There are nearly 3,400 species of snakes on earth, of which only less than 10% are poisonous. In spite of this, snakes are a symbol of terror for human beings, often personifying evil.
Snakes, also called ophidians, are reptiles belonging to the order Squamata, like lizards and amphisbaenians. The members of this order are easily recognizable thanks to their skin composed of scales and their jaw made of mobile and independent bones. This second criterion is even more present in snakes that are able to open their mouths wide to swallow their prey.
In this article, we will detail the different types of snakes that exist and their characteristics. After reading this content, you will be able to identify the different snakes and the category to which they belong.
What are the different types of snakes ?
There are five different types of snakes which are:
- Venomous Snakes
- Non Venomous Snakes
- Desert Snakes
- Sea Snakes
- Water Snakes
Now that you know these 5 main categories, we will detail them one by one.
Characteristics Of Snakes
Snakes are carnivorous animals that have a body covered with scales. Their body is cylindrical for the most part, although it is not impossible to see some with a triangular shape, flattened dorsally or flattened laterally. Their epidermal scales are arranged side by side and overlapping. Between each of them is a mobile area called a hinge, which allows them to move. Unlike lizards, snake scales are called horny and do not have osteoderms or bony scales on the underside. As the animal grows, this scaly epidermal tissue sheds completely.
The snakes, in addition to the characteristics of Squamata, are distinguished by their bifid tongue and eyes without eyelids.
On the face, they also have dimples, called thermoreceptors, which are able to detect small differences in temperature, down to a hundredth of a degree. The number of dimples can vary between 1 and 13 pairs on each side of the face. Through the thermal field, there is a double chamber located inside and separated by a thin membrane. These receptors are used to hunt and detect their prey. Indeed, if there is a warm-blooded animal near him, the air in the first chamber increases and moves to the membrane that stimulates their nerve endings.
Their size varies according to each species. For example, the blind snakes of the Typhlopidae reach 0.33ft (10cm) as adults, while the Green Anaconda or the Reticulated Python can reach up to 33ft (10m).
Functioning and metabolism
Snakes are ectothermic animals, meaning that they are not able to regulate their body temperature by themselves and that they depend on their environment. This is why they adapt their behavior to maintain the most stable temperature possible.
As a reptile, the circulatory system of snakes is characterized by the fact that their heart is divided into three chambers, two atria and a single ventricle. This organ receives blood from the body and lungs and then circulates it freely. The small valves and partitions in the ventricle make it function as if it were divided in two.
The respiratory system of snakes consists of the glottis, a small hole located at the end of the mouth. This limb allows air to pass to the trachea whenever the animal needs to breathe. After the trachea is the right lung, which is crossed by a bronchus called the mesobronchium. The left lung is very small, or even absent in many species. Snakes breathe exclusively with their intercostal muscles.
The excretory system of snakes is very evolved. They have metanephric kidneys that filter the blood to expel waste, like mammals or birds. These are located in the posterior area of their body. They don’t have a bladder, but their tube that allows them to evacuate waste widens at the end, allowing them to store their urine.
Finally, some snakes also have a very toxic venom. This venom is produced by salivary glands whose composition is modified. Being nothing more than saliva, the venom also has a digestive function which is used after having swallowed a prey. Thus, if a snake bites you, even if it is not venomous, its saliva can end up causing a reaction as well as very painful injuries.
The reproduction of snakes is external for the majority. Indeed, the vast majority of these animals are oviparous. However, some species of snakes are ovoviviparous and the young develop inside the mother. In females, the ovaries are enlarged and float inside the body cavity. In males, the seminiferous ducts act as testes. There is also a structure called the hemipenis, but it is nothing more than a copulatory organ for entering the female’s cloaca.
The cloaca is a structure where the excretory ducts converge, which is located at the end of the intestine and the reproductive organs.
Snakes have highly developed sensory organs, especially taste and smell. Thanks to an organ called Jacobson’s organ or vomeronasal organ, males are able to detect the pheromones diffused by females, which allows them to seek it for mating. Their bifid tongue also allows them to capture olfactory particles and thus detect nearby odors.
Where Do Snakes Live ?
Given the great diversity of species that exist today, snakes have managed to establish themselves in almost every environment on the planet, except for the poles. They are found in the most varied biotopes and with the most difficult climates. The large species live mostly in warm places in order to warm their bodies more easily.
Some snakes live in wooded areas, using trees to move around (arboreal snakes). Other snakes live in grasslands and more open areas. In addition, some of them can live in rocky or desert areas. There are even ophids that have made the oceans their habitat. Aquatic environments are therefore also an ideal place for some species.
