Snakes are unique animals with mind-blowing anatomy and physiological functioning. Today, we will discuss the 10 most notorious snake species that give birth to live young compared to producing eggs like oviparous species.
A small but important disclaimer here: viviparous snakes (which we’ll discuss today) are not viviparous in the true sense of the word.
Viviparous animals are those that produce live young directly. Mammals are generally described this way, although there are some exceptions.
Snakes, though, while also qualifying as viviparous, don’t really fit that description because even viviparous snakes still reproduce via eggs. The difference is just that the eggs hatch inside the snake’s body rather than outside.
So, from an observer’s perspective, the snake gives birth to live young, which is practically correct; technically, not so much.
With that out of the way, let’s jump into the meat of it!
Boas are some of the largest constrictors in the world. These snakes are native to Central and South America and occupy a variety of habitats, including rainforests, savannas, swamps, grass fields, etc. They typically go where their prey goes.
The snake usually comes with darker colors, perfect for camouflaging the animal among the foliage and vegetation. Most boas have random body patterns, usually rhomboid-shaped, for an even higher degree of camouflage.
You can tell that this is a constrictor predator by the powerful jaw muscles and long and thick body.
The typical boa can grow up to 13 feet and weigh in excess of 100 pounds, parameters that allow the boa to hunt extremely large and heavy prey. In terms of behavior, boas spend their time in burrows or trees, always on the lookout for hunting opportunities.
They are large and strong snakes capable of constricting to death animals like boars, large reptiles, antelopes, capibaras, and whatever they can catch.
Boas produce live young and are quite proficient in terms of reproductive capabilities. A female can deliver up to 100 eggs, which hatch internally, throughout a single reproductive season.
Interesting fact – Boas can go for months without food by slowing down their metabolism. This is a must-have ability in an ecosystem where prey is difficult to come by and secure.
Anacondas are most definitely one of the most iconic snakes in the world, alongside the King cobra, the Burmese python, and the infamous taipan.
These animals qualify as semi-aquatic reptiles due to their predilection for living and hunting in swamps and marshes. These snakes are excellent swimmers and can eat anything, including carrion, in times of need.
Their preferred prey comes in the form of mammals arriving ear the water to hydrate themselves, unaware of the predator lurking beneath the surface.
Anacondas can reach over 20 feet in length, making them the largest snakes in the world and the top predators in their ecosystem.
The typical anaconda has a slippery and dark body with rhomboid patterns. These snakes exhibit low color patterns due to the environment they live in. The darker coloring allows them to blend in their ecosystem with ease and render themselves invisible to prey and predators alike.
The last part is almost unnecessary, given that adult anacondas don’t have natural predators aside from humans.
Anacondas are viviparous, but the most accurate terminology would be ovoviviparous. They produce eggs, but these hatch internally, allowing the hatchling to come out ready to eat.
A gravid female can produce between 12 and 80 offspring in one season, each measuring approximately 2 feet.
The number of offspring may seem excessive, given the size and strength these snakes can reach, but Mother Nature knows how to maintain the balance. Only a small percentage of each batch can reach maturity due to the small snakes’ vulnerability to predation.
Interesting fact – Anacondas are known to resort to communal mating, creating the so-called mating balls. These consist of several males and one female, creating one massive reproductive gathering. These snakes are known to exhibit increased aggression during this time.
3. Garter Snakes
Garter snakes are popular North American reptiles that are famous for their distinctive appearance and habitat diversity.
These snakes can only grow up to 1.5-3 feet, depending on the species, so they’re relatively small. At least compared to the other 2 monsters that we’ve already mentioned.
These snakes inhabit a variety of habitats and ecosystems, including forests, desertic lands, wetlands, and even human habitats. They can also swim quite well, which they prefer to do to cool off and evade predators.
But typically, they prefer to climb and use vegetation for cover when hunting or seeking protection.
These snakes have a very varied diet, consuming birds, reptiles, mammals, fish, and even eggs if given the opportunity.
Interesting fact – Garter snakes are neither venomous nor constrictors, which may sound paradoxical if you thought these are the only 2 options. Garter snakes belong to the third option: biters. In other words, they rely on their bite force to immobilize and swallow their prey.
