If you’ve come across a snake recently, you reacted in one of two ways:
- You recoiled in fear and as a result, avoided the snake completely or outrightly sought to kill it or
- You watched it glide or slide away into the bush, trees or on the sands and wondered how such a beautiful creation of nature could be so misunderstood, hated and killed the world over.
For snakes thus, there isn’t any middle-ground, as far as humans are concerned: it’s either love or hatred; admiration or disgust; spell-boundedness or outright fear.
However, irrespective of the spectrum you’re in, information or an acute lack of it inspired the position.
With our interesting facts about snakes that we feel you should know, it’ll be easy to understand these long, ground-crawling reptiles better.
It’ll also be easy to shift grounds from your convictions about snakes, powered by actual knowledge and not some fear (or love) induced into both your consciousness and unconsciousness.
Now, let’s look down a little and get to know these reptiles better.
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15 Interesting Facts About Snakes You Need To Know
We tried to rank these 15 amazing snake facts in order of the most amazing to the least amazing or interesting.
The reason is simple and quite evident, in retrospect (after many, many tries and failed attempts at this seemingly simple task).
These facts are each captivating and attention-grabbing in their own individual respects.
It does not thus, make sense to rank one above the other or profess one fact as more amazing when compared to another.
In the light of this, we employ you to embrace all the facts and treat all of them as equal in every regard.
So, what are the most amazing facts about these unique species of belly crawlers?
15. A Snake Can Swallow Something 100% Bigger Than Its Own Head!
Surviving in the wild is serious business: there aren’t any rules of engagement and generally, almost every living thing is on the menu of one or more (other) living things.
This is a scary situation – one that leads to both surprises and a healthy balancing of the ecosystem.
For snakes, they’ve adapted very nicely to swallow and digest for meal, prey 100% bigger than their heads – with such grace and majesty that (if not for its graphic nature) would be quite interesting to watch.
It is wrongly believed in many quarters that this process is aided by the fact that the snake unhinges and hinges back its jaws to achieve the feat.
While the theory of hinging and unhinging the jaws is quite exciting, this isn’t the case – at least for snakes.
What actually happens is that a snake’s jaws are connected by super stretchy ligaments positioned right at the back of the jaw in such a manner that the mouth, assisted by the jaw movement can open both horizontally and vertically in quite an amazing (read: unusual) manner.
There’s thus nothing to ‘hinge’ and ‘unhinge’ as many erroneously believe.
This impressive jaw movement also makes it possible for a snake, in rare instances, to swallow prey that is not only 100% bigger than its head but also way girthier than its body as well.
Isn’t this feat quite an impressive one, especially for an animal that relies on belly movement to commute from place to place?
14. Snakes Can Go For Many Months Without Food
Humans are the undisputed rulers of the earth: thanks to an ability to stand straight, grasp and a larger than usual brain.
However, when it comes to efficient management of resources, we simply aren’t the very best on the planet. If anything, we’re one of the very worst!
If you have any doubts regarding this, what you only need to do is to attempt going without food for 24 hours 🙂
However, when snakes enter the chat, the conversation pattern changes: they smile mischievously and crawl with a rare majesty.
A snake can go without food, in extreme cases, for about 2 solid years and can comfortably go without feeding for 6 good months!
Snakes are able to do this by lowering their body’s metabolism by up to 72 percent, avoiding all non-essential movements, and first, relying on selected stores of fat and eventually, proteins in the body.
It’s amazing to note that the snake achieves this while fully awake and 100% alert to its surroundings. This is a sharp contrast to the generally known and appreciated theory of hibernation as a method of conserving energy and staying alive.
What really is mind bogging from all this reality is that a snake in such a state of prolonged starvation manages to keep its body temperature steady and even grow in length!
Some species have been reported to, besides growing in length, also growing a bigger head to better capture and feed on (bigger and better) prey, should the opportunity present itself.
Ball pythons, rat snakes and rattlesnakes all have exceptional abilities so far as this type of evolutionary trait is concerned.
