Belcher’s Sea Snake

The Belcher’s sea snake is a species that often suffers from mistaken identity. Due to a published error of a book in 1996 called Snakes in Question: The Smithsonian Answer Book, the Belcher’s Sea Snake is sometimes acknowledged, in error, as the snake possessing the most toxic venom in the world. Although its venom is toxic, it is not even the most toxic species of sea snake! This story is a classic case of scientists who must be very careful in conducting research and publishing information.

Its scientific name, Hydrophis belcheri, has an interesting story. The word “hydrophis” means water serpent, while “belcheri” is believed to be a tribute to Sir Edward Belcher, the Royal Navy Captain, who collected the holotype, or first specimen, of the species. Another common name it is known by is faint-banded sea snake.

Danger to Humans:

Fortunately for humans, the Belcher’s sea snake is not considered very dangerous. It is very timid, or easily frightened, and prefers not to attack. It is not considered an aggressive species and will usually only bite in self-defense. Even when it does bite, it often does not even inject, or put in, venom into the victim. In fact, Belcher’s sea snake is 75% more unlikely to inject venom than to do so. To put it simply, this means out of every 4 people bitten, 3 of them do not receive any venom from the bite.Most of the recorded bites happen to fishermen checking their fishing nets.

Habitat:

As its name implies, the Belcher’s sea snake is a water snake. There is not a lot known about the species, but it is found in many countries including: Vietnam, Thailand, New Guinea, and the Philippines. The collection of specimens indicates it prefers living on the soft bottom of the ocean.

Appearance:

Belcher’s sea snake is a thin snake and can reach 2-4 feet long. Its body is yellowish in color with dark green bands on its dorsal, or back, side.

Anatomy:

Although there is still a lot to find out about the Belcher’s sea snake individually, the different species of sea snakes are known to shed their skin often. In fact, while most snake species might shed their skin once a year, sea snakes shed their skin about once every month! This frequent shedding is necessary in order for them to swim underwater. By shedding their skin, they also free themselves of unwanted marine, or ocean, organisms. Algae and barnacles sometimes grown on their skin since they spend so much time underwater!

Diet:

The Belcher’s sea snake lives in the water, so it, as one might expect, eats fish and shellfish. This is the only thing scientists know a snake of this species eats.

  • Special Adaptations:

    With a paddle-like tail, the Belcher’s sea snake is an excellent swimmer. It hardly ever goes out on land because it does not have to. In fact, its body is perfect for swimming, but is quite clumsy on land. It can live, breathe, and even sleep under water for hours at a time before coming up for air! The Belcher’s sea snake has a special valve, or air pipe, in its nose that will breathe in air as needed. When the snake goes underwater, this special valve will automatically close not letting in any water!

  • Reproduction:

    Not a lot is known about how the Belcher’s sea snake reproduces. However, scientists believe it might be similar to how other species of sea snakes give birth. Female sea snakes give birth underwater to three or four live young. Depending on various factors, like food sources and water temperature, it might take the babies 4-11 months to grow before being born! Female sea snakes can give birth every year, butsome do not.

  • Conservation Status:

    Although considered rare, with less than 50 records of specimens collected by scientists, the conservation status of this snake species is considered Data Deficient. There are no known predators to the species.

Striking Statements of Fact:

  • The Belcher’s sea snake breathes with its lungs like any other snake, but it can also breathe with its skin!
  • Sea snakes can dive in shallow water or in water up to 300 feet. While most species of this snake stays in the shallows, scientists believe the Belcher’s sea snake might be one of the deep divers of the species!

Black Mamba Snake

The black mamba is one of the most well-known venomous snakes in the world and the longest venomous snake found in Africa. Its scientific name, Dendroaspis polylepis, means, loosely translated, “tree snake of many scales”. The name is thought to be in reference to its ability to climb trees very quickly and its length, which requires many scales to cover.

Danger to Humans:

Some people rate the black mamba as the most dangerous snake in the world. Even two drops of its venom is enough to kill a grown human! Before anti-venom medication was developed, a bite from a black mamba would mean sure death within 20 minutes! Today, however, as long as people receive immediate medical care after a bite, it is likely they will recover. Unfortunately, not a lot of the anti-venom is readily available in rural areas of the black mamba’s range, or the area in which it can be found.

Habitat:

In order for a black mamba to live in a place, it must offer a high temperature and high humidity. They can be found in a variety of habitats in east and south Africa, including forests, swamps, savannas, and rocky areas.

Appearance:

There are two interesting facts about a black mamba’s appearance. First, their sheer length is amazing! On average, black mambas are about 8 feet tall! This is taller than an average man. The longest black mamba has been recorded at 14 feet tall! They can weigh up to 4 pounds.

