There are around 3,000 known species worldwide
Snake Scientific Classification
Snake Conservation Status
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Snakes are a form of legless reptiles, covering over 3,000 different species around the world.
Also known by the scientific name “serpentes,” they are easily noticeable by their elongated body that seemingly looks like a head with a long tail. Their bodies are incredibly strong, though this strength is used for multiple purposes.
Snakes have a close relationship to lizards, which are also reptiles. While snakes have no eyelids or ear holes, they have become a well-loved pet by many eclectic owners. The serpent, a mythical symbol that is broadly known everywhere, is simply another term for it.
5 Incredible Snake Facts!
Here are a few interesting facts about these reptiles:
- Out of over 3,800 different types, only 600 have venomous fangs. Only 200 of these snakes have enough potency to harm a human.
- Though they are a reptile, like a lizard is, they have no eyelids or ear holes.
- Snakes do not chew their food, despite the presence of teeth. Instead, they swallow it whole.
- These reptiles can be found on every continent but Antarctica.
- The snake to have lived the longest is located in Missouri and she is 62 years old.
Snake Scientific Name
These reptiles go by the scientific name Serpentes and belong to the kingdom Animalia and Phylum Chordata. Their class is called Reptilia and the order is called Squamata. The clade is called Ophidia.
Serpentes, which is often shortened to the serpent in mythical stories, comes from the Latin word “serpō,” which means “creep” or “crawl.”
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Snakes are reptiles, but they noticeably have no legs. However, not every legless reptile is known as a snake. Seemingly, the only components to a snake are their head and their tail, which takes up the entire length of their body. Some snakes are as short as 4.1 inches (like the Barbados thread snake), though the longest snake in the world (which is the reticulated python) is over 20 feet long.
The teeth of these reptiles will vary by the species as well. Some species have several needle-sharp teeth, while others have fangs. The snakes with fangs naturally store their venom in the sacs that are behind the eyes. The venom is poisonous, but only about 600 species have it. A snake, sometimes referred to as a serpent, has no earholes, but its ears are internal.
These reptiles are covered in scales, though they have skin like humans underneath them. The markings are determined by the species, but there is hardly a color that you won’t see. The color is often a sign of how dangerous the snake is, but the pattern will help differentiate the threats from harmless animals. Often, snakes are found in every color of the rainbow, including red, green, yellow, blue, and black. A high abundance of color means that it is more dangerous, though venomous snakes usually have a triangular head.
Rattlesnakes have a large rattle at the end of their tail, which emits a loud noise to let animals and humans know that they are not to be messed with.
The body of the animal is also indicative of the way that the snake hunts. Animals with a long and thin body will hunt down their prey by hunting through bushes, while short yet thick snakes will sit and wait for their prey.
When it comes to hunting, these reptiles have an incredible sense of smell that they rely on. As they flick out their tongue, they seek out the chemicals in the air. Other snakes will use their ability to detect body heat. Constriction and venom tend to be the main ways that the prey is overpowered.
These reptiles seek out the right environment to keep their body warm since their cold-blooded body is unable to regulate its temperature. Most often, snakes will use natural sunlight to keep their body warm, but they will hide to cool off as well.
Snakes shed their skin when they grow. Some of them change their eye color when the shedding occurs, becoming paler than their typical color. The shedding process can be rather uncomfortable, but it is harmless to the user.
Though some species produce venom, the majority do not. Only 600 species have any kind of venom, and only a third of those venomous snakes have the capacity to wound humans at all, and even fewer can fatally kill them. Learn about the toughest animals in the world here.
Though humans are not a natural part of the reptile’s diet, it will bite if it feels threatened. In certain species, this bite can be fatal. The most lethal species in the world is the saw-scaled viper, killing more humans than any other species.
Common Types of Snakes
The following list includes some common types of snakes found around the world:
- Pythons – Pythons are a family of snakes consisting of 42 total recognized species. These reptiles can be found mostly in Asia, Australia, and Africa; however, the Burmese python was introduced in the Florida Everglades and is currently considered an invasive species. Most species in this family are “ambush predators” meaning they remain motionless and strike as prey passes by.
- Elapids – Most elapids are commonly referred to as “cobras.” These snakes are characterized by the erect, venomous fangs at the front of their mouths, and species can be terrestrial or aquatic. Elapids are endemic to tropical and subtropical regions throughout the world.
- Rattlesnakes – Rattlesnakes are found on the American continents and are characterized by the rattle at the end of their tails which they use to scare off predators. Although rattlesnakes rarely attack humans unless provoked, rattlesnake bites are the leading cause for snakebite injuries in North America.
- Garters – Garter snakes are generally harmless snakes found throughout North and Central America. These snakes were long believed to be non-venomous, but recent studies have determined that they produce a neurotoxic venom which is too mild to injure or kill a human.
Snakes are quite versatile, and many types work in the climates of the world. Though the only continent without snakes is Antarctica, there are a few countries that aren’t home to any native snake, including Ireland, New Zealand, and Iceland. Alaska is one of the few states that also has no native species.
The typical habitat is just as broad as where they can live. In water-based and land-based environments alike, these reptiles can also be found in tropical areas. While the water moccasin and the water snake commonly live near and in water, most snakes live on land. Based on the species, snakes can live in deserts, grasslands, and the rainforest.
These reptiles have a carnivorous diet, meaning that their diet entirely consists of other animals. They can choose warm-blooded or cold-blooded animals, seeking out amphibians, insects, and mammals. For the most part, they don’t eat other reptiles, but some of them have been known to go after smaller species.
