“Snakes are slimy” and other serpentine assumptions smashed!
Saturday 16th July is World Snake Day, which aims to raise awareness for conservation efforts for snakes all over the world. In celebration, we thought we would bust some common misconceptions about our serpentine sidekicks. With over 3500 different slithery species on earth, there’s plenty to learn!
"Snakes are dangerous!"
Snakes have been given a bad rep over the years, but most are harmless to humans. Only about 600 species of snake are venomous and even then, only 200 species pose any threat to humans. Most snakes are non-venomous and overpower their prey by constricting or swallowing them whole! Even some venomous snakes like the Krait are too shy and have too short fangs to pose a threat to humans.
"All snakes live on land”
Think again! Although most snakes do live on land, around 70 species of snakes live underwater – mainly in the Indian and Pacific oceans. They’re (pretty aptly) called sea snakes and there are over 60 different species. They can usually be found in shallow water and coastal areas of warmer climates, enjoying some fish and fish eggs.
“All snakes lay eggs”
It may seem like they do, but there are a few species that birth live, just like mammals do! This is called ovoviviparous reproduction, which means eggs are incubated and hatched inside the mother. The baby snakes, snakelings, are then birthed and go off to hunt within their first few hours! These include some species of boa and rattlesnake and sea snakes. Most snakes don’t pay attention to their eggs once they have been laid, except for pythons who do incubate their eggs externally.
“Snakes are deaf”
You may think that because snakes don’t have any external ears, but it’s actually their slithery nature that helps them hear. Snakes don’t have an eardrum like we do, but they do have a rather ingenious way of hearing! As they lay flat on the ground, vibrations from prey and predators travel through the ground and into their jawbone, which is directly connected to their inner ear. So, these vibrations then travel through their jawbone, up into the inner ear, and on into the brain. Pretty sweet right?
“Snakes are slimy”
They may look slimy but that’s just their smooth, shiny scales! It feels cool and dry to the touch and often confuses those that thought it would be slippery! Scales help them to move around with less friction. Some snakes with a ridge running down each scale, making them feel rougher – they’re keeled scales! Some snakes may even appear completely scale-free, but they still have scales on their belly. The only time a snake may be slimy is just after they’ve hatched and covered in the contents of the egg!
“Snakes can only be found in deserts and jungles”
Nope! Snakes can be found slithering around all over the globe, in every country except Antarctica, Iceland, Ireland, Greenland, and New Zealand. While it is well known for them to be in warmer climates, different species are able to survive in many different climates - there are even three snake species that live in the British Isles! These are the adder, grass snake, and the smooth snake. Many snakes and their habitats are at risk, hundreds of snake species are on the IUCN Red List listed as endangered and this is typically due to habitat loss from development.
So, you can see there's more to snakes than meets the eye! Was there something new here that you learned, or a snake myth you’d like to bust? Let us know in the comments or on our social media, and make sure to celebrate World Snake Day on the 16th July!