13. The World’s Fastest Snake Can Travel Up To 12MPH
When Karl Benz drove the very first automobile through the streets of Mannheim, Germany on July 3rd, 1886, the top speed of this historic icon (powered by a novel 0.75HP one-cylinder four-stroke gasoline engine) was a modest 10MPH.
This was a great feat for mankind in general and the automotive industry in particular. Man, had, at last, figured how to travel on land, relying strictly on mechanical power.
What the records do not however indicate is that, were an adult Black Mamba close by, it would have arrived at its destination first – assuming this was shared between Karl and the deadly reptile.
Wondering how this would have been possible? The Black Mamba travels (or rather, slithers) at speeds way in excess of 10MPH. As a matter of fact, the deadly snake is capable of speeds of about 12MPH!
How the Black Mamba achieves this is quite interesting.
The reptile uses the classical lateral undulation motions of snakes, forms the famous ‘S’ shape, and pushes off objects in its way to gather momentum and even achieve quicker bursts of speed.
This amazing speed is mostly deployed when hunting prey. For prey thus, there are little chances of escape when (and if) the Black Mamba decides that it’s mealtime and the prey happens to be on the menu.
The Black Mamba, despite its preference for using its speed for hunting, immobilizing, and eventually ingesting prey, can also use the same speed to attack – if it feels threatened.
To wrap up, there have been contentions that the Black Mamba, though a fast snake, isn’t the fastest in the world. There are some snakes touted to achieve speeds that will make the Mamba jealous, at least on open, flat surfaces.
The Sidewinder has been mentioned as such a contender.
This has been certified by Guinness World Records and should both put the issue straight and further, rest it completely.
12. Up To 30% Of Snakes Gives Birth To Live Ones And Do Not Lay Eggs
Reptiles, generally, lay eggs; mammals, generally, give birth to their young ones alive. This is standard biology and common sense.
However, like every law there is in the universe, there’s an exception to this general rule: some snakes actually give birth to live young ones, after carrying them in a standard pregnancy term, usual for the species.
Such snakes include boas, sea snakes and some vipers.
However, there’s a twist to this: not every snake type that gives birth to live young ones actually carries a standard pregnancy term as we know it today.
While some snakes can give birth to live young ones as mammals do (viviparous snakes), there are some special species of snakes that form the eggs in their bodies – and hatch them right there, bringing forth live young directly from their bodies (as in live births) but by an internal hatching system (these snake types are called ovoviviparous snakes).
The logic behind some snakes not expressly laying eggs but instead, bringing forth live ones from their bodies is simple to understand and quite straightforward: evolution and practicality.
The explanation, much like the logic behind this fact is quite simple and straightforward: cold weather and water cannot afford the basic necessary warmth that is needed to incubate and hatch eggs. This is why, water snakes (generally) and snakes living in super cold climates have evolved to give birth to live, young ones or at worst, hold their eggs internally, incubate them and deliver forth live young.
North of the Arctic Circle, for example, the only species of snake found there is the European Adder – and this snake (no surprise) is a livebearer.
As fun facts, there is something important to note: some egg-laying snakes (oviparous species) such as pythons, after laying their eggs, lay on them to ensure additional warmth, and provide the eggs the best chance of survival.
Vipers, after giving birth to their young, offer protection till their first shedding: this is to ensure maximum survival chances for the young, too.
Finally, the King Cobra (the only known snake that actually builds a nest for its young) is known to hang around and guard the nest fiercely protecting the eggs laid and the hatchlings they eventually become.
All these are evolutionary traits aimed at ensuring the best survival chances for the young and hence species continuation.
The python mentioned above is so large that it hardly has any known predator. The vipers and cobras, though small, have developed active venoms that are usually fatal – even with one bite and to living things as large as fully grown humans.
They are thus up to the task of taking care of both eggs and eventually, hatchlings when they arrive.
11. Only One Specie Of Snake Ever Builds A Nest For Its Young
It is only natural to feed and tend to the young we bear: at least, humans are perfect examples of this and how it is done.