The other interesting fact about the black mamba is its color. Contrary to its name, the black mamba is not actually black! Instead, it ranges from olive to gray in color. The name actually comes from the color of the inside of its mouth, which is a dark, inky black. The black mamba will open its mouth when it feels threatened. If a person ever sees black when around a black mamba, it is best to take the warning and get away!

Anatomy:

When it comes to eating, the black mamba’s special jaws come in handy. Its very flexible, or stretchy, jaws and neck scales allow it to eat prey whole. It can eat prey up to 3-4 times larger than its head.

  • Special Adaptations:

    One of the reasons a black mamba is so feared is because of its speed. It can easily outrun a human with a maximum speed of over 12 miles per hour! A black mamba can zoom along on the ground at this speed even while holding its head up about 4 feet off the ground! The black mamba does not use its speed to hunt and only uses it to escape when it feels threatened. If escape is not an option, the black mamba can become aggressive and put on a cobra-like display, raising its head and body off the ground, widening its neck, opening its mouth, and hissing to warn off the threat.

  • Reproduction:

    Black mambas lay about 6-17 eggs. Female black mambas have a hard job locating the perfect spot to lay her eggs because it has to be damp, but not too wet, and warm, but not too hot. Once she finds the perfect spot, she lays the eggs and in about 3 months, new baby black mambas are born! The neonates, or newborns, are about 16-24 inches at birth!

  • Conservation Status:

    Black mambas are considered species of Least Concern. Their only threat is humans, who often kill them on sight, and continued development of their natural habitat. Human deaths remain high due to black mamba bites, and this rate will only increase as humans and black mambas draw closer together due to development in Africa.

Striking Statements of Fact:

  • Black mambas can often be found in pairs or groups of three. Together, they return to the same spot to sleep every night! The black mamba prefers a permanent place to return to when it is not hunting.
  • Although the longest snake in Africa, it is the second longest venomous snake in the world. The king cobra is the longest reaching lengths of 18 feet.

Blue Krait Snake

The blue krait is a venomous snake found in southeast Asia. Some rank it as the most venomous snake in all of Asia, and it is definitely one of the deadliest snakes found in the world. It is one of 12 species of kraits found worldwide and belongs to the same family as cobras. Its scientific name is Bungarus candidus and is also known by another common name, the Malayan krait. Another species, the common krait, is also sometimes called the blue krait, but these are two different, distinct snakes.

Danger to Humans:

The blue krait is considered very dangerous to humans. If left untreated, death will likely result in about a day’s time. Even with treatment using anti-venom, there is still a 50% likelihood of death. Soldiers in the Vietnam War called these snakes “5 step snakes” because once bitten you only had 5 steps to live before death.

Fortunately, blue kraits are not considered aggressive. In fact, they are quite shy and will try to cover their head with their tail when approached! It is unlikely you will be bitten, unless you try to pick this snake up. Snake handlers, trained professionals, are even known to pick up the snake without any type of protective gear ~ at least during the day time hours! This is not a very smart practice since a blue krait’s venom is 10 times more potent, or stronger, than a cobra’s venom.

Habitat:

The blue krait is found in a variety of habitats. It can live in rocky areas, forests, and even in towns. It does prefer flatter environments. It is a nocturnal species, most active at night, and usually finds a safe hiding spot during the day. It does not like the sunshine!

Appearance:

Blue kraits are about 4-6 feet in length and almost always have a distinct banded pattern on its body. Unlike its name suggests, the blue krait does not have blue markings on its body. Dark brown or blackish bands alternate with light yellowish-white bands to form the body of the snake. Its head is generally dark, as is its first band. It has 27-34 total bands on its body. Some individual snakes are not banded at all and can be completely black. Its ventral, or stomach, area will always be white.

Anatomy:

The blue krait’s fangs are not very large. If someone starts showing symptoms of being bitten, such as facial paralysis or drowsiness, and are taken to receive medical help, then medical professionals are trained to go ahead and treat for a possible blue krait bite even without the presence of fang marks. Fang marks are not necessarily evident after a bite, especially if a young blue krait snake is involved. Blue kraits can also bite more than once!

Diet:

The blue krait is an active hunter at night for food. Lizards, frogs, mice, and even other snakes find their way onto a blue krait’s dinner plate. In fact, the blue krait most often preys on other snake species!

  • Special Adaptations:

    The blue krait is considered a timid snake. Its venom, however, is not. Its venom will attack a human’s nervous system shutting down key respiratory, or breathing, organs.

  • Reproduction:

    Only a few facts are known about how blue kraits reproduce. They are an oviparous, or egg laying, species. Instead of building their own nests, they usually take over a rat’s burrow in the ground to lay their eggs. They lay 4-10 eggs at a time and after birth the neonates, or newborns, are about a foot long.