The types of venomous snakes can be classified according to the type of fangs:
- Solenoglyphous snakes: They have long movable fangs, connected directly to their salivary glands, in front of the maxilla. These venomous fangs fold back when their mouth is closed and straighten when they open their mouth.
- Opisthoglyphic snakes: They have one or more venomous fangs in the posterior part of their maxilla. The position of their fangs makes them a less dangerous animal because it is difficult for them to bite.
- Proteoglyphic snakes: They have two fixed fangs located in front of their jaw and connected to their salivary glands. These types of snakes are considered the most venomous in the world (for example: the cobra)
- Aglyphic snakes: They do not have venomous fangs. However, they are still part of the venomous snakes because their bite, although not lethal to humans, can inflict significant injuries and cause infections because of the length of their fangs and the power of their jaws.
Not all snakes are as dangerous. With their evolution, these reptiles have been able to differentiate between prey, attacking mainly “concrete prey” and, among them, not the human being. Thus, the majority of snakes, although they are venomous, do not necessarily represent a real threat to us.
Nevertheless, there are extremely dangerous snakes that attack as soon as they feel threatened, regardless of the target. Among the most venomous snakes in the world are :
- Belcher’s Sea Snake (Hydrophis Belcheri)
The Belcher’s sea snake is known to be the most venomous snake in the world. This reptile, feared by humans for its poison, is in fact not a danger, for several reasons.
The first is that it spends most of its time in the ocean. Moreover, its rather shy behavior makes it an almost harmless animal for the few people it comes in contact with (mainly fishermen).
Finally, this snake has the ability to control the amount of venom it injects when bitten. Thus, few bites recorded by this snake on humans contained venom.
To learn more about this snake, we invite you to discover our article on the Belcher’s Sea Snake.
- Inland taipan (Oxyuranus microlepidotus)
The Inland Taipan is the most venomous land snake in the world. Present exclusively in Australia, this reptile is not very aggressive towards humans. However, its speed of attack and the toxicity of its venom make it a very dangerous snake.
Without antivenom, a bite from this snake can kill a human being in only a few minutes. So, if you come across an Inland Taipan, a piece of advice … Don’t try to catch it ! You might regret your action.
To know everything about this snake, we made an article about the Inland Taipan. Do not hesitate to go and have a look at it.
- Black mamba (Dendroaspis Polylepis)
The Black Mamba, nicknamed the African Snake, is reputed to be the fastest venomous snake in the world and the most dangerous in Africa. Unlike other species, this reptile does not fear man and can become very aggressive.
Indeed, it does not hesitate to attack and bite any “obstacle” that it perceives as a threat. That’s why it is feared by the humans in its country. It spends a lot of time in the trees but also moves on the ground. Be careful if you cross on your way ! Its very toxic venom does not leave any chance to humans.
If you want to learn more about him, please read our article about the Black Mamba.
- King Cobra (Ophiophagus Hannah)
The King Cobra is the longest venomous snake in the world. Reaching up to 17ft (5m), it is far from having the most toxic venom of the ophids. What makes it a very dangerous animal is the amount of venom it is able to inject in a single bite.
This reptile is particularly known for its defensive position: when it feels in danger, it raises a third of its body by deploying its mythical “hood”. It also emits a hissing sound to warn you that it will attack.
To know everything about this snake, we have written a complete article on the King Cobra
- Fer-De-Lance (Bothrops Asper)
The Fer-De-Lance has a bad reputation in Costa Rica. Indeed, it is responsible for a large number of snakebites in this country, which makes it one of the most dangerous.
Despite its bad reputation, this reptile remains a wonder of nature.
If you want to travel to Costa Rica, don’t write them off ! Most of the bites caused by this snake on humans are done on farmers. It particularly likes the countryside and isolated rural areas. You are therefore unlikely to encounter it during your next vacation.
- Western Diamondback rattlesnake (Crotalus atrox)
The Western Diamondback rattlesnake is easily recognized by its characteristic whistle. Although it is not very aggressive, it remains the most dangerous species in North America, notably because of its speed of attack.
Learn more about the Western Diamondback Rattlesnake
Despite their danger, these animals fascinate many people, both for their symbolism and their beauty. Add a colorful touch to your home by hanging a beautiful Snake Painting on your wall ! Rest assured, these are not dangerous. They are there to watch over you.
