Whether you were interested in finding out the 15 most interesting facts about snakes or not, here I am, writing them down for you anyway.
The following snake-related facts are meant to shine a light on these creatures’ complexity and novelty. The goal is to show that snakes are far more diverse, interesting, and unique than you might expect.
So, let’s get started.
1. The Amazing Global Reach of Snakes
There are currently close to 3,500 species of snakes spread in every corner of the Globe, inhabiting pretty much every habitat you can think of.
These cold-blooded animals can live in arid regions with temperatures soaring over 110 F and even in the ice-cold Siberian habitat with long winters and short and cold summers. The latter includes species like the Siberian pit viper, the Siberian ratsnake, and the Siberian racer, among other species.
Some species can even traverse large bodies of water to colonize the Virgin Islands or even traverse oceans to reach other continents. Such is the case of the yellow-bellied sea snake inhabiting the Pacific and the Indian ocean.
This one species is pretty much everywhere, from the Australian coast to Asia and the Americas.
2. The Hunger Games: Snakes Can Go Months Without Eating
Snakes have slow metabolisms, allowing them to go months on end without eating and without experiencing any health issues.
This incredibly evolutionary adaptation allows snakes to thrive even in environments with low hunting opportunities.
And as if this wasn’t enough, snakes can slow down their metabolism even further when faced with starvation. They will survive on their limited fat reserves for longer periods until food becomes available again.
This eating and fasting behavior explains why snakes only eat once every several days or even weeks, depending on the species.
3. Swimming Snakes: The Surprising Aquatic Abilities of Some Species
Snakes are well-known for their land-dwelling behavior, but some species have adapted to different environments.
Constricting snakes are mainly arboreal, for instance, stalking their prey from above. And then you have aquatic snakes.
Some species are semi-aquatic, while others are fully aquatic, although they go on land sometimes to warm up. Examples of fully aquatic snake species include the notorious anaconda, the water snake, and the Chinese water dragon, but there are many more examples.
Aquatic snakes have adapted perfectly to their environment. The Chinese water dragon, for instance, can breathe through its skin via a process called cutaneous respiration.
Anacondas can remain submerged and hunt underwater, making them feared predators in their ecosystem.
King cobras can also swim by flattening their body, but they don’t do it regularly; it’s mainly for cooling purposes. Fortunately, a swimming cobra won’t attack while in the water.
4. Snakes with Superpowers: The Ability to Regrow Tails
I bet you that reading this title made you think of lizards, didn’t it? It makes sense because lizards are notorious for their ability to amputate and discard their own tails.
But did you know that snakes can also exhibit this behavior? The process is called autotomy and refers to the snake’s ability to detach its tail around a specific section known as the fracture plane.
This is an area where muscles and vertebrae fracture, allowing the tail to fall off. The severed tail will continue to move for up to 5 minutes thanks to automated nervous impulses in the limb, distracting the potential predator. This allows the snake to escape unscathed.
The wound side closes the damaged blood vessels to prevent hemorrhage while specialized blastoma cells rush to the site and begin the reconstruction process.
The snake’s tail will regenerate with time at a speed that depends on the species, the snake’s age, and several other factors. Usually, the tail will never reach its former size or shape, usually growing smaller.
Most snakes lose their tails several times over their entire lives.
5. The African Rock Python: A Giant Among Snakes
The African rock python is a massive constrictor snake living in the arid regions of the sub-Saharan desert. This beast can reach 20 feet in length and up to 200 pounds in weight as an adult and is capable of strangling to death a variety of animals.
Many of its preferred preys are larger than the python himself. These even include crocodiles and large mammals like antelopes.
The African rock python uses its powerful body to constrict around its prey with so much strength that it limits the animal’s ability to breathe. Death usually occurs by suffocation, which prepares the prey for ingestion.
This species is also known for its climbing and swimming abilities, making the snake a formidable and versatile predator.
Fortunately, it doesn’t attack humans due to its shy and reclusive nature, but don’t count on it.
