Snakes, Snakes, Snakes | Project Discovery

When the Museum of York County had a special exhibit on snakes, the Project Discovery crew visited the exhibit with naturalist Rudy Mancke of PBS’s NatureScene. There are many myths about snakes, most of which are not true. Snakes have a three-chamber heart, a liver, and one lung, which is about threefourths of the length of the snake. The largest snake ever reported was an anaconda, which weighed 600 pounds. The longest snake reported was a python, which was 32 feet, nine and one-half inches long. The smallest snake reported was the thread snake, usually about three-fourths of an inch long.

Snakes continue to grow throughout their lives, shedding their skins as they grow -- usually about two or three times a year. The rattle on a rattlesnake is shed skin that never left the body.

Snakes have no eyelids, but they have clear scales over their eyes, that help protect them. These scales are shed with the skin. Snakes have no external ears. They sense vibrations by laying their heads on the ground and sensing the vibrations through their jawbones.

Although snakes do not have legs, some can move four to eight miles per hour. They cannot leap or outrun a person. Snakes actually walk on their ribs and pull themselves along, or they use belly scales to move forward, one scale at a time. Snakes are carnivorous and eat living materials such as rats, birds, eggs, other snakes, and toads. They eat five to six times their weight in food during the summer. When it is colder, they eat less and then they hibernate. Snakes have teeth that point down their throats, which help push the prey down the throat. Fanged snakes have large teeth that hinge and turn up in the mouth.

Copperheads and rattlesnakes are poisonous, or venomous, snakes. They have a triangular-shaped head because of the venom glands. The color of snakes and the pattern of the colors help identify snakes at a distance. There is a rhyme about identifying poisonous snakes: “Red touch yellow, kill a fellow; red touch black, venom lack.” Snakes are often camouflaged so that they can blend into the background. This helps them catch their prey and hide from predators.