The fear of snakes is one of the most common phobias people have. It is quite understandable – some snakes are venomous, capable of killing us, so fearing them is actually just a matter of instinct. However, it would be unfair to think of snakes as slimy killers only. Snakes can be also viewed as amazing animals with incredible abilities. Did you know, for example, that some snakes can fly? Or how about the snake that scares away predators by farting? To learn more about snakes, check out today’s post with 25 Shocking Facts about Snakes That You Probably Didn’t Know.
Snakes live on every continent except Antarctica and on most land masses. Exceptions include some large islands, such as Ireland, Iceland, Greenland, Hawaii, and New Zealand, as well as some small islands of the Atlantic and central Pacific Oceans.
Snakes range in size greatly - from the tiny, 10 cm (4 in) long thread snake to the giant reticulated python that can reach up to 7 m (23 ft) in length.
There are approximately 3,400 snake species in the world, out of which only about 600 are venomous. Out of those 600 venomous snakes, only 200 pose a serious threat to humans.
Snakes have one of the highest occurrences of polycephaly – a rare condition of having more than one head. There have been many cases of two-headed snakes. The heads might fight each other for food.
Snakes are believed to have evolved from four-legged reptilian ancestors, between 112 and 94 million years ago. Some snakes, such as pythons and boas, still have traces of back legs.
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Snakes can live in almost any environment, ranging from jungles and deserts to lakes and mountains. Snakes have been actually found as high as 4,900 m (16,000 ft) in the Himalayas.
The muscles that cause a rattlesnake´s rattle to shake are some of the fastest known, firing 50 times per second on average, sustained for up to 3 hours.
The bite of the black mamba, one of the world´s most venomous snakes, can cause collapse in humans within just 45 minutes. Before antivenom was widely available, the mortality rate from this snake´s bite was nearly 100%.
Many snakes have highly mobile jaws that enable them to swallow prey much larger than their heads.
There is an island in Brazil, known as the Snake Island, that arguably has the highest occurrence of snakes in the world. It is estimated that there is one snake on every 1 sq m (11 sq ft).
Native to tropical rainforests of South America, the green anaconda is considered the heaviest and largest snake in the world. It can reportedly exceed 227 kg (500 lb) in weight and reach almost 9 m (30 ft) in length.
Also known as the western taipan, the small-scaled snake, or the fierce snake, the inland taipan is the most venomous snake in the world. It is estimated that one bite from this Australian snake possesses enough lethality to kill at least 100 full grown men.
Pit vipers, pythons, and some boas have infrared-sensitive receptors in deep grooves on the snout, which allows them to "see" the radiated heat of warm-blooded prey.
Venomous snakes kill about 90,000 people around the world each year. Yet, they are far from being the deadliest animals – mosquitoes, for example, cause over a million human deaths annually.
There is a genus commonly known as the flying (or gliding) snakes. Native to Southeast Asia, these snakes are capable of gliding over distances as great as 100 m (330 ft).
A snake’s fangs usually last only about 6–10 weeks. When a fang wears out, a new one grows in its place.
To accommodate their narrow bodies, snakes' paired organs (such as kidneys) appear one in front of the other instead of side by side. Most snakes also have only one functional lung.
When startled, frightened, or threatened, the Sonoran coral snake (also known as the Arizona coral snake) will hide its head under its body and raise and tightly curl its tail. While in this posture, it will then fart noisily.
The decapitated head of a dead snake can still bite even several hours after death. In fact, such bites often contain large amounts of venom.
Historically, snakebites were seen as a means of execution in some cultures. In medieval Europe, a form of capital punishment was to throw people into snake pits, leaving them to die from multiple venomous bites.
Snakes do not have eyelids. Instead, they have so called brille, a layer of transparent, immovable disc-shaped skin or scale covering the eyes for protection.
Some snakes can survive without food for up to two years by reducing their energy expenditure. One scientific study even suggests that snakes can digest their own hearts when starved for too long.
Most species of snakes lay eggs, and some species are ovoviviparous (i.e. they retain the eggs within their bodies until they are ready to hatch), but it was recently found out, that several species (such as the boa constrictor and the green anaconda) are fully viviparous (giving live births).
To keep from choking on large prey, a snake will push the end of its trachea, or windpipe, out of its mouth, similar to the way a snorkel works.
All snakes are strictly carnivorous. Depending on their size, however, their prey differs considerably. The smallest snakes feed on insects, snails, mice etc., while the largest snakes can kill and eat anything from an antelope and a kangaroo to a pig and even an alligator.
If you enjoyed this list, check out our list on 25 Of The World’s Most Venomous Snakes.
Photos: 24. Mariluna via wikimedia commons, 22. Jason Pratt via flickr, 21. Cannibal Holiday via flickr, 18. Bill Love/Blue Chameleon Ventures via wikimedia commons, 17. Pete and Noe Woods via flickr, 16. longitudelatitude via flickr, 15. LA Dawson via wikimedia commons, 14. XLerate at the English language Wikipedia, 13. chinmayisk via wikimedia commons, 11. Gihan Jayaweera via wikimedia commons, 10. Greg Schechter via flickr, 9. Ashahar alias Krishna Khan via wikimedia commons, 8. David Jahn via flickr, 7. JanRehschuh via wikimedia commons, 3. Max Pixel, 2. Brian Gratwicke via flickr