Snakes are reptiles. Like all reptiles, snakes are cold-blooded. They can’t control their own body temperature, and so they have to lie in the sun to get warm and in the shade to get cool.
Where Do Snakes Live?
Snakes live almost everywhere in the world. They live in grasslands, deserts, and rain forests. Some snakes live in water. There are no snakes, however, in Ireland, Iceland, Antarctica, or New Zealand.
Fun Fact: There are more than 2,500 kinds of snakes.
How Big Are Snakes?
The world’s smallest snake is about 13 centimeters long at full growth and weighs less than 2 grams. The largest snakes are the anaconda and the reticulated python. They both can grow as long as 10 meters and can weigh up to 250 kilograms.
Fun Fact: Snake’s long backbone is made up of small bones called vertebrae. Snakes have between 100 and 400 vertebrae.
A snake’s jawbones are not attached to its skull. They are linked together by muscles and stretchy tissues called ligaments. This type of jaw lets a snake open its mouth wide and eat animals that are much larger than its head!
A Snake’s Skin
The dry outer layer of a snake’s skin is made of scales. Scales give a snake its color. The color of some snakes lets them blend into their surroundings and avoid being seen. Some poisonous snakes are brightly colored to warn off enemies.
Snakes regularly shed their skin. First, a new layer of skin forms underneath the old one. Then the snake loosens the skin around its lips. Finally, the snake crawls out of its old skin. A brand-new skin takes its place.
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Snakes don’t see or hear as well as other animals. A snake has eyes but no eyelids. They have clear scales over their eyes. Most snakes can see movement, but some snakes are blind.
Fun Fact: Snakes do not have ears. They have bones in their heads that can sense low sounds and vibrations.
Snakes have a great sense of smell. A snake flicks out its forked tongue to collect scents. It doesn’t mean the snake is hungry. The snake pulls its tongue in and sticks the forked tips into a place in the roof of its mouth called Jacobson’s organ. This way of smelling lets snakes find other snakes as well as animals it hunts for food.
Pit vipers, boas, and pythons have small pits on their heads that can sense heat. These pits help a snake sense when a warm-blooded animal is near.
How Do Snakes Move?
Some snakes move by wiggling and squirming forward. Some snakes make leaping, twisting movements called side-winding.
Snakes that live in trees coil their tail around a branch. Then they hook their neck into a higher part of the tree and pull the rest of their body up behind them.
What Do Snakes Eat?
Snakes eat a variety of things: worms, insects, lizards, small mammals, birds, and frogs. Some snakes, such as the Australian bandy-bandy, feed only on other snakes. Other snakes like to eat the eggs of other animals. An adult reticulated python eats larger prey, such as wild pigs, monkeys, and small deer.
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Snakes don’t chew their food. They swallow it whole. Their teeth point backward, which helps to keep prey from escaping. Many snakes begin to swallow their prey while it’s still alive. Others kill the animals before eating them.
Life Cycle of a Snake
Most snakes lay eggs. Some sea snakes and snakes that live in cold places give birth to live baby snakes.
Some snakes can begin reproducing at two years of age. Others take slightly longer to mature. Snakes may live for as long as 20 to 30 years.
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