Snakes Wouter van Erp en Mark Vloet

Snakes are a group of reptiles, related to lizards. They belong to the order of the squamata. That are reptiles with scales. All sorts are marked with a relatively very long and thin body and the lack of limbs. Snakes are clear to distinguish with all other animals and most of the other reptiles like crocodiles, turtles and tuataras. With some sorts of lizards is the difference not so clear.

There are approximately 3150 different sorts of snakes, of those are 15% poisonous. Typical characteristics are the lack of movable eyelids and the adapted paired organs like the longs and reins.

Spread and habitat

Snakes have spread themselves over the entire world, with the exception of some isolated areas. This are mostly islands like Ireland, Iceland and a few islands in the Pacific Ocean. There are also no snakes at the most southern point of South-Africa, on Antarctica on the most northern side of Europe, Asia and North-America, close to the Arctic.

Snakes live on the black and blue parts

Snakes have adapted themselves to the most differing surroundings. There are sorts that live underground, on the ground, in trees and even in the water, both fresh water or the sea. Sea snakes live in the Pacific Ocean and in the Indian Ocean. Sea snakes are only arise and spread after that the crest between North-America and South-America 3 million years ago arose.

Not only the sea snakes, but almost all snakes can swim and climb perfectly. Most of the snakes live in vegetated areas, like forests, but also in more open areas, like mountains areas and steppes. In tropical forests live more arboreal snakes, that rest at day and hunt at night. In bald areas, like deserts, live snakes in the ground. They burrow themselves often.

In Europa live 38 sorts of snakes, from whose are 1 boa and 1 long worm. The smooth snakes are represented the largest, with 24 sorts that are not poisonous. There live also 12 vipers, the only poisonous snakes that live in Europa. These live mostly in the south.


The most important sense of snakes is their olfactory sense. Snakes breath through their nostrils, but they don’t smell with their nose. Snakes attach odor particles to their tongue, which is moist, so that the particles stick on their tongue. The snake ‘wags’ with the tongue to catch more odor particles. After that, the snake pulls his tongue back into his mouth, along a with strong perfused tissue filled cavity in the palate swept. This cavity is called the organ of Jacobson. The organ of Jacobson analyses the odor particles, so that the snake can determine whether there is a prey or an enemy nearby.

To orientate in their surrounding, snakes use the tactile sense, by means of impaired sensory dots on their scales. Smooth snakes mostly have these dots on their head, digging snakes have them also on their tail.

Snakes can’t see very well. They have mainly, in contrast to mammals, no iris muscle and no retractor muscle of their eyeballs. Snakes can generally see a few meters and they can’t distinguish static objects, only moving objects. Visual observation mostly gets used to identify other snakes and threats and not to search for prey. There are some exceptions that hunt at night. Sorts that dig mostly are sometimes almost blind, but sorts that live in trees have generally a better sight. Only some snakes can direct both eyes at the same object.


The skin of snakes is covered by scales and sometimes the skin looks a little bit slimy. But the skin of snakes is dry and water-repellent. Snakes can`t sweat through their skin. The scales are not connected to each other but lay on a elastic skin so the skin can expand by moving, breathing and eating.

Most snakes have a discrete colorized skin which looks like the ground, but there are snakes that don’t have a discrete skin, they have a brightly colored skin so their enemies know that they have to pay attention. There are kinds of snakes that are brightly colored, but are not dangerous. This is called mimicry. Most of the snakes that are green or brown become black if they are in the mountains because they have to take more heat. A snake moves always forward over his abdomen, this is the main reason why the scales abrade. Because the scales are keratinized and can’t grow, the snake needs to moult. If a snake moults the skin the skin gets shed at once. Young snakes moult earlier than older snakes because they grow faster.


All snakes are carnivorous, so they live from eating living animals. Most snakes are small and stay small, so they eat small animals like birds and other small animals. Larger preys getting poisoned or choked, before they getting ate. But there are also very small snakes that eat only insects, those snakes are insectivorous. Larger snakes eat rodents. Most of the time they have teeth and defend themselves with their teeth. The most snakes that are hunting this kind of preys are toxic, they bite their prey and wait until it dies.

A fun fact about snakes is that they change from food preferences during their entire life.

Some snake are specialised in what they are hunting, this means that they are hunting things that they can easily kill.


Snakes have many enemies like other snakes, birds, crocodiles, mammals and even some kinds of fish. Some snakes die because they ate toxic frogs. The king snake is specially hunting other snakes. The birds that are eating snakes are most of the time raptors. The most dangerous enemies of snakes are humans, many snakes are getting killed by us.


Most snakes will try to avoid a fight. Larger snakes are fast and will run away, smaller snakes will trust their camouflage. Some sorts will be fake that they are dead. Some smaller snakes haven’t got any kind of defence, they are completely defenceless, but most snakes have a very effective defence. The main defense consists bluff, flee and threatening.

Most of the snakes will sizzle before it will bite. If a toxic snake bites it can injects poison to his enemy, this can paralyze the enemy or it can hurt it and even kill it. Before a snake bites it will try to avoid the confrontation. Just the most dangerous snakes are the best warners, they have the most advanced manners to warn enemies. The most snakes will show a threatening attitude whereby they raise themselves and make sibilance impress to avoid a direct confrontation.


Created with images by Hans - "grass snake snake head game" • The Bode - "cobra nero" • Hans - "basilisk rattlesnake rattlesnake snake" • Kapa65 - "snake green mamba toxic" • born1945 - "Young Snake" • GA-Kayaker - "Midland Watersnake" • vastateparksstaff - "Eastern Rat Snake Slithering Down a Tree" • hello alisa - "bye steppe 12" • DWRose - "Napoleonic Complex" • sandid - "carpet python dead snake" • Josch13 - "skinned snake skin scale" • skeeze - "burmese python snake ground" • gfairchild - "IMG_2854" • Rene Mensen - "Don't come closer" • WikiImages - "osprey adler bird of prey" • Pixel-mixer - "crocodile philippines crocodile river" • LimeSpiked - "Camouflage" • antriksh - "king cobra cobra snake"

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