There are around 4,000 known species worldwide, a number that is always changing.
Snake Scientific Classification
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Snake Conservation Status
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- Only 200 of 600 venomous snakes have enough potency to harm a human.
- Snakes can be found on every continent on Earth – except Antarctica.
- Even though they have teeth – snakes do not chew their food, they swallow it whole.
Snakes are a form of legless reptiles, covering over 4,000 different species around the world.
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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 with lizards, which are also reptiles. While snakes have no eyelids or ear holes, they have become a well-loved pets 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:
Health and Entertainment for your Snake
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- Out of over 4,000 different species, only 600 are venomous. Snakes like the gopher snake and kingsnakes are nonvenomous. Only 200 of these snakes have enough potency to harm a human.
- Though they are a reptile, like a lizard, 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.
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, come from the Latin word “serpō,” which means “creep” or “crawl.”
Evolution and Origins
Snakes are a group of reptiles that evolved from lizards around 150 million years ago during the Late Jurassic period. They have evolved to have long, slender bodies and no limbs, allowing them to move efficiently through various habitats such as grasslands, deserts, and forests.
Snakes are thought to have evolved from terrestrial lizards, with their ancestors likely having four legs. Over time, snakes lost their limbs through a process of evolution known as reduction. This happens when certain body parts are no longer needed and become smaller until they eventually disappear.
Today, there are around 3,000 species of snakes found on every continent except Antarctica.
Snakes are reptiles, but they noticeably have no legs. However, not every legless reptile is known as a snake.
Seemingly, the only components of a snake are its head and its tail, which take up the entire length of its 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 species as well. Many species have several needle-sharp teeth, but venomous species have fangs. Venomous snakes typically store the venom in glands the in the head behind their eyes. Only about 600 snake species are venomous. 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. Some snakes have keeled scales with a ridge down the center of each scale, and others have smooth scales. The markings are determined by the species, but there is hardly a color that you won’t see.
The color is sometimes a sign of how dangerous the snake is, but the pattern will help differentiate the threats from harmless animals. Snakes come in every color of the rainbow, including red, green, yellow, blue, and black.
Rattlesnakes have a large rattle at the end of their tail, which emits a loud noise to let animals and humans keep away. It is also important to note that there are some animals that look like snakes, but aren’t.
The body of the animal is also indicative of the way that the snake hunts. Animals with long and thin bodies are usually more active hunters, often chasing down their prey; while short yet thick snakes typically sit and wait for their prey.
Read here to learn more about the anatomy of snakes. Also, read here to learn about the most colorful snakes in the world.
Some snakes look like dragons. Read here to find out about them.
When it comes to hunting, snakes 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 their temperature internally. Snakes move back and forth between warm and cool areas, depending on their needs.
Snakes shed their skin as they grow; many shed 2-4 times per year. The shedding process can be rather uncomfortable, but it is a healthy process that reptiles undergo.
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. There are scary and dangerous species in the world, the most lethal being the saw-scaled viper, killing more humans than any other species.
Read about the most dangerous animals on earth to humans here.
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.
- Elapids – Most elapids are commonly referred to as “cobras;” however, not all elapids are cobras. These snakes are characterized by 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 continent 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 of snakebite injuries in North America. They are an example of pit vipers of the Viperidae family of snakes.
- Garters – Garter snakes are generally harmless in North and Central America. These snakes were long believed to be non-venomous, but recent studies have determined that they produce a neurotoxic venom that is too mild to injure or kill a human.
Additional types of snakes include:
- King cobra
- Green anaconda
- Ball python
- Grass snake
- Corn snake
- Boa constrictor
- Colubrid Snakes
- Inland taipan
- Acrochordus arafurae
- Black mamba
- Coral reef snakes
- Eastern brown snake
- Red-bellied black snake
- Elapid snakes
- Emerald tree boa
- Queen snake
- Brahminy blind snake
- Xenopeltis unicolor
- Elephant trunk snake
- Blind snakes
- Acrochordus granulatus
- Malpolon monspessulanus
- Sunbeam snakes
- Mole snake
- Gigantophis garstini
- Cylindrophis ruffus
- Najash rionegrina
- False cobra
- Sharp-tailed snakes
- Mole Vipers
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 snakes, 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, prairies, 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; some species feed exclusively on other snakes and lizards.
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.
Predators and Threats
These reptiles are relatively quick and effective predators, but they are also the prey of many different animals. One of the biggest predators of these reptiles is humans because some people hunt them for meat, clothing, and many other purposes. However, snakes in general aren’t considered 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 they provide. Learn about some snakes that are endangered here.
To learn about some snakes that don’t bite, read here.
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. Some snake species prey on other snakes – king snakes, indigo snakes, and king cobras are good examples.
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 generally 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. Some snakes eat eggs.
Read here to discover some snakes that eat fish and some snakes that eat birds.
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 give birth to their babies as they live young, which makes them ovoviviparous. However, species like the ball python and the corn snake lay eggs, making 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 snake 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 4,000 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 Antarctica. Here is a compilation of pre-historic snakes.