  • Conservation Status:

    The blue krait faces danger from humans and is collected for its skin, medicinal purposes, and even as food. Despite this, they are listed as a stable population and a species of Least Concern.

Striking Statements of Fact:

  • Since the blue krait is often active at night, it sometimes bites people when they are asleep. This type of snake is especially dangerous to people in rural Asia, who often sleep on the floor. The bite of a blue krait is often painless, and the victim continues sleeping. This can be deadly because bite victims need to seek immediate medical attention.
  • Kraits are famous for appearing in Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book.

Taipan Snake

The taipan is the largest venomous snake in Australia. Known scientifically as Oxyuranus scutellatus, meaning “small-shielded sharp tail”, it is most commonly known as the coastal taipan. Other names include the common taipan and the eastern taipan. There are actually two subspecies of coastal taipans. One is found on the continent of Australia, and the other is found in New Guinea.

Danger to Humans:

The coastal taipan possesses the third most deadly toxic venom of any snake in the world. It is behind only the inland taipan and the eastern brown snake. Unlike the inland taipan, the coastal taipan does frequently have contact with people due to its tendency to hunt for prey in inhabited areas.

Habitat:

Contrary to its common name including the word coastal, this snake is not just found in the coastal regions. It is found in various wet habitats, including woodlands and forests. It is never found in habitats with temperatures below 68 degrees Fahrenheit in the wintertime.

Appearance:

Coastal taipans are generally about 6 ½ feet tall, but can reach lengths up to 10 feet. Their color can greatly vary among individual snakes and range from yellow to shades of brown. Some black coastal taipans have also been found! Their bellies are a creamy color and often have orange or pink flecks spread throughout. The variety of colors it can be found in helps it blend into its known habitats of grass, cane fields, and even forests.

Anatomy:

One distinguishing feature of the coastal taipan is its head and snout, which are much lighter in color than the body. The neck region features slightly raised, or keeled, scales. The identification of a coastal taipan can be tricky at times and looking at the head and snout region of the snake is often the only way to tell the difference between this species and others. The neck and head region, other than being lighter, is also much more slender than other snakes often confused with the coastal taipan.

Diet:

Coastal taipans’ favorite menu items are rats, lizards, and bandicoots. A coastal taipan has a unique way of finding and eating its prey. To locate prey, the coastal taipan will hunt with its head off the ground, which allows it to ,scan, or look quickly, over its surroundings. After the prey is spotted, it will throw itself at it in a quick attack. Instead of holding its prey after fatally biting it, it will release its prey. The prey will then usually run toward a hiding spot, but often never reaches it before the venom takes effect. This unique way of getting a meal, called the “strike and release method”, protects the snake from being bitten or scratched by its prey.

  • Special Adaptations:

    The coastal taipan is considered to have better eyesight than a lot of other snake species. They have a special organ called the Jacobson’s organ, which allows them to “taste” prey using their tongue!

  • Reproduction:

    Coastal taipans are oviparous, with females laying 7-20 eggs at a time. The females with lay the eggs in hollow logs, under tree roots, or in crevices, or cracks, in the ground, where it takes 2-3 months for them to hatch. The newly hatched coastal taipans grow incredibly fast and can reach 3 feet long in just a year’s time! Even babies are venomous!

  • Conservation Status:

    Presently, the coastal taipan is not found on the list of the organization responsible for deciding the conservation status of all species on the earth. It is most commonly found in northern and eastern regions, or parts, of Australia, as well as in New Guinea. It is, like all other Australian snake species, protected by law.

Striking Statements of Fact:

  • Coastal taipans are considered more dangerous to humans than the inland taipan, although their bite is less toxic. Their hunt for rats in barns and fields make it more likely for a human encounter than the reclusive inland taipan, so the likelihood of an encounter with this species makes it more dangerous.
  • The coastal taipan also has the longest fangs of any snake in Australia. Their fangs can reach up to ½ an inch.

Death Adder Snake

Unlike most adders, death adders do not belong to the viper family. However, they are similar in appearance to vipers, so this is why they are called adders. There are approximately 8 recognized species of death adder, though scientists are still debating the exact number. The scientific name for this family of snakes is Acanthopis, which means spiny snake.

Danger to Humans:

Death adders’ venom is considered deadly to humans. In fact, before its anti-venom was developed in the late 1950’s, the mortality, or death, rate of a death adder bite was about 50%. This means out of every two people bitten, one would die. Today, as long as anyone bitten immediately receives medical attention, the chances for a complete recovery are positive.

There are many reports of death adder bites being “dry bites” with no venom injected with the bite. This has led scientists to believe injecting venom is a choice the snake makes regarding threat level.

Habitat:

Death adders live throughout most of Australia and can be found in around edges of forests, in grasslands, and even among leaf litter in yards.

