Snake Facts

25 Surprising & Slippery Snake Facts

Many generalize snakes as dangerous creatures, but there’s so much to them. Snakes are unique with their slithering limbless bodies and fascinating sizes and shapes. More than 300 different snake varieties exist worldwide. One of the snake facts you might not know is that they also possess impressive intelligence. We can find snakes pretty much everywhere, in oceans, forests, and mountains, except Antarctica. 

The biggest snake recorded is one of the reticulated pythons at a size of more than 25ft. And they are growing in popularity as pets, with an estimated 500,000 Americans owning a snake. This article presents 25 snake facts. 

Keep reading to learn more about snakes with these facts, and for more about what people have to say about our long slithery friends, you might also like our snake quotes

25 Interesting snake facts

Green Snake on a Tree
Photo by David Clode on Unsplash

1. There are over 3000 snake species

Snakes are long, limbless reptiles that belong to the suborder Serpentes. There are over 3000 species of snakes in the world. A high number of snake species accounts for the presence of snakes in every part of the world except the North Pole and Antarctica13. Snakes are incredibly adaptable. Whereas most snakes live on land, they can survive almost everywhere in the world. In addition to the common notion of snakes in bushes and sliding along jungle floors or desert landscapes, you will also find them in marine and underground environments. 

The primary families of the species of snakes are boas, anacondas, viperids, elapids, cobras, colubrids, and Leptotyphlopidae. In these families, we have king cobra, boomslang, copperhead, rattlesnakes, anthill python, garter snakes, inland taipan, Asian rat snake, Baird's rat snake, and a lot more. 

2. Flying snakes exist

One of the most interesting snake facts is the existence of flying snakes. How can snakes possibly fly?  We will get into that in a bit. 

There are five species of flying snakes; the golden tree snake, paradise tree snake, twin-barred tree snake, Moluccan flying snake, and Sri Lankan flying snake. You can find them in areas ranging from western India to Indonesia. These species of snakes fly by gliding from one spot to another. 

Flying snakes use aerial undulation9, a combination of horizontal and vertical waves. They flatten their body and move like they are swimming through the air. Without these undulating movements, flying snakes would drop to the ground in mid-air. Flying snakes are venomous snakes; however, their venoms only affect small prey.  

3. Snakes can smell with their tongues

Snake tongue
Photo by David Clode on Unsplash

Snakes have the habit of flicking their forked tongues. Suppose you have been wondering why; there is a fascinating reason for it. Snakes have noses primarily for breathing and use their forked tongues to smell. When you examine the oral cavity of a snake’s mouth, you will find two bulb-shaped organs above its palate, which scientists call the vomeronasal organs. 

Vomeronasal organs exist in most mammals and other land animals. However, humans lack these organs. The vomeronasal organs are similar to the nose and have the same sensory cells that send impulses to the same part of the brain. A snake flicks its forked tongue out and picks up particles. Then, the forked tongue touches the vomeronasal organ and transfers the molecules to the part of the brain that analyses odor. Interestingly, each forked tongue tip can process two different smells simultaneously11.

4. Australia has the most species of venomous snakes  

Out of the 3000 snake species, about 10% to 15% are venomous12, amounting to 600 venomous snake species in the world. Of all the continents, Australia has the most venomous snakes.  

There are 25 snakes ranked as the most deadly worldwide, and Australia has 21. Some of the dangerous snakes in Australia are the eastern and western brown snake, mainland tiger, inland taipan, coastal taipan, mulga, common copperhead, small-eyed snake, and red-bellied black snake.  

5. Snakes shed their skin 3-6 times a year

Dead snake skin
Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash

As snakes grow and mature, their skin doesn’t extend to accommodate their new size and length. Hence, snakeskin shedding occurs. A scaly skin protects a snake’s body and helps them move around. Snakes shed their skins regularly as they experience a growth spurt as a normal part of their growth process. 

