Snake (animal) – Information, poisonous species and characteristics

We explain everything about snakes, their classification, habitat and other characteristics. Also, the most poisonous snakes.

About 3,500 different species of snakes are known.

What are snakes?

Snakes, snakes, vipers or snakes are a group of reptiles with a cylindrical body, elongated, scaly and devoid of legs, of which around 3,500 different species are known (from the clade Serpents), both in aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. Famous for the poisonous bite of some of them, they are among the most feared animals and that have most fascinated mankind since ancient times.

Snakes originated in the Cretaceous period, between 145 and 66 million years ago, from an ancestral reptile that is still unknown, but that at some point in its evolutionary history sacrificed its legs to better adapt to its environment.

However, not all reptiles devoid of limbs are snakes: the latter They are recognized by the lack of mobile eyelids and external auditory openings, as well as by their forked tongue that continually shake forward, to perceive their surroundings.

Snakes are among the animals most anciently known to humans, and have a presence in mythologies and imaginaries of various ancient cultures, either as a sacred animal and divine representative (such as the feathered serpent of the Mesoamerican peoples: Quetzalcóatl), or as evil and seditious creature (as in the Judeo-Christian tradition, in which he represents Satan and is accused of having tempted Eve to sin).

Although cultural interpretations of the snake can vary greatly, it is common to find it in almost all human religious and literary traditions.

See also: Land animals

Snake characteristics

snake characteristics eyes
Snakes do not have eyelids and they shed their skin several times in their lives.

In general, snakes are characterized by the following:

  • They have an elongated and cylindrical body, with scaly skin, whose thickness and length can vary enormously from one species to another, ranging from a few centimeters to several meters.
  • Since they lack legs, move through undulating body movements, which does not mean that they are slow or clumsy; many species are excellent and agile swimmers, while others are stealth hunters and good tree climbers.
  • Like all reptiles, They are poikilothermic animals, that is, cold-blooded, unable to regulate body temperature autonomously.
  • They have limited vision, focused on motion detection, and an almost non-existent sense of hearing, replaced by a keen sense of perception of ground vibrations, and a heightened sense of smell, centralized in the nose but aided by the tongue, which shoots out of the mouth to capture the particles in the air and lead them to the Jacobson’s organ, located in the front part of the palate, where they are captured and analyzed.
  • They do not have eyelids, but his eyes are covered by transparent scales. The entire skin sheds several times throughout life, when the animal needs to grow, and it is carried out in one piece, as if the snake were removing a stocking.
  • The snakes have complex teeth, adapted to their defense mechanisms, generally composed of sharp and curved teeth, to hold the prey, some of which have a channel to inject toxins, in species endowed with venom. Snakes do not chew, but swallow their prey whole and then go on a long digestion in complete immobility.

Snakes are a very diverse clade of animals, which can be classified as follows:

  • Boas and pythons, the most primitive snakes (some still have vestiges of legs) and the most voluminous, devoid of venom, which coiled around their prey and suffocated them by imprisoning them with their body (constriction).
  • Snakes, the vast majority harmless and of medium size, adapted to various habitats (aquatic, arboreal, terrestrial), where they act as predators of small animals. A few species are poisonous and can pose a danger to humans.
  • ElapidsLike cobras, corals and mambas, they are the most poisonous and dangerous snakes of all, endowed with small fangs that inoculate with each bite a dose of neurotoxins. Very different from each other, some have a threatening appearance or bright colors that denote their dangerousness.
  • Create them and vipers, very poisonous snakes that inject a hemolytic toxin with each bite, thanks to two large ribbed fangs that fold inside the mouth when it is closed. They have a recognizable wide triangular head.

Where do snakes live?

snake habitat where it lives
Snakes adapt to habitats as diverse as treetops and deserts.

The snakes have adapted to virtually all habitats, and can be found on all continents except Antarctica and circumpolar regions. There are species of aquatic life, tree life (especially in tropical forests), and even terrestrial species adapted to deserts.

What do snakes eat?

snake that eat food
Snakes ingest their prey without chewing.

The snakes they are exclusively carnivorous, since they are lethal hunters. Depending on the species, they can capture their prey and wrap their body around them, suffocating them with the force of their muscles, or they can bite them to inoculate their venom, which consists of specialized digestive enzymes that paralyze or kill their prey. , at the same time that they facilitate its subsequent digestion.

Depending on the habitat and the species, their diet may consist of insects, amphibians, fish, rodents, reptiles, birds, or mammals of good size, eaten whole and without chewing; the indigestible parts are then regurgitated. Many species also feed on eggs, or other species of snakes.

How do snakes reproduce?

Most snakes they are oviparous: they reproduce sexually and the fertilized female then lays a variable number of eggs, usually in a nest that she fiercely guards herself. Other species, however, have developed ovoviviparous mechanisms, that is, the egg is formed within the mother until it hatches, at which time the young are expelled from the mother’s body. Thus, no nests are needed.

How long do snakes live?

Given their enormous zoological variety, snakes have very different life expectancies, depending on the species. Larger ones live longer than small ones, which can mean a span between 10 and 40 years of life.

The most poisonous snakes in the world

venomous huffing snake
The snorting viper is the most dangerous snake in Africa.

The most poisonous species of snakes known are the following:

  • Snorting viper or blower (Bitis arietans). The most dangerous snake in Africa, given its wide distribution on the continent and its powerful venom, capable of causing local and systemic damage to the body, such as swelling, necrosis, vomiting, shock and finally death. They are about 1 meter long and their color ranges from brown to yellow.
  • Cape Tree Snake (Dispholidus typus). Known in Afrikaans as “boomslang”, Is a docile, shy sub-Saharan African snake that can measure between 1 and 1.50 meters long. Its bite is rare in humans, since its poisonous glands are far back in the mouth, which requires the person to be manipulating them in order to bite into a thinner area. Venom, however, is a powerful slow-acting hemotoxin that prevents clotting and, with just 5 mg, can cause the death of an adult.
  • Mapanare snake (Bothrops atrox). Native to the north and center of South America, it is a jungle snake present in Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, Brazil and regions of Peru and Ecuador. It is fearsome for its fast-acting hemotoxic venom, capable of causing kidney failure, coagulation problems, necrosis, and cardiovascular failure. With mostly nocturnal habits, it has a size that ranges between 75 and 125 cm, and a brown, olive, beige, gray or brown color, designed to blend in with the dry leaves of the forest.
  • Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake (Crotalus adamanteus). The longest rattlesnake in existence, capable of measuring up to 2.40 meters, and one of the most poisonous on the American continent, it has a yellowish-brownish-brown color, with the typical rattle at the end of its tail. Their bite is painful and their venom a strong hemotoxin, but generally they bite only to defend themselves or when cornered.
  • King Cobra (Ophiophagus hannah). The largest known poisonous snake, whose extension can reach 5 meters in length and whose diet consists almost exclusively of other snakes. Slender, olive or brown in color and with bronze eyes, it is an aggressive snake whose bite injects a large amount of neuro-cardio-toxic venom, which attacks the central nervous system, causing muscle paralysis, vertigo, acute pain, drowsiness and finally collapse. cardiac, sending the prey into immediate coma. Death occurs from respiratory failure.
  • Coral snake (Micrurus sp.). A set of various species of snakes called “coral”, with a presence throughout the American continent, recognizable by their ringed body with variable patterns of black, red and yellow. Although its venom is one of the most powerful known, the narrowness of the animal’s mouth and its little tendency to bite mean that not many cases of poisoning are registered, since the person must be handling the snake.