Appearance:

The death adder is short and stocky only reaching lengths of about 3 feet as the maximum. The main difference in species is their coloration. They generally are brown, black, red, yellow, or gray with banded bodies, but can be a variety of colors even in the same species.

Death adders can become extremely well camouflaged in their environment and will not try to escape if they hear something large approach. In fact, they were once known as “deaf adders” due to this behavior. However, they like all snakes, do not hear with external ears, but instead listen to the vibrations in the ground.

Anatomy:

The death adder’s very distinct shape makes it easily identifiable. It’s short, stocky body narrows to a thin tip of a tail, which is sometimes a lighter color than the snake or even white. This feature of their anatomy serves as a way for them to lure food to them!

 

Diet:

Death adders are not active hunters like most snakes. They instead use a special trick called “caudal luring” to bring prey to them. Death adders will bury themselves in leaves, sand or soil with only the tip of their worm like tail showing, which they have strategically placed near their head. The movement of the tail will cause some curious animal to investigate thinking it is some type of food for them. When this happens, the death adder is ready. Skinks, small mammals, and frogs fall for this trick and, instead of finding themselves something to eat, become the main dish themselves.

  • Special Adaptations:

    With their special way of luring prey to come to them, death adders often just lie in wait. Many times, humans can pass right by them without even knowing they are there! They are considered to be very mysterious snakes and masters of disguise. They also are believed to have the fastest strike of any snake in Australia. They strike so quickly a human eye cannot even follow their movement!

  • Reproduction:

    Female death adders give birth to 10-20 babies in the fall. They reproduce every two years.

  • Conservation Status:

    Most of the populations of death adders are not considered to be in danger and are listed as species of Least Concern. However, the common death adder is listed as Vulnerable.

    Some of the species’ populations have decreased, though not dangerously, in the last few years for a couple of reasons. The introduction of the cane toad has led to the decrease in some death adder populations. Cane toads were introduced to Australia as a way to control a beetle species. When death adders lure and then eat cane toads, they ingest the poison a cane toad’s body produces. The death adder will sicken and die after eating a cane toad. Human development and habitat loss has also negatively affected death adder population sizes.

Striking Statements of Fact:

  • Death adders are generally nocturnal and are most active at night. Although they are mainly terrestrial, or land dwelling, they are excellent swimmers and will not hesitate to go into water to catch their next meal.
  • Scientists are studying death adder venom, hoping the research will lead to a breakthrough in helping people who have heart attacks and strokes.

Eastern Brown Snake

The eastern brown snake is a snake that has the second most toxic, or poisonous, venom of any snake in the world. Its scientific name, Pseudonaja textilis, comes from the Greek language and means “woven false cobra”. It is also widely known as the common brown snake.

Danger to Humans:

The inland taipan is the only other snake in the world with a more toxic venom than the eastern brown snake. However, the eastern brown causes the most snakebite deaths in Australia, where both species live. It is considered a very aggressive snake, and humans must always treat them with caution.

Habitat:

The eastern brown snake is found in the entire eastern half of Australia and can survive any type of habitat, except for the rainforest. It has adapted, or adjusted, to live in habitats ranging from farms to towns. It finds shelter in anything from logs to a home’s garbage pile! Its ability to live in many habitats means it comes into contact with humans often.

Appearance:

The eastern brown is usually around 5 feet long, but can reach lengths up to 8 feet. The males are usually longer than the females.

The color of the eastern brown snake is varied and can range from gray to tan or even dark brown. Its belly can be cream, yellow, or orange with orange or gray blotches. The snake’s neck cannot be told apart from its body, and this feature helps identify the eastern brown from other similar species.

Anatomy:

The fangs of the eastern brown snake are smaller than other snakes in Australia. However, what it lacks in size, it makes up for with poison! Sometimes, however, the eastern brown snake’s bite is a “dry bite”, containing no poison. In fact, many people bitten by an eastern brown did not realize they were bitten at all! The bite of this snake can be painless.

Diet:

The eastern brown snake has an appetite for small mammals, especially rodents, such as rat and mice. It tends to seek food near barns where rodents like to hang out, and its preferred main dish often brings it into contact with people. The eastern brown snakes provide a valuable service to farmers and homeowners by controlling the population of rats and mice! The snake also can eat birds, frogs, other snakes, and reptiles, like lizards or geckoes.

The eastern brown snake will actually look for prey in likely hiding places, so they are sometimes found in fields, barns, or even houses. This is also a reason why they often come into contact with humans.

  • Special Adaptations:

    The eastern brown’s body makes the snake a lean, mean muscular machine. It is a very fast snake and strikes its prey at lightning speed. It also has a unique way of showing when it feels threatened. It will raise its head and body off the ground and spread its neck laterally, or side to side. This is similar to what a cobra does before it strikes, and this behavior is where the snake gets its scientific name.

