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Snakes, also known as ophidians, are vertebrate animals which are carnivores and reproductively eclectic, being viviparous (live birth), ovoviviparous (development in eggs inside the mother's body, but born live), or oviparous (egg laying).
Most venomous snakes are classified by four major groups:
Elapids - cobras, king cobras, kraits, mambas, Australian copperheads, and coral snakes. Viperids - vipers, rattlesnakes, copperheads/cottonmouths, adders and bushmasters. Colubrids - boomslangs, tree snakes, vine snakes, mangrove snakes, and many others, though not all colubrids are venomous. Hydrophiidae - sea snakes
Most Snakes are classified into two major, broad groups:
- Short, fixed-fanged snakes, which include the coral snake, cobras, and sea snakes.
- Long, retractable-fanged snakes, which include vipers and pit vipers.
Snake eyelids are transparent "spectacle" scales which remain permanently closed, called brille. A snake's sense of vision is nothing special, in fact, it is especially poor compared to other animals. Snakes have no external ears, but they do have a bone called the quadrate under the skin on either side of the head which focuses sound into the cochlea. A snake smells by using its forked tongue to collect airborne particles then passing them to the Jacobson's organ or the Vomeronasal organ in the mouth for examination. The fork in the tongue gives the snake a sort of directional sense of smell.
A snake's skin is covered in scales. Most snakes use specialized belly scales to move, by gripping surfaces with the scales. The body scales may be smooth, keeled, or granular. Snakes shed their skin periodically, and unlike other reptiles, the skin comes off in one piece. The primary purpose of shedding is to allow the scale-covered snake to grow larger.
It's been confirmed that the entire group of "snakes" reproduces by viviparous, ovoviparous, and oviparous techniques. All snakes undergo internal fertilization, using paired, forked hemipenes, which are stored, inverted, in the male's tail. Recently, it has been confirmed that several species of snake are fully viviparous, such as the green anaconda, nourishing their young through a placenta as well as a yolk sac, highly unusual among reptiles, or indeed anything else outside of placental mammals.
Snakes use many different types of movement to achieve locomotion despite their legless condition. There are a total of four main types of these motions. All snakes can use: 1Lateral undulation, (where the body is flexed side-to-side, and the flexed areas propagate toward the rear, giving the overall shape of a posteriorly propagating sine wave), 2Concertina movement, (used to both climb trees and move through small tunnels), in the case of tunnels, the body loops are pressed against the tunnel walls to attain traction, 3Rectilinear Locomotion, where the snake lies straight and uses it's ventral side (belly) to accomplish locomotion,(this mode is usually only used by very large, heavy snakes, such as large pythons and vipers), and 4Sidewinding, an undulatory motion used to move across slippery mud or loose sand.
Not all snakes dwell on land; sea snakes live in shallow tropical seas.
Snakes and Evolution
Henigan has done a preliminary study about the baraminology of snakes. He believes that the snakes are so much like each other and so different from other lizards and reptiles that they may be termed an apobaramin, a "group unrelated to all other groups". He notes, among other characteristics, that snakes have "120 to over 400 precloacal vertebrae", and a "left arterial arch larger than the right". Also, all snakes are carnivorous, but their stomach and liver is long and tapered at both ends, while other reptile stomachs and livers are S-shaped.
Though he believes that snakes as a group of animals are not descended from other animals (an apobaramin), that does not show that they are necessarily related to each other. Henigan searched for evidence that different species of snakes can interbreed which would be good evidence that they are related or recently descended from a common ancestor. Henigan notes that at present there are 20 definitions of species, and so prefers classification by baramins instead. Some species that are far apart geographically can still interbreed when placed together in captivity.
"Interestingly, the Borneo python (Python breitensteini) and ball python (Python regius) have produced hybrids in captivity. This is surprising for many because these two species are reproductively isolated in the wild. The Borneo python is native to Sumatra and Malaysia, while the ball python is indigenous to Western and West Central Africa."
In the Boidae family he found four genera whose species were definitely related inside each genus. The Colubridae family had six groupings that interbred, one across three genera. In the family Viperidae, or Pit Vipers, he found three groupings that could be termed monobaramins.
"Within Boidae, Morelia/Liasis, Python, and Antaresia were identified as three separate monobaramins. Nerodia, Pantherophis/Lampropeltis/Pituophis, Diadophis, Thamnophis, Toluca/Conopsis, and Chilomeniscus were identified as six monobaramins within the colubrid taxon and in the viper family the three monobaramins were Crotalus/Sistrurus, Agkistrodon, and Bitis."
Henigan hopes that future development of snake baraminology will be able to show conclusively whether all snakes are descended from one original pair, or from several pairs.
Snakes In Modern Culture
Snakes are one of the biggest fear producers in the world, ranking only third in most studies to public speaking and spiders.
Snakes are found very commonly in the world, not just as animals, but in pictures, toys, movies, and religion. In the Chinese Zodiac, it's a celestial animal, and in Greek Mythology snakes are often portrayed as symbolic of evil, such as Medusa's hair made of snakes, or the nine-headed Hydra that Hercules defeated. And, of course, a snake is involved in the infamous appearance of Satan in the Bible when Satan is portrayed as a serpent, who tempts Adam and Eve, and causes the fall of man. Snakes are often used in movies, one example being the picture shown to the left.
A love of snakes is called ophiophilia, a fear of snakes is called ophidiophobia. A specialist in snakes is an ophiologist.
- Wikipedia Snakes
- Herp Snakes
- Wikipedia Snakes
- CreationWiki Mamba
- An Initial Investigation into the Baraminology of Snakes: Order—Squamata, Suborder Serpentes by Tom Hennigan. CRSQ 42(3):153-160. December 2005.
- Serpentes Wikispecies