Most snakes shed up to 6 times a year, and it is not uncommon to find discarded snake skin around places they populate after shedding is complete. Also, you can learn about the species of a snake from the skin it leaves behind.   

6. The world’s fastest snake is the black mamba 

Black mamba
A black mamba on a tree in Botswana's Okavango Delta. (iStock)

The world’s fastest snake is also a venomous snake known as the black mamba. The black mamba snake moves at the speed of 5 meters per second1. In addition, it moves in an s shape, also known as lateral undulation. The black mamba is endemic to the dry bushlands of eastern Africa and grows to a maximum length of 4 meters.

Furthermore, the black mamba has the fastest strike out of most snakes; no other snake can attack as fast as a black mamba. The black mamba is fast, agile, and highly venomous. 

7. Some snakes eat only 6-30 meals a year

Next on our list of interesting snake facts is the rate at which snakes eat. Younger snakes need to eat frequently. So they can eat two to three times a week. However, adult snakes don’t eat often. An adult snake eats once a week or biweekly. Some species of snake can survive months without eating. 

Snakes are meat eaters. They eat animals of various sizes based on their weight, size, and age. Snakes that are underweight eat heavy meals often. 

8. Snake eyes can't tell if it's venomous or not 

There's a common misconception about snake eyes. Some believe you can identify venomous snakes by their slit pupils and non-venomous snakes by their round pupils. We are debunking this myth because it doesn't apply in all circumstances. Not all venomous snakes have pits and slit pupils, and on the contrary, a lot of non-venomous snakes have slit pupils and cavities. 

Instead, the shape of a snake's eyes depends on its active hours. For example, a snake active during the day has a round pupil, while a nocturnal snake has a split pupil7. Also, you can’t tell the shape of a snake’s eye in the dark because slit pupils often look round in low light.

9. Denim provides adequate protection against snake venom 

The difference between venomous and non-venomous snakes is how they kill their prey. Venomous snakes inject venom from their fangs into their game, and non-venomous species kill their prey by constricting and swallowing them. For instance, pythons kill their prey by wrapping themselves around their prey, which subsequently dies due to asphyxiation before it is consumed. 

Denim can protect us from the bites of a venomous snake if it is thick enough. According to research carried out on rattlesnakes, they injected more venom into bare gloves than they did into denim-covered gloves. In addition, studies showed that denim interrupted the venom delivery of both big and small venomous snakes3.

It is definitely not a bad plan to wear thick denim pants and jackets whenever you are hiking or in areas that are endemic to venomous snakes to increase your chances of surviving a snake bite. 

10. Snakes explode when they eat more than they can handle 

Some snakes hunt large animals like antelopes, cows, alligators, and goats. Sometimes, a snake can eat a lot more than its stomach can handle, and the snake itself can burst open due to the lack of space in its belly. For instance, a giant python exploded after it swallowed the carcass of a 6ft alligator in Florida.

Snakes can also explode because of putrefaction. Putrefaction occurs when the animal swallowed by a snake starts to decay. During the decay process, bacteria present will cause the decaying body to swell. As a result, it will explode with no space left in the snake's belly to accommodate the swelling.

Furthermore, the horns of large animals can puncture a snake's stomach and lead it to death. Snakes swallow almost every animal, somewhat unselectively, which can lead to their demise. 

11. Only 70% of snakes lay eggs

The majority of all snake species lay eggs during reproduction. However, other snakes experience live-bearing childbirth. It means they give birth to their young like humans- instead of laying eggs. These types of snakes are viviparous snakes8, while snakes that lay eggs are ovoviviparous serpents. 

Some snakes that give birth to live young are boas, pit vipers, standard garter, green anacondas, and sea snakes.

12. The coral snake is the only venomous snake that lays eggs

Coral snakes are venomous snakes that lay eggs. Most venomous snakes are ovoviviparous, meaning they give birth to live offspring. The mating season occurs during spring and early summer. Coral snakes can lay up to 7 eggs per clutch after mating season, depending on their species. 