6. The Fierce Snake: The World’s Most Toxic Venom
If the ‘fierce snake’ doesn’t ring any bell, maybe the ‘death adder’ does. Still nothing? How about the inland taipan? The inland taipan is renowned for its highly toxic venomous cocktail capable of delivering a swift and agonizing death.
This species uses neurotoxic venom known to attack the central nervous system and disrupt the electrical signals reaching the muscles.
Once the diaphragm is affected, the victim becomes unable to expand its thoracic cage anymore, at which point breathing becomes impossible. Respiratory failure is the likeliest cause of death following the taipan bite.
You can survive the taipan bit with proper medical attention, which usually includes the administration of antivenom and intubation to prevent suffocation.
Despite that, you’re unlikely to survive a taipan bite for 2 reasons:
The snake’s reclusive habitat, far from human settlements, which will delay vital medical treatment significantly
The fast-acting venom, with symptoms appearing as fast as 45 minutes (this depends on the bite location and the victim’s age, health status, etc.)
It’s also worth noting that the taipan injects obscene amounts of venom and is capable of killing 100 humans with one bite. There’s some food for thought for you if you plan to visit Australia anytime soon.
7. The Boa Constrictor’s Incredible Jaw Strength
You already know the boa as a powerful constrictor snake, capable of killing and eating prey much larger than its head. But do you know to which mechanism the boa owes this capability?
This 13-foot and 100-pound constrictor has loose jaws that don’t attach to the upper jaw in a standard manner. Instead, the mandible hangs from the jaw via elastic ligaments, allowing for a much larger range of motion and rotation.
This permits the boa to ingest larger prey than most other predators. The jaw muscles are also extremely powerful and, when combined with sharp and curved teeth, can secure the prey for extended periods.
It’s also not the muscles’ strength only that matters but their resilience as well. The boa can maintain its bite’s full force even long after the prey has died.
This makes the boa a truly fascinating and scary predator.
8. The Hissing Night Adder of Africa
This is another fascinating animal, thanks to its lifestyle and behavior. The hissing night adder is a small snake, only measuring up to 2 feet, that inhabits the sub-Saharan grasslands.
The snake’s name comes from its overpowered vocalizations, thanks to the reptile’s unique tracheal anatomy.
The snake’s hissing sound is used to deter predators and communicate with other members of its species.
The snake’s presence can sound eerie during cold African nights, especially when you know that this is a venomous animal with a potent neurotoxic venom. Fortunately, hissing night adders are generally shy and prefer to avoid human interactions.
You better not test this theory, though.
9. The Long-Lived Ball Python
The ball python is clearly the most popular pet snake in the world today. Not because of its behavior; many other constrictor snakes have similar behaviors.
Not because of its color, demeanor, or appearance either; there are many other snake species that are friendlier, more handsome, and more colorful.
No, the ball snake owes its high popularity to its outstanding and pretty much unequaled lifespan. These snakes can actually live up to 50 years or more in captivity, a record unequaled by any other species.
The snake’s lifespan depends on numerous factors, such as quality of care, husbandry, diet, and genetic makeup.
10. The Horned Viper’s Unusual Burrowing Behavior
Horned vipers are relatively small (25 inches max) venomous snakes that inhabit desertic regions throughout the Middle East and North Africa.
Because of the high temperatures, it is subjected to, the horned viper has developed an extensive burrowing behavior that is now a staple for this species.
Horned vipers spend most of their days in personalized burrows, which they create with the help of their sharp and rugged snouts.
They won’t only rest and hide from the sun’s heat there but also use their burrows as camouflage points. Horned vipers use burrows to hide and hunt and only come out when they absolutely need to.
This underground-dwelling behavior makes interactions between horned vipers and humans unlikely.
But don’t count on that, and keep your eyes open when traversing the snake’s natural habitat. One bite can change your destination really fast.
11. The Heaviest Snake in the World: The Anaconda
There’s probably not a human soul on the face of the Earth that hasn’t heard of the infamous anaconda by now. This is the most recognizable snake in the world due to its ferocity, aquatic lifestyle, and mind-blowing size and power.