  • Reproduction:

    Eastern brown snakes are oviparous with females laying up to 25 eggs at a time. Eastern browns are known to have communal, or shared, nests, where several females lay their eggs. The time it takes the eggs to hatch depends on the temperature of the ground as the eggs incubate. It can take anywhere from 1 to 3 months. New hatchlings can stay in the egg after peeking out from 4-8 hours!

  • Conservation Status:

    The outlook of an eastern brown snake’s future is positive due to its ability to thrive in areas inhabited by humans and its preferred food of rodents, including house mice.

Striking Statements of Fact:

  • The eastern brown snake does indeed have predators. Birds and feral, or wild, cats are known to eat them.
  • The amount of distance an eastern brown snake allows someone to approach them depends on the temperature of the snake’s body! A snake with a body temperature of less than 76 degrees Fahrenheit will allow someone to get closer than those with a body temperature over 76 degrees. A human cannot use a thermometer to take the temperature of every eastern brown snake seen, so it is best to not get too close to one at all!

Inland Taipan Snake

Most people do not forget the name inland taipan after they hear about it one time. Why? The reason is this type of snake is widely regarded as the most venomous snake on planet Earth. The inland taipan has many common names including fierce snake, western taipan, and the small-scaled snake.

Danger to Humans:

Due to its very lethal, or deadly, venom, the inland taipan is considered very dangerous to humans. Venom from one bite contains enough poison to kill 250,000 mice or 100 grown men! Lucky for humans, the inland taipan is considered to be very shy and reclusive, rarely coming into contact with people. Although one of the snake’s common names is fierce snake, it gets the name for its venom instead of its personality. The inland taipan prefers to retreat from humans, but will attack if it feels threatened. If a human is bitten, they must receive anti-venom within 30-45 minutes.

Habitat:

The inland taipan is endemic, or native, to Australia. They are generally found in very dry habitat and find shelter in animal burrows, as well as cracks in the soil. These resting spots not only offer a place to get away from the sun, but also provide protection from predators!

Appearance:

The inland taipan can reach lengths from 6-8 feet. Typically, inland taipans are a shade of brown on top with lighter colored bellies of yellow with orange blotches. The snake’s scales are distinct due to their black edges. However, their overall color changes with the seasons! In the summer, their skin is lighter in order for the snake to stay cooler, but in the summer their skin darkens to collect more heat from the sun.

Anatomy:

The inland taipan’s anatomy is very similar to other snakes. Its scientific name, Oxyuranus microlepidotus, comes from the Greek language meaning “having a long pointed tail” and “small and scaly”. Their fangs are relatively small, less than an inch in length.

Diet:

The inland taipan’s favorite meal consists of rats. They also eat birds and other small mammals. Inland taipans swallow their food whole. The population size of inland taipans is directly linked to the population size of their food supply of rats. If there is a large population of rats, then there is a large population size of inland taipans. If there is a small population of rats, then there is a small population size of inland taipans.

  • Special Adaptations:

    The inland taipan is so solitary and hard to find that scientists have found it hard to study. Although the first one was first discovered in the late1800s, not a lot was known about the species until its rediscovery in 1972 by scientists. For over 90 years, these snakes played a masterful game of hide and seek with those who wanted to learn more about it!

    Inland taipans are mostly diurnal, which means they are active during the day. They are more active in the early morning hours when they hunt for small mammal prey around burrows. During hotter months, they can be active in the later afternoon or even at night.

  • Reproduction:

    Inland taipans are oviparous, or egg laying. Female inland taipans lay 12-24 eggs at a time. This group of eggs is called a clutch. Females can lay up to two clutches a year! The eggs are hidden in large cracks in the earth or even in animal burrows and are left to hatch on their own. After two months, baby inland taipans are born. The newly hatched inland taipans are born possessing deadly venom.

  • Conservation Status:

    Presently, the inland taipan is not found on the list of the organization responsible for deciding the conservation status of all species on the earth. In some parts of the Australia, the only continent where it is found in the wild, it is labelled extinct. It is most commonly found in Queensland and South Australia, and, like all other Australian snake species, the inland taipan is protected by law.

Striking Statements of Fact:

  • Inland taipans can bite up to 8 times in one strike.
  • Although highly feared by humans due to its deadly venom, the inland taipan does have predators. The king brown snake and monitor lizard are both known to prey on inland taipans.

Philippine Cobra Snake

The Philippine cobra is one of the most dangerous snakes in the world. Its scientific name, Naja philippinensis, literally means “cobra from the Philippine Islands”. It is also commonly known as the northern Philippine cobra.

Danger to Humans:

The Philippine cobra is considered deadly to humans. Its venom is dangerous and could lead to death in as little as 30 minutes. What is even scarier is that the Philippine cobra does not even have to bite you to kill you! It is a type of “spitting cobra”, so it can launch its venom at threats.