Admittedly, many people have it implanted in their minds now that, a mother, irrespective of where she (or it) may be, has the duty to make certain that her young are prepared for and tended when the proof of copulation becomes manifest.
Generally, this is true for many mammals. However, for snakes, it doesn’t hold true, at least, for more than 99% of both the time and species of snakes available.
However, there exists a notable exception: the female King Cobra!
The female King Cobra is the only snake that is known to actually build its nest (largely made of piles of leaves, grass, and general debris) to lay its eggs in.
Interestingly, the King Cobra doesn’t just stop at building nests: the snake actually lays on the eggs and vibrates its body for between 45 to 80 days – the duration it takes the young hatchlings to emerge.
Things end on a rather sad note, however: the mother cobra leaves just as her young are about to hatch – never getting to even see them or say hello!
The little King Cobras, however, come to the world prepared: from the moment they emerge, they begin to hunt, raise their hoods, hiss, strike, and kill – if occasion calls for it. They’re of the lineage of ‘kings’, after all.
They are clearly, one of the most prepared creatures when they arrive.
10. More Than A Million Households Keep Snakes As Pets
A pet is an awesome thing: very few people resist it. Often too, when human company proves insufficient or inferior, pets are always there to bridge that all-important emotional gap. Dogs and cats fall into this category and currently, are the most common in homes today.
However, snakes are getting accepted into this exclusive class day after day and are, as a matter of fact, competing with the more traditional options.
The trend of keeping snakes as pets, currently, shows no sign of slowing down. If anything, it is an upward spiral that is clearly climbing as general understanding of these reptiles improves and ophidiophobia goes down.
As a matter of fact, about 4.5 million households in the US own pet reptile, snakes inclusive!
This shouldn’t be a source of worry for anyone though: the reptiles, especially the snakes are kept in secure enclosures and mishaps are rare and far-in-between.
Thus, if snakes scare the living hell out of you, the chance of actually coming across one, escaped from your neighbor’s apartment is slim to, well, none.
9. Snakes Can Drink Water Despite Not Having Lips
All living things need a source of hydration and snakes are no exemption.
However, how this reptile type achieves this has been the source of myths and general speculations that have led to many false theories and assumptions.
Some of these myths and theories are partly true; to an extent. However, many are outright false.
The first is that the snakes don’t drink water because they don’t need it. At all. This is completely false since the body of a snake needs water to hydrate and function properly.
The second myth is that snakes drink water in the same fashion humans do. This is completely false too, since snakes do not possess the buccinator muscle which aids the human species in sucking and pulling water into the mouth and down the throat.
The third myth is to the effect that, snakes get all their water and moisture requirements from their food. This is partly true, especially for snakes that feed on water-dense prey. However, irrespective of this fact, snakes still need water from other sources to complement their water needs from time to time.
The billion-dollar question remains: how do snakes really drink water?
It’s quite simple and straightforward: snakes ‘contour’ their mouths into an air-tight fashion when drinking – imitating a standard straw.
This process helps a snake to absorb water into its mouth groves – down into its digestive tracks. This, it must be noted, is made possible primarily via the innate ability of a snake to siphon.
8. Snakes Can Reach Lengths In Excess Of 10 Meters (32 Feet)
Generally, the idea that evolution doesn’t support huge and impressive sizes is gaining ground all over the world with the extinct dinosaur being used as the poster animal to support such theories.
What these theories however fail to state in very clear and unequivocal terms is that there were super large animals prior to this time; there are currently super large animals at the moment and there will always be super large animals with us – right up until the end of time (think the blue whale and the African elephant).
Snakes aren’t left out in this battle for size supremacy and over the years, they’ve proved that they can also reach up to impressive sizes and lengths too.
For instance, the longest recorded snake reached an impressive length of 10 meters! This measurement was taken in 1912.
However, more recently, there have been many measurements that though, aren’t up to that length, are in themselves impressive and worthy of attention.
