Snakes - Mysterious and Misunderstood
Snakes are elongate, legless, carnivorous reptiles that can be distinguished from legless lizards by their lack of eyelids and external ears.Many species of snakes have skulls with many more joints than their lizard ancestors, enabling them to swallow prey much larger than their heads with their highly mobile jaws. To accommodate their narrow bodies, snakes' paired organs (such as kidneys) appear one in front of the other instead of side by side, and most have only one functional lung.
Most species are nonvenomous and those that have venom use it primarily to kill and subdue prey rather than for self-defense. Some possess venom potent enough to cause painful injury or death to humans. Nonvenomous snakes either swallow prey alive or kill by constriction.
Living snakes are found on every continent except Antarctica and on most islands. They range in size from the tiny, 10 cm-long thread snake to pythons and anacondas of up to 7.6 metres (25 ft) in length. Snakes are thought to have evolved from either burrowing or aquatic lizards during the mid-Cretaceous period, and the earliest known fossils date to around 112 Million years ago.
Adding grain to this theory, Some species (Eg. Python) retain a pelvic girdle with a pair of spurs on either side of the cloaca. These Pelvic spurs are the externally visible portion of the vestigial remnants of legs found on each side of the vent in primitive snakes, such as boas and pythons and though not connected to the spine, they are used for clasping and tickling during courtship and mating, as well as combat with other males in some species.
They are are ectothermic or cold-blooded creatures that control body temperatures through external means. In the cold weather, they soak up sunlight. When it is hot they leave their nests in search of cool spots, which could often be within human dwellings or farms.
Certain Snakes have really good vision especially King Cobra and the tree snakes, but most of them are near-sighted like borrowing snakes and the others. Of course, all are colour-blind. They do not have eye-lids to cover their eye.
Snakes can smell pretty well mainly by their sensitive tongue,but not much by their nostrils. The tongue picks up the odours/molecules in the air and the Jacobson's organ above the mouth will make out what the odour is.
Snakes like Pythons & Pit Vipers have heat sensing pits, which helps in detect warm-blooded animals like rodents & birds in absolute darkness.
Snakes in India
Snakes are possibly the most misunderstood creature on earth and more so in India. With our amazing diversity in religion and tradition, its no surprise that the snake plays a major fear-factor role in most people's lives.
There are over 270 species of snakes out of which only about 60 are venomous. 4 of those are found in India
Perhaps the most infamous of all venomous snakes are the "Big Four" which are so named because they are responsible for the most human bites in the country. They are:
Spectacled Cobra (Naja naja)
Common Krait (Bungarus caeruleus)
Russel's Viper (Daboia Russeli)
Saw Scaled Viper (Echis Carnatus)
Types of snakes
Terrestrial / arboreal Snakes
These are snakes that live on land or in the trees and are the most common type of snake that come in contact with humans.
Watersnakes spend most of their time in water. They eat frogs, fish and sometimes birds if they can catch them. None of the freshwater snakes in India are venomous, however sea snakes are highly venomous and in some cases more so than even the cobra. Some fresh water snakes have mild venom to help them catch their prey, but it isn't harmful to man.
Burrowing snakes live underground. Of course, there are also other snakes that go underground to escape the heat of the sun and to hide from predators. But burrower’s are the only ones that can dig their own holes. The burrowing snake’s skull is as powerful as the point of a crowbar. Its stocky body and strong neck muscles make it easy for the snake to bulldoze its way through soft soil. There are three groups of burrowing snakes in India:
Small Worm Snakes
Common Sand Boa