The Philippine cobra’s spitting behavior can launch its venom up to 8-10 feet! It is very accurate while “spitting” and can hit humans with venom in their eyes blinding them and allowing the snake to escape! The blindness is temporary, but can become permanent if immediate medical attention is not sought.

Scientists have discovered the reason for this accurate aim is that the snakes can actually predict where the spitting victim is going to be! At about 2 feet, it can hit its target 100% of the time, and, at farther distances, it has an astonishing 90% accuracy rate. The venom is sprayed in distinct geometric patterns, and this snake would be the champion of any spitting contest!

Habitat:

As the name suggests, a Philippine cobra is endemic, or native, to the northern parts of the Philippines. Philippine cobras can be found in many different types of habitats, including forests, jungles, plains, grasslands, and even developed areas. It is particularly fond of water, so a Philippine cobra can often be found near ponds, rivers or even large puddles.

Appearance:

The average length of this snake is between 3-5 feet. However, there have been reports from some island populations of snakes reaching 7 feet! These snakes are light to medium brown in color.

Anatomy:

Like all spitting cobras, the Philippine cobra has the ability to produce a hood when it feels threatened. If they feel threatened, they will raise some of their upper body and head off of the ground and expands, or spreads out, its neck ribs. This behavior is called hooding.

Diet:

The Philippine cobra will eat a variety of prey, including small mammals, frogs, and even birds. It must be very careful when finding prey for food because it is not a very strong snake and uses its spitting of venom to subdue the prey before trying to kill it. Its appetite for rats often get it into trouble because the rat fights back and has been known to injure, even blind, Philippine cobras! Although the rat will not survive the snake’s venom, it could leave injuries that could kill the snake.

  • Special Adaptations:

    The shape of the Philippine cobra is unique in that the fangs are narrower and more tear drop shaped than other snake species. The venom does not come out of the tip of the fang like other venomous snakes, including other species of cobras. Instead, a small hole in front of the fang allows them to spray out their venom. The venom goes outward instead of downward. Scientists believe this was an adaptation in order for the Philippine cobra to not get stepped on by large predators, such as antelopes.

  • Reproduction:

    Cobras are the only type of snake that shows some parental interest in protecting their young. A Philippine cobra female will lay 20-40 eggs in a nest and guard them until they hatch. As soon as they are hatched, they are left on their own.

  • Conservation Status:

    Unfortunately, although once common, the Philippine cobra population is decreasing. It faces natural predators, such as king cobras and mongoose, as well as humans. It is often killed on sight, especially when found near fields. It is also collected for use as an exotic food and, on a lower level, to be used in the pet trade. Because of the declining population, its conservation status is listed as Near Threatened.

Striking Statements of Fact:

  • The Philippine cobra was named by American scientist, Edward Harrison Taylor, in 1922.
  • Although the Philippine cobra is listed as a member of the “spitting cobras”, scientists have performed research to determine that these types of cobras really do not spit at all ~ at least not the way humans think about spitting. Instead, as the snake fangs release the venom, the snake will actually expel, or force out, air from its lungs causing the venom to be pushed out! The more accurate term to describe them would be “spraying cobras”!

Rattlesnake

The rattlesnake is one of the most easily recognizable snakes in the world due to the unmistakable “rattle” found at the end of its tail. Commonly referred to as a rattler, there are 32 known species.

Danger to Humans:

All rattlesnakes, regardless of species, should be treated as potentially dangerous because every species is considered venomous, or poisonous. A single bite could cause deadly poison to go into the body. However, a rattlesnake bite does not generally result in death as long as the human gets immediate medical help. Rattlesnakes generally only strike when they are surprised or disturbed by humans. They can only strike from a coiled position on the ground.

Habitat:

Rattlesnakes are found on the continents of North and South America. They are usually associated with arid, or dry, habitats, such as deserts. However, they also can be found in forests, grasslands, and even swamps. They survive in wet areas due to their surprising ability to swim quite well.

Rattlesnakes, like all other reptiles, are ectothermic. This means they are naturally cold-blooded and must get their body heat from outside sources like the sun or hot surfaces. You can often find a rattlesnake catching some rays on a warm rock! Rattlesnakes prefer temperatures from 80-90 degrees Fahrenheit, but can also survive freezing temperatures. Rattlesnakes cannot be active in cold weather because they cannot draw enough heat. Instead, they hibernate in large dens with many other rattlesnakes.

Size/Color:

The species of rattlesnakes differ greatly in size. The smallest rattlesnake is only 1 foot long, while the longest rattlesnake can be 6-8 times as long!