Coral snake eggs need 60 days of incubation. The male coral snake experiences testicular recrudescence and testicular regression over the year6.

13. Snakes can eat themselves because of stress 

Next on our list of snake facts is the possible reasons snakes eat themselves. It is not common to see a snake eat itself, but it does happen. Scientists are not sure why snakes eat themselves, but there is a range of theories. 

These theories include that snakes can eat themselves due to stress, illness, constrictive habitat, hunger, and body temperature regulation issues. 

Snakes are cold-blooded animals, meaning they cannot regulate their body temperature. They need a cold place to cool their body heat and a hot area to raise their body heat. You see snakes basking in the sun to warm up. However, snakes can get too hot at times. Another theory suggests they get confused and disorientated, unable to differentiate between their tail and their prey. So they end up biting themselves in a frenzy. 

Also, snakes experience stress because of excessive light, small habitats, inconsistent feeding habits, and excessive noise. As a result, snakes instinctively react rather than proactive behavior; they tend to chew on their tails during extreme stress.  

14. The world’s longest snake is the reticulated python

Reticulated Python
Reticulated Python. Photo Credit Owner: Thai National Parks (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The reticulated python is the longest snake and one of the three heaviest snakes in the world. It has a length of 4ft to 21ft and weighs up to 75kg.

It is endemic to South and Southeast Asia, where we can find this snake species in the Nicobar Islands, India, Bangladesh, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia. Also, they inhibit Indonesia, the Indo-Australian Archipelago, and the Philippines. 

Generally, the reticulated python prefers to live in rainforests, woodlands, and grasslands. Its colors are an intricate diamond pattern with minor markings. Also, the python is dangerous because it preys on humans, with various reports of human deaths caused by the reticulated python4.

15. Snakes brumate and do not hibernate

Hibernation is a familiar concept in the animal kingdom. As we all know, hibernation is a state of deep sleep that allows animals to conserve energy for a long time, typically over the colder winter months. 

People assume snakes hibernate in colder climates because they can’t regulate their body heat. However, it is brumation. Brumation is distinct from hibernation because it doesn’t require the same amount of sleep.  

Animals that hibernate do not need to wake up to search for food until their hibernating period is over. Brumation, on the other hand, requires snakes to wake up to forage for food and water. 

Snakes are brumating because they are cold-blooded animals. They can’t survive cold seasons, so they enter a brumation state. They only wake up to go in search of food when it is necessary. Snakes can survive for months without food (depending on their size, age, and species) and therefore don’t need to wake up at regular intervals. Snake brumation starts in September and lasts until March, depending on the weather. 

16. The strongest beer in the world is known as snake venom 

Brewmeister is named the most potent beer snake venom. Please, note that snake venom isn’t an ingredient. It has an ABV of 67.5%, a great deal more than most spirits and beers. Should you decide to try a tipple, drink in moderation because the beer will knock you out fast. Even the manufacturers put a measure in place to prevent people from purchasing more than a bottle.

You are advised to drink 35ml at a sitting, nothing more. It is only available in the UK; however, US residents can have it shipped state-side for a bit more cash. 

17. Sea snakes can breathe underwater with their forehead 

Sea snake
Photo by Jong Marshes on Unsplash

Sea snakes, unlike other reptiles, are adapted to marine life. They have elongated lungs, valvular nostrils, and oarlike tails. Also, they can absorb oxygen through their skin. These features allow them to navigate and survive in the marine environment. However, scientists discovered a unique feature that allows a sea snake to breathe underwater. 

Sea snakes have an intricate blood vessel connection beneath their forehead, directly between the snout and roof of the head. Scientists believe sea snakes have a strange vascular structure that provides more oxygen to the brain2.

