How many species of snake are there?

There are more than 3000 species of snake! Only 375 of these are venomous, which helps them immobilise fast-moving prey. Snakes live in all sorts of environments, such as deserts, trees and even in water. All snakes can swim, but some have made a permanent move the ocean to feed on marine creatures.

The world’s largest snake is the green anaconda, which can reach lengths of over eight metres! This colossal reptile is big enough to eat deer, caiman and tapir. The smallest snake is the Barbados threadsnake, which is only ten centimetres long and is at thin as a strand of spaghetti! This tiny snake is completely blind and lives on a diet of ants and termites.

Snakes are ‘sit and wait’ predators, where they lie in wait for an unsuspecting animal to wander into their path. Most snakes have poor vision, so rely on the use of the Jacobson’s organ which helps them detect heat sources and movement with their tongue. Their jaws have elastic ligaments that help the snake’s mouth stretch open incredibly wide to swallow animals that are wider than the snake’s body. Snakes have powerful digestive systems to break down the bones of the animals they eat, which are then expelled as a gooey liquid!

Some snakes have adapted to eat only eggs! These six snakes steal eggs from bird nests and swallow them completely whole, then break them open with sharp spines in the throat. The shell is kept intact and then regurgitated in one piece but the egg’s contents are swallowed.

There are several species of lizards that don’t have legs, but are not snakes. These are considered to be lizards, as unlike snakes they have eyelids, ear openings and inflexible jaws.

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