There are several anaconda species in the wild today, but it’s the green anaconda that you’re interested in.
This species is the closest you can get to the mythical dragons haunting your imagination ever since you were a kid.
A fully-grown anaconda can reach 30 feet in length and weigh up to 550 pounds. The snake’s weight matches that of 3 average people put together.
This body composition, paired with its strong muscles, allows the anaconda to hunt and kill pretty much anything. Including wildebeest, alligators, wild boars, antelopes, etc.
12. The Garter Snake’s Impressive Reproductive Abilities
Garter snakes are the most popular north American snakes that inhabit vast regions from Florida to Canada. These snakes are mildly venomous with a neurotoxic venom of moderate power.
They are not deadly to humans, but their bite will cause some discomfort. But this is not what’s memorable about this species. What’s memorable is its reproductive behavior.
Garter snakes reproduce via mating balls, comprising one female and multiple males. In some cases, there may be multiple females involved as well.
The mating balls occur in the spring after the snake’s hibernation period ends. These snakes hibernate together, so they will begin mating as soon as they wake up.
The female will emanate pheromones to attract the males, and many of them will answer the chemical call.
An interesting fact here is that some males also produce similar pheromones to attract other males and diverge their attention from the female(s). This can cause male-only balls, which are simply the result of shameless deception.
The male responsible for the useless mating ball will then make its escape and join the female-centered gathering. This proves that animals can sometimes be more intelligent and flexible than we give them credit for.
13. The King Cobra’s Intimidating Defense Mechanism
The king cobra ranks as the largest snake in the world, with powerful neurotoxic venom and a maximum size of up to 18 feet. This species also comes with 0.5-inch-long fangs that can inject deadly amounts of neurotoxic venom capable of killing a human in hours.
Fortunately, the king cobra has an extensive defensive mechanism that will deploy as often as possible. This is because cobras don’t want to bite since the venom is used in hunting, and, once spent, it takes time to refill.
The main defensive mechanism consists of 2 behaviors. One is the hissing, allowing the snake to make its presence noticed even if you can’t see it.
If that doesn’t work, the snake will raise its body and expand its trademark hood. The hood is formed out of the snake’s muscles and ribs and is meant to make the snake appear larger and more fearsome.
If you see the hood, know that the cobra is ready to attack.
14. The Egg-Eating Snake’s Remarkable Feats of Consumption
Egg-eating snakes are endemic to Africa and the Middle East and are generally known for their egg-eating behavior.
Not because they prefer eggs but because that’s all they eat. They won’t hunt rodents, birds, reptiles, or any other living animal, but they will hunt their eggs.
The snake’s anatomy is also quite telling of its feeding preferences. The snake has a long and slender body, specifically designed to fit tight spaces to access buried eggs.
The snake’s amazing sense of smell allows it to differentiate between old eggs with embryos inside (which they cannot digest) and fresh ones, which they prefer.
The snake’s body can expand significantly to accommodate the egg because this species often ingests the eggs whole. If that’s not possible, the reptile will use its special front tooth to pierce through the shell and suck the content.
Although, adult snakes also prefer to eat the shells for the calcium content.
15. The Adaptable Spotted Python of Australia
The spotted Australian python is a regular constrictor snake at first sight. But, as we know, first impressions are almost always wrong, and it’s the same with this one too.
The Australian python is remarkable thanks to its hunting adaptability. This snake specializes in hunting insectivorous bats.
These mammals live in caves and only come out during nighttime, which is perfect because the spotted python is also nocturnal. To catch the flying mammals, this arboreal constrictor hangs itself upside down in front of a cave’s entrance and waits.
The snake’s body, dangling in front of the cave, makes for a peculiar sight, but it’s all planned.
The python can catch bats flying in and out of the cave and eat them right then and there without even changing its body position. Such behavior only goes to show the incredible adaptability and ingenuity of snakes and animals in general.
If today’s list hasn’t at least piqued your interest in snakes, I don’t know what will.
These cold-blooded predators are unlike any other species on the planet and deserve their spot as some of the most fascinating slithering animals on Earth.