What could be more interesting than a reptile without legs?
Snakes are some of the most unique animals in the animal kingdom. They come in a wide variety of colors, shapes and sizes. They also have many unique traits that allow them to survive like heat sensing organs, venom, and even tentacles!
It is easy to see how unique and special these reptiles are.
Do you want to know if snakes can hear? Or what the longest species of snake is?
Keep reading and these 50 snake facts will show you exactly how amazing these reptiles are.
Amazing Snake Facts
- Snakes are reptiles – Snakes are members of the class Reptilia which includes lizards, turtles, caecilians, crocodiles, alligators, and the tuatara (a type of lizard). In particular they are part of the largest order of reptiles known as the Squamates.
- Most species do not have legs – What makes snakes one of the most unique reptiles is their lack of legs. Most scientists agree that they evolved to lose their legs between 100 and 150 million years ago.
- Snakes are carnivores – They eat a variety of different meats and animals including fish, amphibians, rodents, birds, worms, crustaceans and even insects! They are strict carnivores and do not eat plants.
- They are helping to cure cancer – Snake venom has a variety of different useful chemical compounds. Scientists are currently working with copperhead snakes and using their venom to create new cancer fighting drugs.
- Venom is used to treat high blood pressure – Captopril was the first medicine approved by the FDA in 1988 to treat high blood pressure. It was made using the venom of the Brazilian Viper.
- Some snakes can travel at speeds of over 12 miles per hour – The Black mamba is the world’s fastest snake and they have been known to reach 12.5 miles per hour. They are also Africa’s longest venomous snake and get their name from their black mouths.
- Snakes cannot hear – These reptiles have no external ears so do not hear like humans can. Instead of hearing, they can sense sound vibrations through their jaws.
- The longest snake in the world is the reticulated python – Reticulated pythons hold the title for the longest snake in the world. They easily reach lengths over 15 feet when fully grown. The largest reticulated python ever recorded was captured in 1912 and was 32 feet long.
- Snakes have no eyelids – Unlike lizards, they have no true eyelids. Their eyes are covered by a clear scale that gives them protection. This scale is also known as an eye cap and is shed every time they shed.
- Some female species care for their young – Rattlesnakes and copperheads have been known to watch over and defend their young. Python moms incubate their eggs and will even shiver to generate heat.
- The Barbados thread snake is the smallest snake species – This species is only around 3.94 inches (10 cm) long and the width of a spaghetti noodle. They are so small that they fit on the face of a quarter.
- Some snakes play dead – Hognose snakes have a unique defensive behavior called death feigning. When they are threatened they will roll over onto their backs, release a foul odor, stick out their tongues and pretend to be dead! Not many predators want to eat something “dead” that smells bad.
- Kingsnakes eat other snakes – Species with the word “king” in their names are known as snake eaters. Kingsnakes and King cobras both rely on a diet of other snakes. Some have even been known to eat rattlesnakes.
- Snakes only have one lung – Their early ancestors originally had two lungs, but as they evolved their long, thin bodies there was not enough room for both. Snakes eventually lost their left lung.
- Some use lures to attract prey – The spider-tailed horned viper uses its tail as a lure to attract prey. This viper’s tail almost perfectly mimics a spider! They wave and flick their tail around in hopes that a hungry bird will come within striking distance.
- The most venomous land snake is the inland taipan – One bite could kill 100 people.
- Snakes are not poisonous – This snake fact is a common misconception. The main confusion is often because of the difference between poisonous and venomous. If you eat something and it harms you, its poisonous. If something bites or stings you and it harms you, its venomous.
- Snakes cannot unhinge their jaws – Snakes unhinging their jaws to eat large prey has been a common myth for years. This is actually not true. Snakes have very different bottom “jaws” from humans. Their jaws are split down the front allowing each side to stretch and move independently.
- Pit vipers and rattlesnakes can “see” heat – They have specialized heat sensing organs within pits on their faces that make it possible for them to sense heat. This helps them to find warm bodied prey, even in the dark.
- Some species can fly – Members of the genus Chrysopelea are also known as gliding or flying snakes. These snakes make their way to the tops of trees and then propel themselves into the air. They flair their ribs and move through the air in a serpentine motion.
- They lost their legs over 100 million years ago – At one point in time snakes actually looked more like lizards. They eventually lost their legs to make underground or aquatic hunting easier.
- Some species are completely blind – The superfamily Typhlopidae are also known as the blind snakes. They have non-working eyes that are covered by scales. All blind snakes are fossorial, meaning that they live underground.
- Viper snakes have horns – The Horned Viper has a long set of horns above their eyes. These horns are actually modified scales that protect their eyes and help them camouflage in the desert.
- Snakes can eat people – Reticulated pythons and anacondas can reach over 20 feet long and are big enough to eat humans. Unfortunately deforestation and human expansion have caused people and snakes to come into contact more frequently which could lead to more snakes considering human prey.
- The most venomous snakes live in the sea – The hook nose sea snake is the most venomous snake in the world. Their venom is over 100 times more potent than any other species.
- Snakes swallow their prey whole – Most snakes have to swallow their prey whole as they do not have limbs. The White Bellied Mangrove is one exception. It uses its body to rip apart crabs before eating them.
