Easily recognized as elongated, legless, carnivorous reptiles, snakes are known as members of the suborder Serpents which is known for including legless lizards.
Snakes are often distinguished from the groups by their lack of any external ears or visible eyelids. And much similar to all squamates snakes are amniote and ectothermic vertebrates blanketed with overlapping scales.
Snakes are known to habitat on almost every continent of the world with the exception of Antarctica. With the exception of New Zealand, Ireland as well as many of the smaller islands located within the central Atlantic and Pacific snakes are can be found dwelling on relatively small land masses. You can also find several species of sea snakes scattered throughout both the Pacific and the Indian Oceans.
Facts about Snakes
- The word snake is derived from the Old English word snaca which is rooted in the phrase which means to crawl or creep. The word serpent which is borrowed from the French language and derived from the Indo-European word “serp” which also means to creep.
- Many snake species today are known for consisting of a skull containing several more joints than their lizard predecessors which allows the snake using its highly mobile jaw to actually swallow a prey having a size much larger than its own head.
- To facilitate its long slender body the snake’s paired organs such as the kidneys will appear side by side, one in front of the other with most species having only one functional lung.
- Some species of snakes throughout the python evolution are known for retaining a pelvic girdle with a pair of vestigial claws located on either side of its posterior opening known as its cloaca. This accounts for early groups of some extant species of snakes having vestigial hind limbs, and diminutive claws commonly referred to as anal spurs which are used during mating as a means of grasping.
- Scientists today have recognized more than 20 families of the snake comprising of over 3,400 species and about 500 genera, ranging in size from the smallest known as the long thread snake of 10 cm to the 29ft Reticulated python. Notably the Titanoboa cerrejonensis species which lived approximately sixty million years ago during the Paleocene epoch was found to have a total length of around 42ft and weighed more than 2,500 pounds or just about 1,1 long tons.
- Based on the earliest known snake fossil of around 112 million years ago known as the Najash rionegrina (a fully terrestrial two legged burrowing animal), it is theorized that the snake during the Cretaceous Period may have evolved from similar burrowing lizards such as the varanids. Scientists believe that the bodies of these subterranean species during the process of evolution streamlined their bodies for burrowing resulting in the eventual loss of their limbs.
- Most species are categorized as nonvenomous, however those species which are known to be venomous have been observed to primarily use their venom as a way of subduing and killing their pray rather than as a means for self-defense. Nonvenomous snakes on the other hand will either kill their prey by constriction or swallow their prey alive. Some snake species will contain enough venom potent enough to severely injure or kill a human being.
- Unless startled or injured most snakes rarely prey on humans and prefer to avoid coming into contact. Nonvenomous snakes with the exception of large constrictors are rarely seen as a threat to humans. The teeth of a nonvenomous species of snake are mainly for holding and grabbing and are not designed for inflicting a deep puncture wound or tearing flesh. As such their bite is often considered as harmless. Nonetheless a bit from a nonvenomous snake carries the possibility of tissue damage and infection and should be treated immediately by a local physician.
- A nonfatal bite from a venomous snake may require the affected limb to be amputated and of the approximately known 750 species of venomous snakes only 250 are classified as being able to kill a human with a single bite.
- Snakes can track their prey by their sense of smell. Snakes are known to smell using their forked tongues as a means to collect particles contained within the air. After collecting these airborne particles, they are then transferred to an auxiliary olfactory sense organ known as the vomeronasal organ to be scrutinized. This is generally why you may notice a snake keeping its tongue in a constant motion as it collects particle samples from within the air, the water, the ground often determining the presence of a predator or prey within its environment. Snakes which are known to mainly inhabit water such as the Anaconda use their tongue to efficiently achieve a sense of smell while underwater.
- Many snakes are able to only track the basic movements of objects as they are not gifted with having a sharp eyesight. However vision among species will often vary significantly. From being able to only distinguish between dark to light to having a keen and excellent eyesight. Arboreal snakes are known for having the best vision while burrowing species of snakes are have the weakest vision. Some species including the Asian vine snake has a binocular vision capable of focussing both its eyes on the same spot. Most species focus their sight by adjusting the lenses of their eyes back and forth while others are known to stretch their lens to focus on an object. Nocturnal species are known for their split pupils while snakes which are diurnal tent do have round pupils.
- Species including pythons, pit vipers and even some boas are known for having an infrared-sensitive receptor located within deep grooves of their shout. These receptors allow the snake to have a visual outline of their prey based on the heat emitted from the warmth of their blood.
- The area of the snake which is in contact with the surface can detect faint vibrations from not only the ground but within the air. This allows the species to detect an animal which may be approaching as well as a potential threat.
- Contrary to many beliefs snakeskin is not slimy. Instead the snake’s skin which is covered in scales is known for its dry and smooth texture. Most species use functional belly scales for gripping allowing the snake to move across the ground or any given surface. Notably texture of the snake’s scales can be seen as granular, keeled or smooth.
Center for Snake Conservation Live Web cam
The Center for Snake Conservation is a non-profit organization founded within the United States dedicated to the preservation efforts of protecting all snakes by advocating the conservation of snakes and their natural ecosystems as well as introducing optimistic change in the attitude of humans towards snakes.
The Center features a Citizen Science Program known as a Snake Count which allows is designed to track and map the location of snakes across the North American region by getting the everyday person involved in snake conservation.
The Center for Snake Conservation via its online web cam offers online viewers a live recording of one of their resident snakes shown in the video link posted below.