Types of Snakes
One animal that can be found on every continent of the world is the snake. There are more than 3,000 species of snakes in the world, and though many of them have a bad reputation, snakes can be quite helpful.
Snakes come in all sizes and the world's smallest snake is the thread snake which grows to only about 3.9 inches long and looks like an earthworm. The largest snake is the reticulated python and can grow up to 30 feet in length. A snake thought to have lived over 60 million years ago was called the Titanoboa and was thought to grow up 50 feet long.
Snakes give birth in two different ways, either by laying eggs or through live births much like mammals. About 70% of snakes, called oviparous, lay their eggs and 30% give birth to live young. Snakes giving birth to live young usually live in climates that are too cold for eggs to develop and hatch. In addition, only one snake builds a nest for their eggs, the king cobra, but all others do not, even though many people think they do.
Snakes only eat meat and are carnivores. Some snakes help control the pest population by eating rodents. Many people believe all snakes kill their prey by biting it and then injecting it with poison. However, this is not always true because only cobras, vipers, and other related species are the only snakes that use venom to hunt.
All other snake species swallow their prey whole, and large snakes, such as the python, strangle their prey to death and then swallow it whole. Many snakes eat other animals that are 75 to 100 percent larger than their own size and have been known to eat animals such as crocodiles and cows. A snake's jaw will unhinge helping it fit the large prey into its mouth.
Once the prey is inside the snake's body, enzymes are released to break down the food into usable energy. Snakes do not need to eat as often as other animals because they have a slow metabolism rate such as the king cobra, which can live for months without food. At times, eating a live animal can be problematic for a snake, however, since some have been known to explode after eating the animal. Scientists do not understand why.
As stated earlier, snakes live everywhere in the world, and they are found in forests, deserts, swamps, and grasslands. Underground burrows or spaces under rocks are places a snake calls home. There are also some snakes, like the cottonmouth water moccasin in North America, live in water part of the time.
Snakes do not like the cold, because they are cold-blooded and cannot regulate their body temperature like warm-blooded animals. If it is cold outside, a snake will be cold, and their bodies cannot create heat to warm them. During the cold, many snakes will hibernate in underground tunnels or inside people's homes.
Snakes do not smell with their noses but have a forked or split tongue to smell and taste the chemical compositions in the air. Furthermore, they do not have eyelids or ears and their eyes do not move, but instead, to hear, they feel vibrations with their bodies through the ground. In addition, a snake sheds their skin a little at a time, with the entire skin being replaced almost three times each year in a process called molting. Finally, snakes are not slimy as many people believe, but their scales are smooth and dry, and some use the scales to help climb trees.
Other species of snakes include the black mamba, corn snake, garter snakes, rattlesnakes, and many other species. The rarest and most endangered snake in the world is the St. Lucia racer with only about 18 to 100 of them in existence.
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