A recent and verified example is offered by the Guinness World Record team of Medusa, a reticulated python held in Kansa city. Medusa, for the records, measures 7.67 meters long and is currently the holder of the title, ‘Longest Snake – Living (captivity)’ title.
Reticulated pythons, boas and green anacondas are amongst the three largest species ever found on our planet.
7. Snakes Are Excellent Cannibals, Generally
In our human world, cannibalism is seriously frowned upon and is considered a crime in many climes; wrong, morally twisted and importantly, super dirty – something to be avoided by all cost and by every means necessary.
Most animals agree with humans in this general, unwritten rule and accordingly, will never attempt to feed on their own type.
This is the general rule across the animal kingdom and just about every other animal follows this, except (as you must have rightly guessed from the subhead), snakes.
Thanks to a slender, limbless body, snakes generally make for excellent snacks both in the mouths and bellies of other snakes, and as a general rule, cobras are famous for this with consumption of their species accounting for close to 50% of their food especially in the wild.
Cobras, it is clear, are the posture folks for snake cannibalism since they are the only species of snakes known to regularly feed on their own species. For reference, other snakes may feed on snakes in general but rarely on their own kind. The case of cobras is thus as instructive as it is interesting.
Further, what is worth acknowledging is that, in the instance of the cobra. the snakes are known to primarily devour their own sex – males.
This has led to speculations that cannibalism in the snake world isn’t just about hunger or elimination of perceived threats; rather, it is largely about competition for the elimination of real or perceived sexual competitors in order to achieve better chances for those strong and capable enough to eliminate ‘rivals’.
Not only is our world a ‘dog eat dog’ arrangement. Snakes (especially cobras) have also proved that it is also a ‘snake eat snake’ world out there on the mountains, the valley beds, and everywhere else in-between.
6. Snakes Are Venomous, Not Poisonous (Except The Japanese Grass Snake)
You probably have heard that snakes are poisonous or a certain species of snake is poisonous.
Congratulations: we all have, at one point in time or another.
The only challenge is that this is false. Completely. A snake isn’t poisonous at all but rather, (could be) venomous.
What this means is simple: handling a snake will normally ensure no adverse effects – unless the snake decides to bite; at which point, the injected venom will be transmitted, ensuring adverse effects to the body system (depending on the toxicity of the venom in question).
A snake, generally, in this regard, is seen as a venomous (assuming the snake is venom-producing in the first place) creature and not a poisonous one.
This is the general position. However, there is a classical exception to this general rule: the Rhabdophis tigrinus.
This is the Japanese grass snake locally known as Yamakagashi.
The Yamakagashi eats toxic toads and sequesters toxins from these toads, storing this poison in a hoodlike series of body structures understood to be the nuchal glands, right in the dorsal skin region of the neck.
When threatened, this snake assumes a defensive position, exposing the toxin containing nuchal glands to predators; a touch which often proves sufficient to make the would-be predator back out and eventually, become sick.
This poisonous defense is passed down to offspring and has curiously been found to be absent in the same species living in areas where poisonous toads aren’t readily available as meal.
5. Snakes Attempt To Eat Themselves All The Time!
It makes sense that a snake eats or will make an attempt to; after all, it is a living thing, needs energy and must thus, feed.
It makes lesser sense that such feeding will be on its own species. Unfortunately, this has proven to be the reality time and time again, especially in the animal world of cobras.
This is understood, though truly strange.
However, what is stranger and makes zero sense is a snake attempting autocannibalism – the act of an animal attempting to or actually eating itself out.
However, snakes have been found to do this and do it more frequently than it makes sense or is biologically sensible.
Many reasons have been adduced for this: some theories argue that hunger is a motivating factor. Some maintain that the snake often confuses its own moving body with prey – especially since the animal largely has poor eyesight and a relatively small brain.
Other theories are to the effect that, the scent of prey that rubs off the bodies of these snakes during the feeding process is largely responsible for this confusion and criminal attempt at suicide.
Whatever the reason for a snake seeking to consume its own body parts, the summary is that it happens. And when it does, the snake suffocates, is badly injured or outrightly dies from the wounds, struggles and choking that inevitably takes place.
