Happy World Snake Day! Why do snakes deserve a day of celebration? These beautiful animals are unfortunately still very misunderstood by many people. So today we bring you 10 reasons why we think snakes are amazing animals that deserve our protection.
1. They have a very big family
According to the latest count, there are 3,789 snake species, making them the second largest group of reptiles after lizards. They are divided into 30 different families and numerous subfamilies. Canada is home to approximately 35 of them, of which 26 are native. It is thought that with climate change, the number might increase because more snake species would be able to survive in a warmer climate.
2. You can find them across the globe
You can find snakes in all continents except Antarctica. There is even a snake species, the Common European viper, that lives north of the Arctic circle. You can also find snakes in any type of habitat from oceans, to mountains, from forests to savannas.
Photo by Alfonso Castro on Unsplash
3. Canada is home to the largest known snake gathering in the world
The province of Manitoba here in Canada is home to the largest gathering of snakes in the world. The red-sided garter snake hibernates in dens, to survive the cold Canadian winter. In the spring they come up from their sleeping places and gather in snake pits, where they mate. These gatherings can attract tens of thousands of garter snakes!
4. Not all snakes lay eggs
You might have learned in school that reptiles are different from mammals because they lay eggs. While we like to classify and categorize everything around us, nature has its own rules. While approximately 70% of snakes lay eggs, others don’t. Snakes living in especially colder climates have live births because the eggs wouldn’t survive outside.
Ever wondered why snakes might give you an eerie feeling? They don’t have eyelids! This means they don’t blink and have to sleep with their eyes wide open. Instead of eyelids they have a thin membrane attached to each eye to protect them. The membrane is called the ‘brille,’ which in German means glasses.
6. They smell with their tongues
Snakes do have nostrils, but they don’t use them to smell. Instead they have evolved to smell with their tongue and by using their Jacobson’s organ in the roof of their mouth. Their smell is quite excellent and has also been described as “smelling in stereo”. They have a forked tongue and multiple receptors able to pick up different amounts of chemical cues.
7. Their table manners are different than ours
When snakes are eating, they can’t help but to swallow their food whole because they can’t chew. Instead, snakes have very flexible lower jaws which allows them to eat animals who are 75% - 100% larger than their own head. The chemicals in their digestive track will do all the work and break down the food once ingested.
8. We’re made from the same stuff
While snakes are very different from us, we also have things in common. One of the most notable similarities is that their skin is made out of keratin, just like our own fingernails and hair. The skin feels actually very similar to our own fingernails. But where we clip our nails or cut our hair, snakes shed their skin, often in one piece.
Photo by Marius Masalar on Unsplash
9. Snakes have 5 forms of locomotion
Imagine a snake moving through the grass. What do you picture? The well-known s-movement? This wouldn’t be surprising, because this is the most common form of locomotion in snakes, also known as lateral undulation. But snakes have four other types of movement. Arboreal snakes, for example, use a form of locomotion which uses seven times more energy, called concertina. There is even a special locomotion used for when a snake tries to escape on a smooth surface, known as slide pushing.
10. They are “solar-powered” and rely fully on external heat and light sources
Reptiles sometimes get labelled ‘cold-blooded’ but this is incorrect as their blood isn’t actually cold. The accurate term is ectothermic, meaning their body temperature is variable and regulated by external sources. Unlike mammals and birds that are able to internally regulate their body temperature, reptiles need to use sources of heat, like the sun, to warm up.
Test your knowledge!
Take our snake quiz to find out just how much you know about snakes.