The biting force is generally enough to kill the prey thanks to the neck and head muscles that work together to boost the bite’s psi.
Rinkhals are more commonly known as ring-necked spitting cobras and inhabit much of sub-Saharan Africa. These snakes are venomous and prefer to live in desertic regions, savannas, and forests, where they use foliage to close the distance to the prey unseen.
Rinkhals are usually dark, either dark brown or completely black, usually with a white ring around the neck. While these reptiles are generally shy, they’re not afraid to retaliate when cornered.
Their venom is a mix of cytotoxic and neurotoxic chemicals that causes localized pain, tissue necrosis, and paralysis.
Interesting fact – Rinkhals are among the few snakes that can spit their venom when threatened. Even more impressive is their ability to always aim and hit the eyes, no matter the type of attacker they’re facing. The venom’s cytotoxic effects can produce significant local pain and even lead to blindness.
In terms of general aggression, you must not take this one lightly. While the Rinkhal prefers to avoid humans, it doesn’t shy away from a confrontation.
These snakes are responsible for a high number of snake bites in Africa and are capable of biting multiple times in fast succession.
Rattlesnakes are iconic lizards thanks to their looks and trademark tail rings. These snakes can achieve fairly impressive lengths of up to 6 or even 8 feet in some cases.
They inhabit North and South American habitats like forests, grasslands, deserts, and every other setting with sufficient vegetation and hiding opportunities.
This species is highly recognizable thanks to the earthy coloring, rhomboid-shaped pattern, triangle-shaped head, and the sound they produce when threatened. Their tail ringing can become deafening, so it’s almost impossible to miss, even from a respectable distance.
If the warning sound doesn’t work, rattlesnakes won’t hesitate to strike, and that’s not the situation you’re looking for.
Rattlesnakes are opportunistic predators, as they rely on camouflage and their envenomed bite to bring down their prey. They won’t refuse any meal, provided it’s of the right size for them to swallow whole.
Interestingly, rattlesnakes are considered more beneficial to their ecosystem thanks to their predilection for eating notorious pests like rats, lizards, and other rodents.
Interesting fact – The venom is a mix of hemotoxic and neurotoxic chemicals and proteins that cause a variety of symptoms, including kidney damage.
The venom attacks the nervous system, can cause hemorrhage, and cause organ failure, leading to rapid death. The snake’s bite requires immediate medical assistance to prevent complications and death.
Laticauda snakes are commonly known as sea kraits and are widespread in the Indo-Pacific ecosystems. These are semi-aquatic venomous snakes that qualify among the few snakes capable of hunting in the ocean.
The sea krait is actually a handsome reptile that comes in a multitude of colors and with an obligatory banded pattern.
Most specimens come with blue and black or white and black, but some variations can also include yellow and orange. The snake is rather small, only growing up to 30-50 inches, depending on the specimen and environmental conditions. However, the snake makes up for its small size and venom potency, and agility.
These snakes can swim fast and are extremely agile, capable of evading predators with relative ease.
Their favorite meals include crustaceans, fish, and eels, but they can consume anything that moves and can be swallowed.
Interesting fact – Sea kraits have adapted to their aquatic habitat extremely well. Unlike how most other snakes swim, the Lauticada uses its tail as a paddle to produce extra thrust through the water.
7. Water Snakes
Water snakes are a diverse group of semi-aquatic reptiles of different sizes, colors, patterns, and behaviors.
These snakes can be found in most ecosystems of the world, wherever there’s water, as they can inhabit a multitude of habitats, including rivers, oceans, lakes, various streams, etc.
From an appearance standpoint, there’s no single feature or even a set of features that would apply to all species. Some are thick and long with dull coloring like brown and black, while others are small and thin with more vividly-colored patterns.
Water snakes live and hunt in the water, so they prefer prey like frogs, crayfish, fish, other snakes, and anything else they can find.
Because they are aquatic and can swim with incredible agility, they rely on their swimming speed to catch their prey rather than ambush.
Interestingly, these snakes can also climb when necessary, so it’s common to find them resting on a floating log to bask in the sunlight.
Interesting fact – Some species of water snakes rank as mimics due to their similarity to other venomous species. This improves the snakes’ survival rate, as predators avoid them out of fear that they can be venomous.