Rattlesnakes are not very colorful because they like to be camouflaged, or hidden, in their surroundings. Most rattlers are black, brown, olive, or gray or can be a combination of these colors.

Anatomy:

The most distinct part of the rattlesnake’s anatomy is, of course, its rattle. A rattlesnake uses its rattle as a warning system when it feels threatened. Surprisingly, the rattle is made of keratin, a type of protein. Humans also have keratin ~ it is what fingernails are made of!

Although it is very noisy, the rattle is actually hollow! Its sound results from each rattle link hitting the link right next to it when the snake contracts its tail.

As the rattlesnake grows, it outgrows its skin, so it sheds the old one and makes a new one. Like the skin, the rattlesnake’s rattle is continually growing. Each time the rattlesnake sheds, another new rattle is grown to add to the existing collection. Some people say you can tell how old a rattlesnake is just by counting its rattles! However, this method is not very accurate because rattles can break off or a snake can grow more than one rattle a year.

Diet:

Rattlesnakes are carnivores, or meat eaters. They eat small mammals, such as rats, along with insects and even other reptiles. Unlike an adult human, a grown rattlesnake only needs to eat once every couple of weeks!

Rattlesnakes are part of a special type of snake called pit vipers. This means it possesses an organ that helps them detect heat. If a mouse ventures close by the rattlesnake, it can “see” the mouse and accurately strike. This would be similar to humans using night goggles at night to see objects!

  • Special Adaptations:

    Rattlesnakes inject their venom, or poison, in their victims through the use of long, hollow fangs. One of the special things about rattlesnake fangs is that they can grow as many as they need! Humans only have two sets of teeth ~ baby and permanent teeth. So, if a permanent tooth is lost, a trip to the dentist is in order. Rattlesnakes, however, can grow as many fangs as they need! If they happen to break one off when eating, they simply grow another one!

  • Reproduction:

    Rattlesnakes are ovoviviparous, which means the eggs are carried inside the female rattlesnake before she gives birth to live young. She only carries the eggs for about three months! Baby rattlesnakes cannot rattle.

    Young rattlesnakes are considered even more dangerous than adult rattlesnakes. This is because their venom is very strong at the time of their birth. As the rattlesnake grows older, the venom becomes less concentrated.

  • Conservation Status:

    Rattlesnake populations decrease due to habitat loss, road accidents, and other encounters with humans. Many humans simply kill a rattlesnake if they see one. However, only about 3 species are listed as threatened or endangered.

Striking Statements of Fact:

  • King snakes are immune to the venom of rattlesnakes, so they are known as one of the main predators of this species.
  • Rattlesnakes can see things up to 40 feet away!

Tiger Snakes

The tiger snake, like its jungle and ocean counterparts ~ the tiger and tiger shark, is considered to be quite deadly. It is one of the most dangerous snakes in Australia. Its scientific genus name is Notechis, and there is a scientific debate on exactly how many species of tiger snakes exists. Some believe there are two main species, the mainland tiger snake and the black tiger snake, while others believe there is only one species with several subspecies.

Danger to Humans:

Tiger snakes are considered to be deadly and aggressive when it feels threatened. It is one of the most feared snakes in Australia. Tiger snakes will not usually bite unless they feel they are in danger and would rather slither away before even being seen by humans. Before the development of an anti-venom, 40-60% of tiger snake bites resulted in death. If a person is bitten by a tiger snake, immediate medical attention is needed.

Habitat:

Tiger snakes are found in the southern and western parts of Australia. Tiger snakes like to be around areas with a close water source. They are often found in marshy areas around lakes, swamps, ponds, creeks, and even drains! They are also found in grasslands that have lots of cover and water nearby.

Appearance:

The tiger snake can be lengths of between 3 and 7 feet long. The color of these snakes varies greatly and depends on the type of environment the individual tiger snake lives in. The many different colors tiger snakes come in is what causes the intense debate among scientists about how many species there actually are. It is truly a snake of many colors!

As the name suggests, most tiger snakes usually do have stripes of some color and can be found in shades of gray, green, yellow, orange, and even black. The name tiger snake results from the fact that most dark colored snakes have yellow striped patterns.

However, not all tiger snakes have stripes. Some individuals are solid colors with no pattern. Tiger snakes that live on islands and in higher altitudes often are not striped and are a dark solid color. This allows them to soak up the heat faster during the short growing season found in these environments.

Anatomy:

The tiger snake will usually only bite in self-defense, and its body is a built in warning system to outside threats. When the snake feels threatened, it will assume a cobra-like stance with a head and neck area that flattens out and a raised body. It will hiss loudly at its “attacker” and inflate and deflate its body.

Diet:

The tiger snake’s favorite meal is frogs, but it will also eat bats, lizards, small mammals, and carrion, or the flesh of dead animals. Scientists have found the size of prey available for the tiger snake determines the size the snake will get. One island population of very large tiger snakes often feast on large chicks, while a very small dwarf size of tiger snake preys on small skinks.