Although most snakes are not dangerous to people, they are largely misunderstood and unpopular.
Though there are some species with lower populations, snakes (as a whole) are classified as “not extinct” by the IUCN. Here is a list of the most popular snakes in the world.
Read about the rarest snakes in the world here.
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) feature demonstrations outside of the tanks to allow patrons to get a closer look. With more awareness of and information about snakes, the fear typically associated with these animals can be reduced.
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.
- Snakes that fit in a 20-gallon tank.
- Snakes that can Eat a Human.
- Snakes are vibrant creatures that display so many different colors. Discover the beauty of blue snakes or yellow snakes.
- Some snakes display the absence of color. Check out 12 white snakes!
- Snakes you actually want in your yard.
- The largest snakes that can be kept as pets.
- What the largest snakes in the world eat.
- The oldest known snakes in history.
- The largest rainbow snake ever found.
- The darkest snakes in the world.
- Take our Snake Quiz.
Types of Snakes
List of Snakes
- Agkistrodon Contortrix
- Albino (Amelanistic) Corn Snake
- Amethystine Python (Scrub Python)
- Antiguan Racer Snake
- Arizona Black Rattlesnake
- Asian Vine Snake
- Baird’s Rat Snake
- Ball Python
- Banana Cinnamon Ball Python
- Banded Krait
- Bird Snake
- Bismarck Ringed Python
- Black Mamba
- Black Pastel Ball Python
- Black Rat Snake
- Blue Racer
- Boelen’s python
- Bredl’s Python
- Brown Snake
- Brown Tree Snake
- California Kingsnake
- Carpet Python
- Cat Snake
- Cat-Eyed Snake
- Checkered Garter Snake
- Children’s python
- Chinese Cobra
- Coachwhip Snake
- Coastal Carpet Python
- Coastal Taipan
- Collett’s Snake
- Common European Adder
- Congo Snake
- Coral Snake
- Corn Snake
- Cuban Boa
- De Kay’s Brown Snake
- Death Adder
- Desert Ghost Ball Python
- Desert Kingsnake
- Diamond Python
- Dragon Snake (Javan Tubercle Snake, Javan Mudsnake)
- Dumeril’s Boa
- Dwarf Boa
- Eastern Brown Snake
- Eastern Green Mamba
- Eastern Hognose Snake
- Eastern Tiger Snake
- Emerald Tree Boa
- Equatorial Spitting Cobra
- False Cobra
- False Water Cobra
- Fer-de-lance Snake
- Fierce Snake
- Fire Ball Python
- Flying Snake
- Forest Cobra
- Fox Snakes
- Freeway Ball Python
- Golden Lancehead
- Gopher Snake
- Grass Snake
- Green Mamba
- Green Snake
- Ground Snake
- Habu Snake
- Harlequin Coral Snake
- Horned Adder
- IMG Boa Constrictor
- Indian python
- Indigo Snake
- Inland Taipan
- Jamaican Boa
- Jungle Carpet Python
- Killer Clown Ball Python
- King Rat Snake
- King Snake
- Lavender Albino Ball Python
- Lemon Blast Ball Python
- Madagascar Tree Boa
- Malayan Krait
- Mamushi Snake
- Mandarin Rat Snake
- Mangrove Snake
- Mexican Black Kingsnake
- Moccasin Snake
- Mojave Ball Python
- Mojave Rattlesnake
- Mole Snake
- Monocled Cobra
- Moonglow Boa
- Mulga Snake
- Mussurana Snake
- Night Adder
- Night Snake
- Oenpelli python
- Olive python
- Orange Dream Ball Python
- Panda Pied Ball Python
- Paradise Flying Snake
- Parrot Snake
- Peringuey’s Adder
- Pied Ball Python
- Pine Snake
- Pipe Snake
- Pit Viper
- Plains Hognose Snake
- Pygmy python
- Queen Snake
- Rat Snakes
- Red Diamondback Rattlesnake
- Red Spitting Cobra
- Red-Bellied Black Snake
- Reticulated python
- Rhino Viper
- Rhombic Egg-Eater Snake
- Ribbon Snake
- Rim Rock Crowned Snake
- Rinkhals Snake
- Rosy Boa
- Rough Earth Snake
- Rubber Boa
- Russel’s Viper
- Savu Python
- Saw-scaled Viper
- Scaleless Ball Python
- Smooth Earth Snake
- Smooth Green Snake
- Smooth Snake
- Southern Black Racer
- Spider Ball Python
- Spiny bush viper
- Spotted python
- Sunbeam Snake
- Sunset Ball Python
- Super Pastel Ball Python
- Tasmanian Tiger Snake
- Tentacled Snake
- Texas Garter Snake
- Texas Indigo Snake
- Tiger snake
- Timber Rattlesnake (Canebrake Rattlesnake)
- Timor python
- Tree Snake
- Tree Viper (Bamboo Viper)
- Urutu Snake
- Viper Boa
- Western Diamondback Rattlesnake
- Western Green Mamba
- Western Rat Snake
- Wolf Snake
- Woma Python
- Worm Snake
- Yellow Belly Ball Python
- Yellow-Bellied Sea Snake
- Zebra Snake
- Zebra Spitting Cobra
Snake FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
How do you get rid of snake mites?
