Snakes are animals with long, legless bodies. A snake’s body is covered with dry scales. To move about on land, a snake slithers along on its belly. The eyes of a snake are covered by clear scales instead of movable eyelids. As a result, its eyes are always open. Snakes have a thin, forked tongue that they flick out again and again. They use this long tongue to learn about their surroundings.

Snakes are closely related to lizards. They belong to a group of animals called reptiles. Like other reptiles, snakes are cold-blooded. The body temperature of a cold-blooded animal changes to match the temperature of its surroundings. Snakes control their body temperature through behavior. For example, they may raise their body temperature by lying in the sun. They may lower it by crawling into the shade.

The Body Of A Snake

The dry scales that cover a snake’s body may be smooth or ridged, with rough edges. From time to time, a snake sheds the outer layer of skin. This skin-shedding is called molting. When a snake molts, it loosens the skin around its mouth and head by rubbing its nose on a rough surface. The snake then crawls out of the old skin, turning it inside out.

Many snakes are not brightly colored. They usually blend in with their surroundings. Others snakes have bright colors of red, yellow, or white. These colors may warn other animals that the snake is dangerous.

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Some snakes are poisonous. Most poisonous snakes have two hollow fangs in the upper jaw. Snakes shoot their venom, or poison, through their fangs when they bite. The deadliest snakes include the Indian cobra of Asia, the black mamba and the saw-scaled viper of Africa, and the tiger snake of Australia.

The Snake’s Way Of Life

Most snakes are active during the day. Others move about at night and rest during the day.

Most snakes eat birds, fish, frogs, lizards, and such small animals as rabbits and rats. Some snakes eat other snakes.

Snakes move around in different ways. Most snakes tighten their muscles, causing a series of waves from the head to the tail. Their bodies push against anything on the surface, and doing so moves them forward.

Where Snakes Live

Snakes live almost everywhere on Earth. They are found in deserts, forests, oceans, streams, and lakes. Many snakes live on the ground, while some live underground, and others live in trees. Still others spend most of their time in water. Only a few parts of the world have no snakes. Snakes cannot live where the ground stays frozen the year around. So there are no snakes in very cold regions or high up in mountains. In addition, many islands have no snakes, including Ireland and New Zealand.

There are thousands of kinds of snakes. Most of them live in tropical areas, where it is hot. The largest snakes are the green anaconda <<an uh KAHN duh>> of South America, the reticulated python of Asia, and the African rock python. One of the smallest snakes is the Barbados thread snake, which lives in the tropics.

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People And Snakes

Some people fear and dislike snakes. There are many myths that encourage people to fear snakes. Also, people may fear snakes because some are poisonous. But most snakes are harmless to people. Even poisonous snakes only attack people if they feel threatened. Many snakes help people by eating rats and other pests. Without snakes, these animals would do much damage. People kill many snakes each year. Unfortunately, many kinds of snakes are in danger of dying out completely.

Some people keep snakes as pets. However, many snakes do not make good pets. Pet snakes may stay hidden most of the time. In addition, many snakes must eat such things as live mice. Getting the proper food can make it hard to keep a snake in good health. People who would like to keep a snake as a pet must commit to feeding and caring for the animal.

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