Snakes are the most peculiar of animals. They are fascinating in the way evolution has designed their bodies - making them unique, interesting and feared. They are part of our folklore, our modern myths, our cinemas, our art and even occupy an important place in many religions. Scientifically, they are an enigma; the way they move, hunt, defend, sense and reproduce has intrigued scientists for centuries.
Evolution of Snakes:
The long-lived ancestors of Snakes are hard to pin-point because there is very little fossil evidence. Theories range from Mosasaurs to the Lizards in the pre-Jurassic period. The Lizard theory holds more weight in science currently, with scientists speculating an unfound Lizard ancestor that branched into modern day Lizards and Snakes. One thing that separates Snakes from Lizards are its missing legs. So, if Snakes evolved from Lizards how did it lose its limbs?
Snakes evolved to lose their legs as a result of __________
Snakes are believed to have evolved from burrowing Lizards - which through time and evolution shed its legs to better crawl the narrow tunnels and holes underground - in search of food and shelter. There are a number of Lizards that function without legs and they often look a lot like a Snake. Instead of living their lives underneath the earth, Snakes later would also go on to conquer the surface, the sea and even the sky. Yes, there are flying Snakes. But, how can we be really sure about their burrowing days?
One proof that Snakes once had legs is through the vestigial legs that are found in pythons and boas. The eyes also hold some secret of the past; Snakes have transparent immovable eyelids - which means they can't blink but it's better protection from sand and sharp rocks. They also have no visible ears - to prevent all that sand getting in. But, they are not deaf. The hearing mechanisms are now tied to their jaws which can sense vibrations in the air and ground.
Now for a trivia- the largest Snake known to man lived 60 million years ago. It was twice as long as the Anaconda and weighed four times as much.
It is called _____________
Now that we have learnt a bit of history, let's understand Snakes a little better.
Are Snakes cold-blooded?
Snakes like its many reptile cousins are known to be cold-blooded animals.
It means that their bodies _______________
Cold blooded animals cannot control their internal body temperature - if it is hot outside their body temperature increases, if it is cold their body temperature drops. In a human body for example - the food and water we consume helps us maintain a stable temperature; when we feel cold we burn calories to keep warm, when it is hot we sweat to keep cool. The mechanisms can be more complex in other mammals, which have developed evolutionary features like fur, large ears, panting, hibernation etc to maintain a stable body temperature. Image - Snake Basking (credit - K. Sander)
For reptiles like Snakes, when it gets cold their metabolism goes down. They raise their body temperature by basking in the sun which speeds up their metabolism. When it gets too hot they avoid the sun altogether by borrowing or finding shade. So, Snakes could have tough time surviving in cold regions. There are no Snakes in Antarctica.
There are also no Snakes found in one of these countries ____________
Image: Distribution of Snakes around the world
Yep, there are no snakes in New Zealand, Ireland, Iceland and Cape Verde.
Types of Snakes:
There are many different types of Snakes. One easy way to classify them is based on whether they have venom. Boas, Rat Snakes, Pythons and Anacondas don't have venom; while Cobras, RattleSnakes, Mambas and Vipers do.
What percentage of Snakes are venomous ___________?
Approximately 25 percent of the Snake species are venomous while 15 percent are considered dangerous to humans. That makes around 700 species that are venomous and around 450 species that can harm human. Still, around 50,000 people die as a result of Snake bites every year. Most deaths are because of four Snakes - The King Cobra, Common Krait, Russell's Viper and Saw Scaled Viper.
The most venomous Snake is the _______________________
Inland Taipan - which not shockingly is found in Australia, is the most venomous Snake in the world. A drop of venom from the Inland Taipan can kill close to a 100 people.
But, not all Snake bites from venomous Snakes are fatal. Some Snakes dry bite - meaning they don't inject any venom when they bite. Sea Snakes dry bite 80 percent of the time, Taipans only 20 percent of the time and Black Mambas almost never. Snake fact : Black Mambas are also the fastest Snake in the world (11 km/hr).
Do all Snakes lay eggs?
Around 30 percent of Snake Species do not lay eggs. Boas, Pythons and RattleSnakes for example give live birth after the babies develop inside the eggs within the body of the mother. Some Snakes incubate and look after the eggs till they hatch. African Rock Python looks after its young for up to four months after hatching.
What's the world's longest Snake?
On average, Reticulated Pythons are said to be the longest Snakes in the world, ranging from the sizes of 15 feet to 33 feet. The longest recorded Anaconda measured 18 feet, though there is an unverified claim of it reaching 28 feet. Anacondas however, are the largest Snakes on the planet.
The smallest Snake on the planet is?
The smallest Snake in the world, the Barbados ThreadSnake measures around 10 cm. They are found only in the Caribbean island of Barbados. They feed on tiny insects like termites and ants.
All Images from Wikipedia Commons
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