  • Special Adaptations:

    Although mostly a terrestrial, or land dwelling, snake, the tiger snake is also an excellent swimmer. This comes in handy since frogs are often found around water. In fact, tiger snakes can be underwater for about 9 minutes at a time before coming up for air!

    Since tiger snakes are ectothermic, or cold blooded, they are more active on warmer days. In cold weather, they aestivate, or spend long periods of time, in underground, empty animal burrows. They sometimes go as much as 4 feet underground! This is not like hibernation because they will come up to the surface to bask in the sun on warmer days. Hibernating animals do not come out of their resting places until spring arrives.

  • Reproduction:

    Female tiger snakes give birth to 10-64 live young, which are then immediately left on their own to fend for themselves. Twenty-six neonates, or newborns, were found in the same winter shelter providing each other warmth!

  • Conservation Status:

    Some populations of tiger snakes are listed as Vulnerable. Certain populations are declining due to pollution, overgrazing, and decrease of food supplies due to introduced species. Some tiger snake species will probably be Endangered in the near future.

Striking Statements of Fact:

  • Tiger snakes are also excellent climbers. They have been known to climb trees, as well as man-made objects. They have been found in places up to 33 feet high! A bat has even been found in the stomach of a tiger snake showing how high it will go to find food!

Vipers

Vipers are a family of snakes, which includes some of the most feared species such as rattlesnakes and adders. The scientific name of the species is Viperidae, and there are over 300 recognized species in the world!

Danger to Humans:

All vipers have long fangs and are venomous. A bite from a viper could be deadly, but how dangerous a bite is depends on if the bite was wet (with venom) or dry (without venom). Lucky for humans, many vipers will “dry bite” in order to conserve their venom. Regardless, anyone bitten by a viper should receive immediate medical attention.

Habitat:

The only continents vipers cannot live are Australia and Antarctica. They are found nearly everywhere else worldwide, so their habitat is varied. They can live in fields, deserts, mountains, and rainforests. Vipers found in hotter, more tropical areas are more venomous than those found in colder climates.

Appearance:

The largest viper in the world is the Gaboon viper, which can reach lengths of 7 feet and weigh up to 22 pounds. Although the Gaboon viper is the largest because of weight, it is not the longest. The South American bushmaster is the longest measuring up to 11 feet! The smallest vipers reach lengths about 2 feet long.

The coloration of the vipers varies greatly. Some are dull colors, like brown or black, while others are more vibrant in shades of yellow, green, pink, and even purple! The reason for the many shades is the type of habitat the viper lives in. Vipers rely heavily on camouflage, so blending in to their surroundings is essential to their survival.

Anatomy:

Vipers are most known for their extremely long fangs. Not only are they long and hollow, they are also rotatable and hinged. This allows the fangs to grow longer than most other snakes because the viper can simply fold them up into the roof of their mouth when not in use! The fangs can be rotated together as a pair or separately. This is a neat trick to have since a viper can open its mouth to 180 degrees, which would be similar to a straight line! The Gaboon viper has the longest fangs, up to 2 inches, of any snake in the world!

Diet:

Vipers target small mammals, warm blooded animals, as prey, such as rats and mice. However, they also eat lizards and eggs.

Vipers are considered to be very slow when compared to other snakes, but they are also master ambushers! They are not active hunters, but will instead wait on the prey to come by and then attack. They also practice something called prey relocation. This means they will bite the prey, allow it to wander away and die, and then track the prey using their strong sense of smell.

  • Special Adaptations:

    Two interesting types of vipers, the horned viper and the eyelash pit viper, have interesting scales around their eyes. The horned viper, as the name suggests, has a horn like scale that can be found either on its nose or above its eye. Scientists believe the horned scale is there as a form of camouflage or to protect its eyes from getting sand in them. All horned vipers are found in dry, sandy habitats. Interestingly enough, not all horned vipers have horns. A single clutch, or group, of babies will have both babies with horns and those without.

    The other viper with a special adaptation is the eyelash pit viper, which have prickly scales over their eyes that resemble eyelashes. Scientists believe these help protect the snake as it moves through dense, brushy vegetation.

  • Reproduction:

    Most vipers deliver babies through a live birthing process. However, there are some species of vipers that are egg layers. The number of babies and incubation period differ greatly among the different species.

  • Conservation Status:

    Although vipers contain many species, several are listed as Near Threatened, Vulnerable, Endangered, or Critically Endangered. Some species are also listed as Extinct or Extinct in the Wild. Island species, such as the golden lancehead and the Santa Catalina rattlesnake, are the rarest and face declining populations due to over collection for scientific or other purposes.