The world’s largest snake is the reticulated python, a creature that can grow up to 9 meters (30 feet) in length. The largest snake fossil ever discovered is called the Titanoboa. This creature lived 60 million years ago and would have been 50 feet (15 meters) long.
They have regular makeovers
Snakes shed their skin once a month, a process known as ecdysis that rids the snake off parasites and makes room for growth. They shed their skin by running against a tree branch or other objects and slither out of their skin head-first, leaving a discarded skin behind.
Some snakes are endangered
The rarest and most endangered snake in the world is the St. Lucia racer. It is said that there are 18 to 100 of these snakes left in existence.
Other snakes, such as the Amami Takachiho, golden lancehead snake, and the Adelophis copei, are considered vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources since their numbers are decreasing.
You can tell if a snake is dangerous
Although it is not advised to do so, there are several ways to tell if a snake is venomous. For example, if its pupil is shaped like a diamond, then the snake is poisonous.
Non-venomous snakes have round pupils. Color is another way of telling a venomous snake. This rhyme helps people tell the difference between coral snakes, which is poisonous, and scarlet king snakes, which is not poisonous:
“If red touches yellow, it will kill a fellow. If red touches black, it’s a friend of Jack.”