ALL ABOUT SNAKES CENTURIES OF SLITHERING Snakes are part of the reptile family.

Like all reptiles, they are cold-blooded. They have a long narrow body and scaly skin. There are about 2,600 species of snake. Snakes have been around for 100 million years. POETRY IN MOTION Snakes have no legs and yet they move fast. This is because a snake’s backbone is made up of hundreds vertebrae. Moving together, these make the snake a marvel of flexibility, strength and speed. SNAKES STYLES Snakes are wonderful creatures. There are many different varieties all with their own unique colors, patterns and behaviors. They have evolved to blend in with the environment and some have bright colors to warn away predators. SKIN PATTERNS The most useful way of identifying snakes is through color and pattern. Some snakes have a head that has a different color from the body. Others have color that gradually blends from one color to another, and some have spots, blotches, or bands. PREDATORS Snakes are versatile and highly evolved predators. Many are specialized feeders, while others eat a wide range of prey. Snakes have poor eyesight and hearing, so rely on well-developed senses of smell, tastes, and temperature to survive. SNAKES ARE EVERYWHERE… There are snakes on every continent except Antarctica. Snakes thrive everywhere. The biggest snakes are found in tropical jungles, but snakes also live on Arctic mountainsides and desserts. UNDER YOUR FEET AND UP IN THE SKY! Snakes can burrow into the earth, swim in rivers and oceans, and climb trees using their tails to grip branches. Some snakes even glide between trees! Brown water snakes look scary, especially when they drop into your boat from a tree, but they’re harmless unless your prey. SEA SNAKES Some snakes live in the sea. They have special flattened tails for swimming and have valves over their nostrils which they close underwater. Sometimes confused with eels, sea snakes don’t have gill slits or scales. Due to the need to breathe air,

they are usually found in shallow water where they swim along the bottom feeding on fish, fish eggs, and eels. SNOW SNAKES Snakes are found even up in the Arctic Circle and in high mountains. To survive the colds, these snakes have dark colored skin to absorb sunlight, they give birth to live young, and hibernate during winter, living off body fat. ON THE MOVE A snake has very powerful muscles and can move fast. A snake doesn’t need arms— its muscles do all the work! Snakes have evolved to move in different ways depending on the speed at which they want to move and the type of surface they’re on. FASTEST SNAKES The fastest snakes “zig-zag,” moving their bodies in S-shapes. Thicker snakes like boas slither along in the straight lines. Desert snakes move sideways, leaving Jshaped marks behind. FLYING SNAKES Some snakes can stretched then pull their bodies from one point to another. By calling up and then straightening out quickly, some tree-dwelling snakes can jump and glide over 330 ft (100 m). Tree-snakes have lighter, thinner bodies than ground-dwelling snakes or burrowing snakes. They have to have strong vertebrae to help them crawl over large gaps in the trees, and very strong tails to grasps branches. FLEXIBLE Snakes can have as many as 400 vertebrae which work together to make them very flexible. This is especially useful for tree snakes. FAVORITE FOOD All snakes are carnivores which mean that they only eat meat. Smaller snakes love to eat bugs and frogs, and larger snakes often ear birds, rodents, and rabbits. They swallow prey whole and many can unhinge their jaws to swallow large prey. SQUEEZING LUNCH IN Snakes like boas, anacondas, corn snakes, and rat snakes squeeze prey to death, the snake coils itself around on animal, slowly tightening the coils until the animal stops breathing. The king snake eats rattlesnakes. It coils around the rattlesnake then it alive! DEADLY VENOM

Some snakes, such as cobras, vipers and rattlesnakes kill or stun prey with poisonous bites. Their fangs are filled with poison called venom, which allows them to paralyze or kill their prey, making the animal easier to eat. Venomous snakes often have bright colors or patterns to warn other animals and people of the danger they pose. The rattlesnake warns other creatures of its deadly bites by shaking a rattle at the end of its tail. TRUE COLORS Snakes are experts in using color to survive. The color of a snake’s skin is often the same as the color of its environment. This camouflage, as the different colors can blur into one color when it is moving. FAKING IT Some colors are warnings. Red, yellow, black and white mean ‘keep away – I’m dangerous.’ This can be a trick: the harmless ring-necked snake mimics the colors of venomous snakes to scare off predators. FIGHTING THE ENEMY Birds of prey like eagles are the snake’s worst enemy. Snakes have lots of ways of defending themselves from predators. Some curl up into a ball. Harmless garter snakes let off horrible smells. Other snakes roll onto their backs, go stiff and play dead. WARNING SIGNS Snakes try really hard not to attack. They will hiss, bare their fangs and make pretend strikes. Some cobras spit venom. The harmless gopher snake hisses a warning which sounds like the rattle of a deadly rattlesnake. BITING BACK When threatened most snakes want to flee rather than confront a human or other large animal that could harm them. Biting is the only way that most snakes have to defend themselves—it is not always a sign the snake is venomous or that it is vicious. Just remember, snakes are normally more scared of you than you are of them. STANDING TALL Cobras have perhaps the most spectacular method of warning other creatures to stay away. When threatened they can stand up the front third of their bodies and erect a patterned hood around their heads. A hissing cobra raised up in a warning pose can be a spectacular, if not scary, sight. SNAKE BABIES

Most snakes reproduce by laying eggs, but some give birth. Female snakes search for a warm, safe place to lay their eggs. The king cobra builds a nest and covers her eggs with vegetation to keep them warm. Snakes eggs are soft and leathery, not brittle, like bird eggs.

