The animal kingdom is full of surprises, and it seems that there’s a new species discovered every day. The tactics they use to confuse predators and sneak up on prey are as varied as they are beautiful. Reptiles have many species, each with its own defensive and offensive tactics.
Snakes are masters of disguise, and with over 4,000 extant species, there are plenty of examples. We picked our favorite 10 snakes that you won’t see until it’s too late. These snakes exhibit unique traits, and you’ll find everything from vivid patterns that break up the shape of their bodies to color and texture-matching capabilities.
10. Twig Snake (Thelotornis capensis)
Imagine sitting in the shade of a few African bushes, trying to keep cool, when you catch a little movement from the corner of your eye. Is that a branch or a snake?
You’ll have to be careful if you’re near the twig snake’s territory. These venomous snakes can sit motionless in the shape of a twig for hours, waiting for their next victim. Fortunately, only small lizards and rodents are on this snake’s menu. The twig snake’s body color looks almost exactly like the branches and twigs it mimics, so you’re only likely to see it if it moves.
9. Spider-Tailed Horned Viper (Pseudocerastes arachnoides)
Next on our list is a snake that’s part camouflage-savant and part fly fisher for birds. The spider-tailed horned viper is native to a small area of Iran. This species is relatively new to science and barely studied due to its remote location. Yet, what we do know about them is fascinating.
Spider-tailed horned vipers are so named because they have horns over their eyes and a tail that looks like a spider. This snake’s color and pattern closely mimic the rocky mountains in their native range, making them blend in so well that they’re nearly invisible. Once it’s hidden, the viper wiggles its tail tip to lure birds to it and can strike in .2 seconds. However, since most of the birds it catches are migratory visitors, it seems that the locals have the snake figured out.
8. Bushmaster (Lachesis muta)
The bushmaster was so difficult to spot in its native habitat that it took decades for famed herpetologist Raymond Ditmars to bring one back for his collection. This pitviper is the largest of all pitvipers in the Americas. Most individuals measure between seven and ten feet. However, there are reports of some reaching 13 feet long.
Their brown-to-orange base color with dark geometric saddle markings look like beautiful beaded masterpieces. You would think this vivid marking pattern would make it stand out. Yet, these shy snakes are rarely encountered in the wild because of their beaded pattern.
7. Emerald Tree Boa (Corallus caninus)
This species is one of the most sedentary tree snakes around. Even when hunting, these snakes dangle from a branch waiting to strike. Emerald tree boas are native to South America in the Amazon Basin and some of the surrounding areas.
They hang from tree branches coiled and draped over them like living ornaments. Don’t be fooled by outward appearances. However, these gorgeous snakes have some of the longest teeth in proportion to their head size and huge jaw muscles to match.
Emerald tree boas spend almost all their time waiting for their meals to come to them. Their bright green color with white markings helps them blend into the surrounding foliage, even though you would think the opposite. The white markings mimic the sunlight filtering through the canopy.
6. Garden Tree Boa (Corallus hortulanus)
Garden tree boas have a wide variety of patterns and colors, depending on where they live. Some have bright colors, and others are more subdued. Regardless, these snakes are masters of camouflage, and their thin bodies move through the trees largely unseen.
Some people keep them as pets, and they can seem somewhat cranky much of the time; however, most tree boas have an extremely strong feed response, so this may be why they seem cranky. We’ve heard them described as” angry shoelaces,” whether that’s true or not probably depends on the snake in question.
5. Rhinoceros Viper (Bitis nasicornus)
When does a viper look like a rhino? When it’s a rhino viper! We love the vipers in the Bitis genus. Sure, they’re deadly and have one of the quickest strikes of any snake, but they’re not actually inclined to bite.
The rhinoceros viper uses disruptive camouflage to break up the edges of their body outline. Like its close cousin, the Gaboon viper, it’s a fairly sedentary snake that doesn’t move around much. It hides in the leaf litter of its African jungle home. When people get bitten, it’s usually because they’ve stepped on or otherwise harassed the snake.
4. Worm Snake (Carphophis amoenus)
Technically, it’s a snake. However, this one doesn’t look like one. Its name is appropriate because most people don’t even realize they’ve found a snake until it wiggles its way out of their hands.
The worm snake is completely fossorial and doesn’t need to be above the ground unless the rain has flooded the worm tunnels it travels through while hunting worms and other invertebrates. We’re not sure if this counts as camouflage, but they’re cool little snakes.
3. California Kingsnake (Lampropeltis californiae)
In the wild, California kingsnakes exhibit a wide range of different patterns and colors. Typically, they have dark and light alternating patterns ranging from black and white to brown and cream. However, some wild California kingsnakes have stripes that run the length of their body.
These snakes are popular pets, but in the wild, they’re considered excellent rattlesnake control. These nonvenomous constrictors are active hunters, and their pattern helps them hide among the rocks, plants, and leaf litter of their homes. If you know what you’re looking for, they’re not too difficult to spot. Otherwise, you’ll probably walk by several without ever seeing one.
2. Tentacled Snake (Erpaton tentaculum)
These fully aquatic snakes are nearly helpless on the land, and because of this, they only rarely leave the water. They’re more likely to bury themselves in the mud if the water dries up too much for them to stay submerged.
Tentacled snakes are native to Southeast Asia and are named for the two appendages that stick out from the snout. Their skin texture and coloration matches the grasses and algae that grow in their habitat. The species is an ambush predator that sits as still as the plant stalks around it, both hiding from predators and waiting for prey.
1. Kapuas Mud Snake (Homalophis gyii)
Little is known about this camouflaging genius. Also called the chameleon snake, the Kapuas mud snake changes color spontaneously to blend into its environment.
Normally a reddish-brown color, this species’ color-changing ability was found purely by accident. Dr. Mark Auliya and a few students had gathered a few specimens to study while working in the jungles of Borneo. He placed a snake in a bucket for a few moments, and when he went to retrieve it, he found that it was almost entirely white.
Discover the "Monster" Snake 5X Bigger than an Anaconda
Every day A-Z Animals sends out some of the most incredible facts in the world from our free newsletter. Want to discover the 10 most beautiful snakes in the world, a "snake island" where you're never more than 3 feet from danger, or a "monster" snake 5X larger than an anaconda? Then sign up right now and you'll start receiving our daily newsletter absolutely free.
More from A-Z Animals
The Featured Image
Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.