18. Snake teeth are always curved backward  

Another interesting titbit from our list of snake facts relates to a snake’s teeth, most often referred to as fangs. Snakes use their fangs to inject venom and hold on to their prey. Their fangs curve backward, helping them get more grip on their quarry. Furthermore, the slant of these fangs prevents them from accidentally injecting themselves with venom. 

19. A headless snake is still dangerous

Next on our list of snake facts is the danger of headless snakes. You might think you are safe from the snake attacks where said snake is decapitated. However, it isn’t accurate. Evidence shows that the decapitated head of a snake can still cause harm an hour after cutting it off. It is still active because a snake’s metabolism is much slower, so its internal organs stay alive for a while. 

In a frenzy, the decapitated snake’s jaws can still bite you and inject venom. It is risky if it is a highly venomous snake. There are several reports of people getting attacked by the head of a headless snake. Even headless snakes can attack themselves. So, we are best to avoid headless snakes until we’re sure they are dead. 

20. All snakes are carnivorous

Snakes are neither herbivores nor omnivores. They are all carnivores, but the type and size of meat most species eat are different. Only a few species of snakes hunt their prey, while some are opportunistic feeders. Also, snakes have various killing techniques. Venomous snakes kill their prey by biting them and injecting venom into their bloodstream, while non-venomous snakes kill their prey through constriction.

Non-venomous snakes decapitate their game by tightly wrapping themselves around the prey until it loses consciousness. Also, snakes swallow their meal whole because they can’t chew. Their physiology structure allows them to consume their prey whole while the chemicals in their belly help dissolve it.

21. Some snake species are entirely female 

Most snake species are mixed populations of males and females. However, a few species have an entirely female population. This condition is called parthenogenesis5, an asexual form of reproduction. It involves the development of embryos from unfertilized eggs. 

A snake species with parthenogenesis is the Brahminy Blind Snake, also known as the flower pot snake, which has an all-female population. Brahminy blind snakes are non-venomous species that grow to a maximum length of 17cm. They reproduce without male sperm, and the unfertilized eggs begin cell division. They can lay up to 8 eggs per clutch.

22. Ophidiophobia is an intense fear of snakes  

Ophidiophobia is an intense fear of snakes, often so bad sufferers can't function properly at the mere mention and sight of snakes. For example, you might have ophidiophobia if you experience nausea, dizziness, increased heart rate, and panic attacks in the presence of snakes. People often develop ophidiophobia because of a bad experience with snakes or how the media portrays them evilly. It could also be due to how people around them react to snakes.

23. The Sonoran snake farts when threatened  

Sonoran coral snake
Photo Credit: Michael Cravens (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The Sonoran snake is a long and slender non-venomous snake, also known as a ground snake. It grows to a maximum length of 5 feet and moves quite fast. Also, it is most active during the day. You will find it in rocky, foothills, and mountain areas with dense vegetation. The unique thing about the Sonoran snake is its defense mechanism. 

They fart when in a dangerous situation. Scientists refer to their farts as cloacal popping. They create the farting sound using two sets of muscles to isolate a compressed air pocket before realizing a startling burst of air to ward off predators10.

24. Snakes can’t digest hair, nails, feathers, and fur  

Snakes can swallow and eat just about anything because they have potent enzymes in their digestive system. These enzymes can break everything down except hair, fur, and claws. 

They can’t digest hair, nails, and fur because they contain keratin, a protein matrix that is difficult to digest. Also, it is insoluble. Instead, they regurgitate it or pass it out as pebbles during excrement. 

25. The most venomous snake in the world is the inland taipan 

The inland taipan has the deadliest venom out of all snake species. Its venom contains toxins, an intricate mix of neurotoxins, procoagulants, and mycotoxins. These toxins cause paralysis, damage muscles, stop breathing, and cause blood vessels to hemorrhage. 

Their venom is so potent that experts state that a single bite is enough to kill up to 100 people and other warm-blooded animals. Furthermore, it can kill within 45 minutes if the injury does not get immediate treatment. 