4. Snakes Don’t Stop Growing
One of the most important characteristics of living things is their ability to grow, usually reaching their full size, common to the species.
In this fashion, snakes grow. Trees grow and so do all the other animals. There’s none that remains exactly the size and weight it was when it first landed into the harsh, competitive world.
This potential for growth, however, stops after a certain point, usually, adulthood. When most living things reach their full adult potential, they cease growing. Humans are excellent examples of this.
However, there are other animals that this process of growth ceasure doesn’t apply to: these animals are referred to as indeterminate growers and snakes are excellent examples.
Capable of reaching about 90 plus percent of their total growth within their first 3-5 years, snakes still typically continue to grow throughout their lives (which averages about 5-30 years depending on the species in question and a plethora of environmental factors).
However, after the initial growth sprout that happens when a snake is trying to reach adulthood, growth after the first 5 years isn’t as spectacular or impressive as it was prior to the period.
This, it has been argued, is nature’s way of limiting these serpents from turning into real monsters and putting everyone/thing else at risk. Think about a few centimeters to inches every 5 years or so. This may not be noticeable to the naked eye and even for those that keep the snakes as pets, unless measurements are taken every few years, this awesome fact may slide by with anyone taking any note of it.
It is also instructive to note that, this incremental growth happens majorly after a shed though, a shed isn’t any guarantee that the animal is actually adding some growth as growth is simply only one of the many reasons why snakes shed their old skins in the first place.
3. Snakes Are Immune To Their Own Venom
Everyone in the world knows one thing about snakes: they can be venomous and when a species is, this venom can prove fatal when it comes in contact with the blood.
However, there’s an interesting twist: when it comes in contact with the blood of a species, not of its own kind.
In other words, the zootoxins that greatly facilitate both the immobilization of prey and also acts as a standard defense against threats do nothing to both the carrier or members of its own species.
The reason is simple: though snake venom is securely stored in the respective venom glands of these reptiles, a small and often inconspicuous amount often ‘leaks’ into their systems, ensuring that, in a vaccine-like fashion, these snakes develop immunity to their very own, ‘death sentence’.
This makes sense on a variety of fronts:
First, a snake, as we’ve seen above, can mistake its tail or even, other parts of its body as prey and thus, attempt to feast on same.
In such a scenario, its venom (originally meant as a means of hunting and self-defense) would pose an otherwise serious threat. This obvious threat is averted with this ‘vaccine approach’.
Second, when mating, fighting for a mate etc, snakes are likely to bite each other, unconsciously releasing venom into the bloodstream of their ‘colleagues’.
Since such an act is often not intended and death (or serious bodily harm ) isn’t the motive, it makes sense that such bites are covered under the ‘specie insurance‘.
However, it is instructive to note that snakes are only immune to the venom of their species. Accordingly thus, if a rattlesnake were, for instance, to be bitten by a king cobra, a fatality would most likely occur.
2. A Snake Can Retract Its Fangs When Not In Use
Snakes can have really long fangs. When in action, these fangs protrude well out of their mouths and truly stand out, being visible from quite a distance. The Gaboon viper, for instance, has fangs that can grow up to an impressive 1.6 inches (4cm).
With the visible length of the traditional snake fangs clear, what remains immediately unclear, from the standpoint of an observer, is how these fangs fit back in the serpent’s mouth when the business of immobilizing prey or defense is done and over with.
The answer is a simple evolutionary action that involves a simple process: the fangs simply fold back into the mouth, ready to be deployed on the next ‘mission’.
It is important to understand that were these fangs (mostly of venomous snakes) incapable of folding back into the mouth in the fashion they do after use, it would have been impractical for the average venomous snake to go about its life normally; feeding (after immobilizing prey) would also have presented a very great challenge.
Closely related to the above is the fact that a snake is capable of growing back a broken or damaged fang.
However, the business of ‘fang replacement’ goes well beyond merely growing back fangs: snakes routinely grow fresh, sharp fangs every two (2) months or so in order to offer precise, bites that prove effective on the first attempt.
