Written by: on May 28, 2020 @ 6:00 am

Ophidiophobia, or fear of snakes, is the most common fear in the United States! More than half of the population’s largest fear are our legless friends, followed by public speaking and heights. What about slithering snakes makes us so uncomfortable? The cliché is true, snakes are more scared of us than we are of them. Herpetologists, scientists that study snakes, reptiles, and amphibians, have a special passion for these amazing creatures.

Snakes are closely related to lizards, having evolved past the need for legs more than 150 million years ago. Our legless friends can be found across the planet excluding Antarctica, Iceland, Ireland, Greenland, and New Zealand. Nearly all snakes swallow their prey whole, opening their jaws wide to swallow food larger than their heads. Snakes can swallow animals up to 3 times as large as their head is wide! Due to snakes ingesting such large portions at a time, adult snakes only eat every two weeks. Talk about eating until you’re stuffed!

Using forked tongues, snakes smell their surroundings to find food or avoid dangers. Pit holes are openings in the front of snakes’ heads which assist them in detecting heat from warm-blooded prey while their jaw bones sense vibrations of scurrying animals. Snakes are miraculous predators!  Venomous snakes use their poison to paralyze their food, while nonvenomous snakes, like the python, constrict or choke their prey.

Snakes range from 4 inches to 30 feet long! Snakes are covered in scales which help them trap moisture in dry climates and reduce friction as they glide across the ground. These scales are composed of keratin, the same substance that human fingernails and hair are made of. Humans regularly lose their dead skin cells, but snakes shed their entire skin at once. Molting is the process in which snakes peel off their outer layers of skin to remove parasites and make room for growth. Finding a snakeskin in your yard or garden is evidence of a reptile neighbor!

There are more than 3,600 known snake species, and only 600 of them are venomous. The United States is home to 4 venous snakes including copperheads, cottonmouths or water moccasins, rattlesnakes, and coral snakes. These snakes are responsible for fewer than 10 deaths annually! Snakes seldom approach and attack humans, most snake bites occur when someone accidentally steps on a snake. Most snakebites are no more than a few pinpricks of blood and topical irritation; snakes cannot carry rabies or other diseases. The likelihood of being seriously injured by a slithering snake is rare, fortunately!

Rattlesnakes, one of the United State’s venomous reptiles, are the newest and most evolved snakes in the world. The rattlesnake obtained their name from their highly advanced warning signal, a rattling tale warding off predators before a venomous strike. Within the snake’s tail are pieces of keratin collected with each skin shed, these pieces knocking together to create their infamous buzzing sound. This species of pit viper is most often found in the deserts of the American Southwest, feeding on small rodents or lizards. Rattlesnakes are some of the most known and easily recognizable snake species!

Join our HTHT @ Home Science Experiment and make your own snake rattle: https://sciencemadefun.net/downloads/EOTD_Snake_Rattle_Lesson.pdf

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