- Snakes smell using their tongue – They use their forked tongues to gather environmental information. The tongue then delivers that information to the Jacobsons organ which processes it.
- They are ectothermic – Ectotherms are animals that rely on the environment for heat. Snakes are unable to produce their own body heat and must get that heat from their environment around them. People refer to these animals as “cold-blooded”, but the animal’s blood is not actually cold so scientists prefer the term ectothermic. You will often see them basking on rocks in order to warm themselves.
- Snakes can move in four different ways – First is concertina movement which is similar to how an accordion stretches and contracts. Lateral undulation is their stereotypical movement. Rectilinear motion is where they use their belly scales to pull themselves forward. Finally sidewinding is a movement where they use their head and tail to “walk” sideways.
- Some snakes still have legs – Pythons and boas still have leg bones within the muscle on the lower half of their body. All that is left of these legs are two protruding lumps, known as spurs.
- They can jump – Jumping has been recorded in multiple species including rattlesnakes. This behavior is usually used to escape.
- Certain species eat eggs – Dasypeltis is a genus of egg eating snakes. They have adapted to a diet of just bird eggs.
- Hognose snakes are venomous – They actually produce a mild venom that will create an allergic reaction in humans similar to being stung by a bee. This venom is designed to kill toads which are one of their main prey.
- Snakes have over 400 bones – Their skeletons are essentially a long spine with ribs. Some species can have over 1,200 ribs.
- Snakes shed their skin – They will often shed multiple times per year and will rub against rough surfaces to get off all the excess skin. Snakes are vulnerable during a shed and will often hide away until its complete.
- Some species are famous – In the Harry Potter movies, Nagini is a reticulated python.
- The worlds heaviest snake is the green anaconda – Green anacondas are not the longest species, but they are by far the heaviest. They frequently weigh over 200 pounds and the largest ever recorded was over 500 pounds.
- Some snakes give live birth – While roughly 70% of snakes do lay eggs, some species actually give live birth instead. Anacondas, sea snakes, vipers and boas are just a few examples.
- The longest snake fangs are over 2 inches – The Gaboon viper holds the title for the world’s longest fangs. Their 2-inch-long fangs also deliver the most venom of any snake.
- Most snakes are actually harmless – The truth is the majority of species are completely harmless and will often avoid humans at all cost. Even venomous snakes are unlikely to hurt you. Venom takes a lot of energy to produce and they do not want to waste that precious resource on something they will not eat.
- There are two types of snake venom – Hemotoxic venom attacks the blood, while neurotoxic venom targets the nervous system. Neurotoxic venom is considered much more dangerous.
- One species has tentacles – Tentacled snakes have two tentacles on the front of their faces that they use to feel the environment around them.
- There are over 3,600 different species of snake – New species are constantly being discovered from remote, unexplored areas and islands that are home to many exotic animals.
- Some snakes can reproduce without a male – Parthenogenesis is a process that female snakes can use to reproduce without males.
- Rattlesnakes get a new rattle segment every time they shed.
- Slit pupils are not a sign of venomous snakes – It is a common myth that all venomous species have cat-like eyes. Different lighting will change the size and shape of their pupils, just like humans.
- Calabar Burrowing Pythons have the thickest snake skin – This python has skin that is up to 15x harder than other species. Their skin evolved as they frequently raid rodent burrows and needed tough skin to protect them from rodent bites.
- The oldest pet snake was 42 years old – Ben was a 42-year-old Colombian rainbow boa that the Guinness book of world records named as the world’s oldest snake. The second oldest is Annie, a 37-year-old anaconda.
- King Cobras are the world’s largest venomous snake – They can reach lengths of over 15 feet long, and the largest ever recorded was over 18 feet! They are known for their potent venom and highly intelligent nature.
- Hatchling rattlesnakes are not more venomous than adults – This is a common snake fact that is a myth. Adult and hatchling rattlesnakes are equally venomous and release equal amounts of venom.
- There was a snake that was over 42 feet long and weighed 1.25 tons – The Titanoboa went extinct sometime between 56 and 66 million years ago. It is the largest known species of snake and was known to eat crocodiles.
- There is an island in Brazil called Snake Island – Ilha da Queimada Grande is an island that is full of snakes. There are an estimated 5 snakes in every square meter of land.
- Snakes do not stop growing – They will continue to grow throughout their entire lives, but their growth tends to slow as they age.
- The Saint Lucia racer is considered the most endangered snake – They were thought to be extinct for over 40 years until 18 individuals were recently rediscovered.
- Snakes make great pets – Ball Pythons and corn snakes are extremely friendly and easy to care for.
- Snakes cannot breathe underwater – Even sea snakes do not have gills. They must come to the surface every 30 minutes to breathe.
- Not all snakes are nocturnal – Snakes can also be diurnal and crepuscular. Diurnal species like the common garter snake are active in the day. Milk snakes are crepuscular so they are most active in the mornings and evenings.
Sources & References
Snakes have had a lot of bad press over the years.
People have been afraid of snakes for as long as snakes have existed. This fear often comes from misunderstanding. Learning about snake facts and that some species even help to cure cancer is the first step to opening people’s eyes to how amazing they are.
Let us know your favorite facts about snakes in the comments below.