Nature would hate it to have one of its creations fruitlessly trying to immobilize its prey or defend itself in more strikes than just one 🙂
Why waste time, emotions, and energy on many bites when just one well-timed one will get the task done?
1. At Extremely Low Temperatures, A Snake’s Body Can Fail
Snakes are completely incapable of regulating their own body temperatures by means of metabolic activity like humans and other animals do.
This inability means that snakes must rely on an external source of heat to keep warm. This reliance on an external heat source is known as the fact of being cold-blooded (ectothermic).
To achieve regular temperature suitable for daily existence, snakes generally stick to sunshine-prone places, bask on rocks, use the warm temperatures on tarred roads after sunset, etc. The options are many and impressive.
During winter or sub-freezing weather, however, the game changes; the spots that used to provide warmth for these serpents all fail and the snake must look for a special, warmer place or enclave where it goes into a phase of reduced physical activity to conserve energy, escape predators (the cold-induced sluggishness can be fatal in the wild).
This phase of physical inactivity is called brumation, a sort of hibernation – in special, either made or met conducive places, usually, facing south called hibernacula.
A snake thus relies upon this phase for as long as it takes. In severe weather (found closer to the arctic pole), this can take up to 9 months in a 12 month year!
What, however, is interesting is that, if a snake, faced with such harsh weather realities decides not to seek brumation (against the dictates of nature), death is certain as its vital organs will fail – as a result of the complete shutdown of its entire body.
Snakes are incapable of tolerating both extremes of weather: cold or hot.
For instance, once sub-zero temperatures are hit, most snakes, especially species not adapted to or familiar with such temperatures will go into brumation and will only come out to freely live their lives when the weather improves and becomes warmer.
In an unexpected twist, snakes cannot also stand hot weather: thus, around 80 degrees Fahrenheit, snakes will generally leave the scorching sun for someplace cooler and restrict their activities to the mornings and evenings when the temperature is better suited for their bodies.
If the temperature goes above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, a snake will most likely overheat its system and this will result in a fever it can’t control – if it remains in that temperature range or can’t get out.
Exposure to temperatures in excess of 95 degrees Fahrenheit can only mean one thing for a snake: death in minutes!
You just finished reading 15 of the most amazing facts about snakes everyone should know and appreciate.
However, before, before we wrap up, here’s a smart, juicy bonus point that may pleasantly surprise (or shock you).
Some Snakes Can Fly!
Generally, it goes against the laws of gravity and common sense that snakes should fly.
However, as strange as this may appear, there are snakes, today that actually fly from tree to tree in real life and time, isolated from Hollywood.
These snake species, to make this happen, slither to the end of a particular branch and dangle themselves in a ‘J’ fashion.
From this, the snake species capable of this feat propel themselves from the branch they are currently resting on using the lower half of their body. When this is achieved, it quickly forms an ‘S’ pattern that sees that it flattens to about twice its normal width to manipulate the air better.
By undulation in a typical snake fashion, the species can actually take turns, decide the course of its ‘flight’, and importantly, ultimately decide its ‘landing’.
The flying snake is generously distributed in the wild from Western India right up to the Indonesian archipelago and species include the Golden Tree Snake, the Paradise Tree Snake, the Banded Tree Snake, etc.
These snake species, it is worthy of note, use their ‘flying’ ability to hunt, exercise, and escape predators. Importantly, it is instructive to understand that, the snake species is largely arboreal and limits contact or existence with the forest floor as much as possible.
Love them or hate them, snakes are a part of the world and that isn’t changing anytime soon. That’s why we decided today to seek a better understanding of these crawlers. Who knows? Perceptions and emotions may change as the times do and the clocks tick away.
This is where we draw the curtains for today.
We sincerely hope that even if we weren’t able to change your thoughts or emotions about these reptiles, we at least brought right before you, something about them that you didn’t know, prior to this time.
Enjoy the newfound snake knowledge 🙂