GROWING UP The growth of a newborn snake depends on its instincts and how much food it can find. Without the support of their parents, the young snakes must rely upon their natural hunting instincts to find prey. Another factor influencing the development of a baby snake is the temperature. In tropical environments baby snakes tend to grow much faster than those in colder climates. SHARP SENSES Snakes do not have enough endurance to chase their prey for long periods. Their success in hunting depends on their senses and they are pretty sharp. HEAT-SEEKING SERPENTS A snake smells through its nose and with its tongue! Snakes like the copperhead can sense heat through two sensory pits on their heads. These pits give the snake a heat image of an animal. Snake eyes are very good of detecting movement, but not much else. Snakes have no ears and can only sense sound vibrations. LONERS Snakes are loners who do not tend to live with, care for, mates. Snakes tend to avoid others of their kinds as they are competition for food resources. When they do encounter each other they have to rely on their well developed sense of smell and their tongues to identify one another. Males and females can often find each other using chemical scent trails. THE SKIN YOU’RE IN Snakeskin is transparent but covered with thick scales. Dead skin is shed in one piece and this is called molting. SNAKE GLASSES Snakes don’t have eyelids and their skin includes a protective eye covering. When a snake molts, this covering turns white and the snake is temporarily blinded. Shed skin looks like clear plastic, with details of the scales still visible, including the eye covering. Young growing snakes molt more often than adults. In some species, the skin is shed every 20 days.

SNAKE SCALES There are two general types of scales found in snakes. Smooth scales, with are shiny and reflective, and rough, or keeled, scales, which have more ridges and are rougher. Rough scales on a snake can help it to grip prey or branches. In some snakes with keeled scales, the scales flare up at the ends to give the snake an almost feathery appearance. The body scales of snakes are closely packed, overlapping, and organized into diagonals.

SCALY SKIN Whether rough or smooth, a snake’s outer layer of scaly skin has one primary function: to prevent water loss. The layer of skin beneath this layer contains the pigment that gives snakes their different coloring. VIPERS Vipers are the most advanced and successful snakes. There are two types: pit vipers and true vipers. Vipers are venomous. HABITATS Famous pit vipers like copperheads, rattlesnakes, and water moccasins are only found in North America. True vipers are found in Europe, Asia and Africa. FOOD Lizards, small rodents, rabbits, insects, and fish. SPECIFICS Vipers are large rotating fangs, and pit vipers gave hear-sensitive pits on their heads which enable them to detect prey. When a viper bites, its venom flows through the hollow fangs to the victim. Viper venom can kill or paralyze its prey. Some venom breaks down the prey’s tissue, partially digesting it before the snake even swallows it. SNAKE ATTACK Although they are poisonous Vipers are not aggressive and do not attack people if they are left alone. Most attacks occur when people surprise or frighten a snake, or when they try to harm them.


Rattlesnakes, members of the pit viper family, are highly venomous and are characterized by their tail rattles. The noise warns enemies to beware! Habitats North America, from Canada to Mexico, concentrated in the desert southwestern United States. ood FLizards, ground squirrels, small rabbits, rats, and mice.

SPECIFICS There are 16 species of rattlesnake. Within a species like the rock rattlesnake, skin patterns and colors vary greatly. All have a jointed, hollow rattle on their tails. Like other rattlers, the black-rattle as a warning. The buzz is made by the segments rubbing against each other. ANACONDA The anaconda is one of the largest snakes in the world and can grow up to 37 ft (11.2m) and over 600 lbs (272 kg). It uses constriction and drowning as the means to kill prey. Lives in swampy areas of tropical South America. They eat preys such as rodents, birds, fish, pigs, deer, even crocodile! SPECIFICS The anaconda is an excellent swimmer, but also climbs into trees to dry off. It is able to do this as it has a specially adapted prehensile tail. When hunting, the anaconda coils in shallow pools or at a river’s edge. It ambushes prey and can use its sharp teeth, powerful jaws and strong muscles to pull prey underwater and drown it. Anacondas can remain underwater for ten minutes. The anaconda is a solitary, territorial hunter. KING COBRA The king cobra is the largest venomous snake. It can be 18 ft long (5.5 m) and can possess a head as large as a fully-grown man’s hand! The king cobra can defend itself from predators as soon as it is born. SEA SNAKE There are 50 species of the highly venomous oceanic snake. Most are fully adapted to aquatic life and never go on land. They have a paddle-shaped tail and a compressed body to aid their passage through the water. Sea snakes are highly poisonous and pose a far greater danger to swimmers and divers than sharks. When

analyzed in the laboratory it was discovered that the venom of a banded sea snake ranged from two to ten times more potent than a cobra!

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