Also, they have a fast striking speed. So they can attack quickly. However, the inland taipan snake is a shy snake that tries to avoid humans. It runs at the sight of trouble unless there is a direct attack.  

Conclusion  

Snakes are interesting species of reptiles with loads of interesting facts about them. These facts can serve as a guide whenever you encounter a snake. For instance, you know that a headless snake is as dangerous as a live one. Also, thick denim material can protect against a snake’s bite because it absorbs venom before it can get to your skin. Or perhaps you're just fascinated by the incredible diversity of the animal kingdom, and we hope you’ve enjoyed learning more about snakes!

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1

Petras, D., Heiss, P., Harrison, R. A., Süssmuth, R. D., & Calvete, J. J. (2016). Top-down venomics of the East African green mamba, Dendroaspis angusticeps, and the black mamba, Dendroaspis polylepis, highlight the complexity of their toxin arsenalsJournal of proteomics146, 148-164.

2

Palci A, Seymour RS, Van Nguyen C, Hutchinson MN, Lee MSY, Sanders KL. Novel vascular plexus in the head of a sea snake (Elapidae, Hydrophiinae) revealed by high-resolution computed tomography and histology. R Soc Open Sci. 2019 Sep 4;6(9):191099. doi: 10.1098/rsos.191099. PMID: 31598325; PMCID: PMC6774945.

3

Herbert SS, Hayes WK. Denim clothing reduces venom expenditure by rattlesnakes striking defensively at model human limbs. Ann Emerg Med. 2009 Dec;54(6):830-6. doi: 10.1016/j.annemergmed.2009.09.022. PMID: 19942067.

4

Shine, R., Harlow, P.S., Keogh, J.S. and Boeadi, (1998), The influence of sex and body size on food habits of a giant tropical snake, Python reticulatus. Functional Ecology, 12: 248-258. https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1365-2435.1998.00179.x

5

Allen L, Sanders KL, Thomson VA. Molecular evidence for the first records of facultative parthenogenesis in elapid snakes. R Soc Open Sci. 2018 Feb 21;5(2):171901. doi: 10.1098/rsos.171901. PMID: 29515892; PMCID: PMC5830781.

6

Jackson, D. R., & Franz, R. (1981). Ecology of the Eastern Coral Snake (Micrurus fulvius) in Northern Peninsular Florida. Herpetologica, 37(4), 213–228. http://www.jstor.org/stable/3891805

7

Brischoux, F., Pizzatto, L., & Shine, R. (2010). Insights into the adaptive significance of vertical pupil shape in snakesJournal of evolutionary biology23(9), 1878-1885.

8

Viviparity in Snakes: Some Ecological and Zoogeographical Considerations Wilfred T. NeillThe American Naturalist 1964 98:898, 35-55

9

Yeaton, I. J., Ross, S. D., Baumgardner, G. A., & Socha, J. J. (2020). Undulation enables gliding in flying snakesNature Physics16(9), 974-982.

10

Burke, Katie L. "Life's a Gas.American Scientist, vol. 106, no. 3, May-June 2018, pp. 185+. Gale Academic OneFile, . Accessed 30 Nov. 2022.

11

Schwenk, K. (1995). The serpent's tongueNATURAL. HISTORY4, 95.

12

Meyers SE, Tadi P. Snake Toxicity. [Updated 2022 Sep 19]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from:

13

S.L. Thornton, Snakes, Editor(s): Philip Wexler, Encyclopedia of Toxicology (Third Edition), Academic Press, 2014, Pages 310-312, ISBN 9780123864550, https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-386454-3.00786-7

Jen’s a passionate environmentalist and sustainability expert. With a science degree from Babcock University Jen loves applying her research skills to craft editorial that connects with our global changemaker and readership audiences centered around topics including zero waste, sustainability, climate change, and biodiversity.

Elsewhere Jen’s interests include the role that future technology and data have in helping us solve some of the planet’s biggest challenges.

Photo by Ulrike Langner on Unsplash
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