What a snake is

This is a snake. Snakes are reptiles with long bodies and no legs. Even without legs, snakes have several ways of moving, such as serpentine slithering and sidewinding.

drawing of snakes

Image above: A puff adder (left) and a black necked spitting cobra (right). Not to scale.

snake scales

Snakes have skin that is covered with scales. Snake scales are made out of something called keratin. Keratin also makes up our fingernails and hair, and rhinoceros horns. Snakes shed their skin as they grow and also to remove parasites.

Size of snakes

snake size

The smallest snake is a type of threadsnake that can fit in the palm of your hand. This snake grows not much bigger than 10 centimeters (3.9 inches) long. The longest snake in the world is a type of python. Reticulated pythons can grow up to 10 meters (33 feet) long. The heaviest snake in the world is the green anaconda. A large adult can weigh 100 kilograms (220 pounds) or more.

drawing of snakes

Image above: A black mamba (left) and a brown house snake (right). Not to scale.

snake babies

Where snakes live

where snakes live

Some snakes live on the ground (terrestrial snakes), some live underground (burrowing snakes), some live in the trees (arboreal snakes), and some live in the water (aquatic snakes).

sea snake

This is a sea snake – it lives in the ocean. Its body is flattened to help it swim.

What snakes need

snake thermoregulation

To survive, humans need food, water, air to breathe, and shelter. Like us, snakes need food – such as mice and rats – and they drink water. Snakes are ectothermic, which means that they need the sun to regulate their body temperature.

How snakes hunt

Different snakes eat different types of prey. Different snakes use different hunting methods.

snake fangs

VENOM: Some snakes use venom to kill their prey. These snakes have venom glands. Venom moves from the glands into their fangs.

Different species of snakes have their fangs in different positions. Some fangs are “foldable.”

Snakes shed their fangs every once in a while. Venom also helps snakes digest their food!

a constricting snake

CONSTRICTION: Some snakes use constriction – or squeezing – to kill or subdue their prey. Constricting snakes wrap themselves tightly around their prey. Constricting snakes generally don’t have venom.

snake eating egg

Some snakes eat eggs.

Why snakes are important

Snakes are not only beautiful and mysterious creatures, they are important parts of ecosystems. Snakes are predators that keep numbers of their prey under control. Snakes control rodent and insect numbers. Snakes are also prey to other animals. Snakes are an important food source for other snakes, for birds, and also for mammals like mongooses.

Activities about snakes

2 ways to draw a snake

This Snake Day post is brought to you in partnership with the Wild Nature Institute. With special thanks to Mirthe Aarts and Monica Bond. Illustrations by Megan Strauss.

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