These are by far some of the most recognizable and feared snakes in the world. Vipers are extremely aggressive, and deadly, and come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors.
These animals are present throughout the world and occupy a variety of habitats, including deserts, mountainous areas, forests, grasslands, etc.
They are perfectly adapted to their respective ecosystems and rely on camouflage and surprise attacks to take down their prey.
Their hemotoxic bite also helps tremendously in this sense. Vipers hunt everything they can swallow whole, including birds, amphibians, mammals, reptiles, etc. These snakes have the longest fangs in the world, growing up to 2 inches and dripping with venom.
The snakes themselves are relatively short, but that depends on their species and native ecosystem. Some species, like the Namaqua dwarf viper, only grows up to 10 inches, while bushmaster inhabiting the Amazonian basin can reach 10 feet.
Interesting facts – Vipers give birth to live hatchlings, which are ready to hunt and defend themselves the moment they are born. But this isn’t the most interesting fact.
That would actually be the fact that hatchlings are often more dangerous than adults. This is due to their extreme aggression, more potent venom, and the ability to inject far more venom than the adults.
Adult vipers usually keep their venom for their prey, but hatchlings don’t yet know how to control the amount of venom to inject.
9. White-lipped Snake (Drysdalia Coronoides)
White-lipped snakes are common on several continents, including Africa, Australia, and Asia, and inhabit a variety of habitats. These include forests, grasslands, deserts, and any other ecosystem that provides them with hunting opportunities.
The white-lipped snake gets its name from the white band (often with black stripes) decorating its upper and sometimes lower lip.
These snakes are typically black or brown, with little color variation, primarily because they don’t need it. They mostly hunt in desertic ecosystems, so their coloring matches that of the surrounding habitat.
White-lipped snakes are notorious for their agility and speed, as well as for their unhinged aggression. Unlike other snake species that prefer to flee when threatened, this snake holds its ground and bites first and asks questions later.
Interesting fact – White-lipped snakes are part of a group of several species with astounding adaptability and resilience.
Some white-lipped snakes can swim and prefer to hunt in a semi-aquatic ecosystem. They can also adapt to different environments, depending on the available food and local resources.
10. Death Adder (Acanthopis Antarcticus)
If the name of Acanthopis doesn’t ring a bell, then maybe the death adder does. This elapid snake is among the most peculiar on today’s list in terms of appearance, at least.
The snake is relatively small, only reaching up to 3-3.5 feet at most, and comes with a very thick body and a massive head. The snake’s face looks more like that of an amphibian due to the flat forehead and elevated nose.
Make no mistake, though, this funny-looking snake is among the deadliest in the world, which is what earned it the name of the death adder.
This snake is native to Australia and several of the nearby islands (no, it’s not found in Antarctica), where it hunts a variety of animals, including mammals, birds, reptiles, and other snakes as well.
The typical ecosystem for death adders is desertic, with high temperatures and a rocky layout, but they can also be found in forests and areas with plenty of vegetation.
Death adders are viviparous because Mother Nature forced them to become that way. This reproductive behavior provides them with an evolutionary advantage due to the rough ecosystem they live in.
Oviparous snakes have difficulties protecting their eggs in desertic regions with scorching temperatures, but the death adder doesn’t have this problem. The female keeps the eggs inside its body until they hatch so that the resulting young have a better chance at survival.
Interesting fact – If you’ve ever wondered about the death adder’s very long and seemingly unnecessarily thin tail, here’s the explanation: it’s a trap. The tail is the adder’s most useful hunting tool.
Put simply, the death adder flattens its body on the ground when sensing prey nearby and raises and wiggles its tail gently. The slow motion mimics that of a worm, which attracts the animal’s attention.
They cannot spot the adder because of the snake’s low profile and camouflaging coloring, so they go straight for the worm. And get a neurotoxic bite as a reward.
Snakes are predominantly oviparous, as they produce eggs and lay them in protected areas to secure them against predators. Some snakes even protect them actively during the incubation period.
Ovoviviparous snakes, or viviparous as they’re wrongly named, still produce eggs, but they don’t lay them anywhere. Instead, they give birth to the live young directly after they hatch.
Hopefully, today’s article has shed some light on this issue to clear things up.