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Squamates - Snakes

hognoseAlthough most snakes are harmless and beneficial to people, they are some of the most widely feared and misunderstood animals on the planet.

Snakes are reptiles that do not have legs, ears, or eyelids. They have a backbone, ribs, skull, and some even have hip bones. Snakes also have a heart, lungs (most have just one long lung), liver, kidneys, intestines, and all the other internal organs that humans have. Snakes also have a brain and can feel pain just as humans do.

Snakes are not slimy. Like all reptiles, they are covered in dry scales made of keratin - the same protein that makes up bird feathers, human hair, and fingernails.

jacobsons organA snake's forked tongue cannot sting or hurt you. A snake that is constantly flicking out it's tongue is simply interested in its surroundings; "sniffing' like a dog. Chemicals or "scents" stick to the tongue as it waves it around. The snake then slides its tongue along the roof of its mouth where the neuron studded vomeronasal organ is. This organ sends an instant message to the snake’s brain its surroundings.

costaricarattleSome snakes possess heat sensing pits. Pit vipers (including copperheads and rattlesnakes), boas, and pythons are able to use their heat sensing pits to are distinguish in vivid detail the differences in the temperatures around them. This allows them to navigate and catch prey in complete darkness.

All snakes are carnivores - no snake will eat any kind of plant. Some snakes, like garter snakes, eat by simply biting and swallowing their prey live. Other snakes, like rat snakes, use constriction to subdue their prey before swallowing. And a few snakes pre-kill their prey by using venom that is injected through hollow fangs.

boaSnakes swallow their food whole. They cannot chew their food. A snake's head may appear too small to swallow many food items, but snake mouths are built to open wide. The lower jaw includes two jaw bones connected in the middle with a stretchy ligament, so the mouth can open wide sideways as well as up and down. One side of the jaw holds the prey while the other side of the jaw slides forward, “walking” the food further into their mouth.

Snakes come in every color of the rainbow from the purple egg eating snake of Africa to the bright red scarlet snake of the United States. All of them still keep secrets well have yet to discover.