Though every snake will consume their prey whole, the way that they render them helpless varies. Boas and pythons will bite their prey to hold onto them, wrapping their body around and squeezing the life from the prey. If the animal has fangs, it will deliver venom to its prey. The venom comes from a sac that is hidden behind the eyes.
Snake Predators and Threats
These reptiles are rather quick and effective predators, but they are also the prey of many different animals. One of the biggest predators of these reptiles is humans. Humans will use them for meat, clothing, and many other purposes, though the animal is largely not considered to be endangered.
The population of these reptiles can be negatively impacted by deforestation, hunting, and climate change. Ultimately, the threat that the snake faces is specific to many factors, like the species, where they live, and how much meat that they provide.
What Eats Snakes?
These reptiles may be rather impressive hunters, but animals like large birds and coyotes have made these reptiles into a regular part of their diet. They are also hunted by mongooses, wild boars, foxes, raccoons, and other game that can pick them up and consume them.
Luckily, each species has its own way to defend itself against threats. Camouflage plays a major role in their defense, hiding for additional coverage. Venomous species will bite as a last resort, but they primarily will try to flee instead.
What Do Snakes Eat?
Since all of these reptiles are carnivores, there are many small animals that can become their prey. The diet that the animal consumes is based on their species. Insects, amphibians, earthworms, slugs, fish, rodents, rabbits, and birds are all possible foods.
Snake Reproduction, Babies, and Lifespan
The reproduction process of these reptiles is primarily a process of internal fertilization. Most species intertwine their bodies with that of their partner, and the male releases the sperm from one of the two organs it has. The female doesn’t necessarily become pregnant with her young right away; some females can store the male’s sperm for 2-5 years before fertilization.
The species will determine the type of birth that the female has. Rattlesnakes and garter snakes will give birth to their babies as live young, which makes them ovoviviparous. However, species like the ball python and the corn snake will lay eggs, which makes them oviparous. In fact, approximately 70% of all these reptiles are oviparous, rather than ovoviviparous.
The number of eggs or live young will vary greatly. For snakes that give birth to live young, about 10-30 are born in each litter, though the diamondback water snake can have up to 40 babies in a litter. The live-bearing females often find a sheltered spot where they give birth to the babies. For the species that lay eggs, the clutch size varies significantly. While the ball python may only lay a single egg, some clutches are up to 100 eggs annually.
The species of the animal will determine their lifespan. While smaller species (like the garter snake) live for less than ten years, the various types of boas can leave for about 25 to 50 years. As of September 2020, the longest living snake is a ball python who is currently 62 years old and lives in the St. Louis Zoo of Missouri.
With over 3,000 types of snakes around the world, the total population varies from country to country. Interestingly, there are a few countries that have no known native species of snakes at all, including Ireland and Antarctica.
Of the thousands of snake species, approximately 600 species are venomous. Still, the unpopular nature of this reptile has led many people to believe that this statistic means that they are dangerous, which is not accurate. Of the 600 venomous snakes, only 22 species actually can harm a human.
Though there are some species with lower populations, snakes (as a whole) are classified as “not extinct” by the IUCN.
Snakes In the Zoo
These reptiles can be found at nearly every major zoo, allowing the public to become more informed of the types of this reptile that span across the globe. Most often, the zoos will include snakes that are local to their region, so the species will vary from one location to the next.
When visiting this reptile, most species will simply relax in their tank. However, some zoos (like the Virginia Living Museum) features demonstrations outside of the tanks to allow patrons to get a closer look. With more awareness about harmless and dangerous types of snakes, the fear typically associated with these animals can be erased.
Snakes that live in zoos may not exhibit the same outward symptoms of illness that they show in the wild. Zookeepers are incredibly familiar with the behavior that these snakes show when they are ill, allowing them to get fast treatment when they become sick.
Some types of snakes can be kept as pets, like the corn snake or the rosy boa.View all 142 animals that start with S
Snake FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
Are Snakes herbivores, carnivores, or omnivores?
Snakes are carnivorous. Though the diet will vary from species to species, the broad diet of a snake can include birds, frogs, fish, toads, insects, rodents, and even rabbits.
What Kingdom do Snakes belong to?
Snakes belong to the Kingdom Animalia.
What phylum do Snakes belong to?
Snakes belong to the phylum Chordata.
What class do Snakes belong to?
Snakes belong to the class Reptilia.
What order do Snakes belong to?
Snakes belong to the order Squamata.
What is an interesting fact about Snakes?
There are around 3,000 known species of snakes worldwide.
What is the lifespan of a Snake?
Snakes can live for 30 years.
How fast is a Snake?
A Snake can travel at speeds of up to 20 miles per hour.
What kind of animals kill snakes?
Snakes have many predators, though the size and location of the snake determine the animals that will go after them. Birds, mongooses, wild bores, foxes, raccoons, and coyotes are just a few of their potential threats. Other snakes may also go after each other.
Snake meat is considered a delicacy in some cultures, making humans one of their natural predators as well.
Do snakes make good pets?
Snakes are often docile pets, and many species are suited for the home life of their human owners. For the most part, socialization makes them easy to hold and fairly docile. Most pet snakes prefer to have places for warm and cold temperatures, which is part of the reason that they like to be held.
When they are about to shed their skin, these snakes may become uncomfortable and not want to be held.
How many species of snakes are there?
There are more than 3,000 types of snakes in the world.
What smell do snakes hate?
There are a couple of smells that snakes hate. Some of them include smells of clove, garlic, onion, smoke, lime, and cinnamon.
What kind of an animal is a snake?
Snakes are reptiles.
How do Snakes have babies?
Snakes lay eggs.
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