Snake mites are tiny pests that feed on the blood of snakes and other reptiles. They can cause snakes to become lethargic and also spread disease. To get rid of snake mites, either use spray or soak and clean your snake.
Can poisonous snakes swim?
Yes, all snakes can swim! Many poisonous (venomous) snakes prefer aquatic environments such as the cottonmouth snake. However, even larger venomous snakes such as the eastern diamondback have been observed swimming long distances in the Florida Keys.
What is the largest venomous snake found in the United States?
The largest venomous snake found in the United States is the eastern diamondback. The largest eastern diamondback on record weighed 34 pounds and measured 94 inches in length.
What snakes are black with a yellow stripe?
Some common snakes that are black with a yellow stripe include:
- Garter snake
- Striped racers
- California kingsnakes
- Patch-nosed snake
- Coral snake (venomous)
And more! Read about all snakes that are black with yellow stripes here.
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.
Which snakes have flesh-eating venom?
Flesh-eating venom is called cytotoxin, and it destroys cell membranes. Snakes that have venom with cytotoxins include rattlesnakes, cobras, puff adders, bushmasters, and Gaboon vipers.
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, snakes may become uncomfortable and not want to be held.
It’s important to buy pet snakes from a reputable source.
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.
Who would win a fight between a snake and a honey badger?
Honey badgers are going to kill a snake in a fight in just about every case. They live in Africa where they face some of the deadliest snakes in the world. Rather than avoiding them, honey badgers regularly eat snakes and go out of their way to kill them and eat them.
What is the most expensive snake to ever be sold?
The most expensive snake to ever be sold was likely a high-blue morph of a green tree python.
What are some unusual snakes in America?
Unusual snakes in America include:
- The rainbow snakes, which is highly aquatic and is richly colored.
- The sidewinder rattlesnake, which can move at up to 18 miles per hour, making it one of the fastest snakes in the world.
- And the hognose, which can flatten its face to copy the appearance of venomous snakes.
- The Eastern Indigo snake is the longest native snake in the US and the longest recorded was 9.2 feet long!
What are the most aggressive snakes in the world?
The most aggressive snakes in the world are the black mamba, the saw-scaled viper, the coastal taipan, and the bushmaster snake.
What snakes stay small?
Some snakes that stay small include rosy boas, Kenyan sand boas, thread snakes, and blind snakes. The smallest snake in the world is the Barbados thread snake, which measures just four inches.
What are the strongest snakes in the world?
The strongest snakes in the world include kingsnakes, ratsnakes, boa constrictors, pythons and anacondas.
What are the slowest snakes in the world?
The 7 slowest snakes in the world include the rosy boa, rubber boa, brahminy blind snake, thread snake, Burmese python, Kenyan sand boa and the Eastern hognose.
What are the thickest snakes in the world?
11 of the thickest snakes in the world are the Papauan python, cuban boa, dark-spotted anaconda, boa constrictor, yellow anaconda, amethystine (scrub) python, Indian python, African rock python, reticulated python, Burmese python and the green anaconda.
What snakes have the biggest heads?
11 snakes with the biggest heads in the world are the:
- Rhinoceros viper
- Bighead sea snake
- Dog-toothed cat snake
- Arabian horned viper
- Cottonmouth snake
- Wagler’s palm pit viper
- Eastern hognose
- Blunt-headed tree snake
- King cobra
- Gaboon viper
Do moth balls keep snakes away?
No, mothballs do not keep snakes away.
What snakes have dots?
A number of snakes have dots including green tree pythons, speckled racers, and spotted bush snakes. For a more comprehensive review read ‘18 Snakes with Dots.‘
Do any snakes have legs?
Snakes do not have legs. It’s actually one of the things that makes a snake a snake!
Do some snakes have claws?
Even though snakes today no longer have legs, many still have remnants of hind legs and feet left behind from their ancient ancestors! Where they once had back legs, some snakes now have “claws”, called vestigial remnants or spurs. If you look closely at the belly of certain snakes, you can see these tiny spurs on either side of their cloaca.
Are snakes vertebrates, invertebrates or something else?
Snakes are vertebrates, snakes have a backbone! Their skeleton is made of a series of connected bones that allow them to slither back and forth. Similar to humans, muscles are connected to the bones which are controlled by the nervous system and when a snake sees you come around the corner on a trial its brain sends a signal to the muscles to “move it!” and the snake can slither away.
How do snakes and eels compare?
There are key differences between snakes and eels that go beyond their physical similarities. The primary difference is that eels are all fish species while snakes are reptiles that lack gills even in species that are aquatic.
Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.
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