Non Venomous Snakes
Nearly 90% of the snakes living on this earth are not venomous, but that doesn’t mean they are not dangerous. For example, pythons are not venomous but their large and powerful bodies allow them to choke and asphyxiate very large animals in just a few seconds. Among these types of pythons are:
- Ball Python (Python regius)
Native to South Africa, the Ball Python is a very popular species in terrariums, especially for its ease of care. The inherent characteristic of this reptile is the position it adopts when it is frightened, which is why it is called the Ball Python.
This snake is not venomous and belongs to the constrictor snake family.
To know everything about this snake, we advise you to read our article on the Ball Python.
- Carpet Python (Morelia spilota)
The Carpet Python is native to Australia. This snake is an excellent climber that feeds on rodents and birds. In captivity, this reptile is known to be fragile, even if it evolves very well when it is in good conditions.
Learn more about this beautiful reptile in our article on the Carpet Python.
Here are some other species of Pythons:
- Burmese Python (Python bivittatus)
- African Rock Python (Python sebae)
- Amethystine Python (Simalia amethistina)
Some ophidians are considered pets. However, none of them are really animals that should be found in a home because they are not meant to be kept in an enclosed space. Generally, the only factor that can change in them is their temperament which becomes calmer because they feel less threatened.
The fact that most snakes do not have venom makes many people decide to adopt a snake as a pet. Here are some types of pet snakes:
- Boa Constrictor (Boa constrictor)
The Boa Constrictor is the best known of the Boidae family. Also called Red-Tailed Boa, this reptile is variable in color with a red tail. This species can reach up to 10ft (3m).
We have written a complete article on the Boa Constrictor. If you want to know more about him, do not hesitate to go and consult it
- Green Tree Python (Morelia viridis)
The Green Tree Python is a legendary snake for terrariums. Indeed, this reptile has unique physical characteristics, including their beautiful color that evolves over time. This arboreal reptile likes to spend its time hanging from a branch.
To learn all about this snake considered the most beautiful in the world for many people, feel free to discover our article on the Green Tree Python.
- California Kingsnake (Lampropeltis getulus californiae)
- Milk Sake (Lampropeltis triangulum)
You can learn more about non-venomous species in our article dedicated to this subject. Click here to learn more
Desert snakes are the species that live in the desert. Among these ophidians, there are certain types of snakes like:
- Sand Viper or Horned Viper (Vipera ammodytes)
- Mojave Rattlesnake (Crotalus scutulatus)
- Micruroides Euryxanthus
- Arizona Pacata
- Arizona Elegans
Sea snakes belong to the family Hydrophiinae, a subfamily of Elapidae. They spend most of their lives inside salt water and are, for the most part, unable to move on the land surface. Here are some species of marine snakes:
- Yellow-Lipped Sea Snake (Laticauda colubrina)
- Yellow-Bellied Sea Snake (Hydrophis platurus)
- Hydrophis Melanocephalus
Water snakes spend their time in rivers, lakes and lagoons. Generally large in size, these reptiles do not need to breathe continuously, allowing them to spend the vast majority of their time submerged in water, where they find their food, such as fish or amphibians.
- Green Anaconda (Eunectes Murinus)
The Green Anaconda is a snake as impressive as it is scary. The source of many myths and stories, this reptile is a formidable predator in its natural environment. Its heavy and muscular body leaves no chance to its prey.
Indeed, with specimens reaching a size of 28ft (8.5m) and a weight of 441lbs (200kg), this snake suffocates its prey with an incredible strength. It is not for nothing that it is considered the biggest snake in the world.
The Green Anaconda is the subject of one of our articles. We advise you to visit it. This legendary snake remains to leave you speechless
- Grass Snake (Natrix natrix)
Often confused with the Viperine Water Snake, this snake is one of the few species that inhabit Europe. Of course, this ophidian is harmless to humans.
We have written an article about the Grass Snake. To discover it, just click here.
Here is a brief list of other water snakes:
- Viperine Water Snake (Natrix Maura)
- Elephant Trunk Snake (Acrochordus javanicus)
There you go, you now know the 5 main types of snakes that exist on earth. If you liked this content, do not hesitate to subscribe to our Newsletter. This will allow you to be warned in advance of the release of our new articles on snakes.
If you have read this article, it means that you are interested in snakes. If so, you should check out our online store. As the first snake-inspired brand, we created Snake Dream™ to convey our passion for this symbolic animal since the beginning of time. We have tried to transcribe our passion through our handcrafted products, such as our Snake Clothing and Jewelry.