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10 Snake Adaptations (Evolutionary Secrets!)

Examples of snake adaptations include venom, scales, slithering, and many more. Despite the absence of legs, the snake remains one of the most fearsome predators in the wild.

Snakes have powerful senses, slender bodies, and toxic venom that can kill even elephants. Although not all snakes have venom, some have evolved to be so physically powerful that they can asphyxiate their prey. Below are some of thefascinating adaptations of different types of snakes.

Snake Adaptations

Snake Adaptations

1. Toxic Venom

Not all snakes have venom, but the ones that do have the power cause serious damage to humans, including death. Snakes use their venom to immobilize their prey and also to neutralize threats that they can’t eat.

There are more than 3,000 snake species, but only about 30% have venom. Snakes also possess different kinds of venom that produce different effects.

The venom is toxic saliva. One type is a neurotoxin that affects the central nervous system. Another type is cytotoxin which can damage the heart and the blood. The last major type is myotoxinwhich degrades muscular tissues.

2. Powerful Vision

Although snakes technically have poor eyesight, they can compensate for it in many ways. Snakes are typically dichromatic, meaning they do not see all the colors that human beings see.

Snakes are sensitive to UV light, which means that they can see in low-light conditions. Some snakes have infrared vision because they have pit organs. This is common in vipers, pythons, and boas. The pit has a membrane that can detect radiation from warm bodies, and it is how they target their prey.

With the pit, the snake can see the contour of a target a meter away. They can follow this image and strike when the right opportunity comes.

3. Vibratory Hearing

Snakes do not have ears. The way they hear is through the analysis of the vibrations. They can detect sound pressure and transmit that vibration straight to the skeleton. Snakes can even detect vibrations in the air.

Snakes do not have an outer ear, so it is presumed that they cannot hear like other animals and humans do. However, they have a functional cochlea, a bone that converts soundwaves to electrical impulses.

Snakes in the desert can also detect the slightest movement in the sand. It is how they manage to locate prey. Some vipers would bury themselves under the sand, ready to strike when the source of the vibration, the prey, is within striking distance.

4. Strong Sense of Smell

Snakes have a powerful sense of smell that allows them to sniff the air and know if there is something to eat. They have what is called a Jacobson’s organ, which can process and identify chemicals in the air.

Snakes have a forked tongue, which they flick to gather air particles. Once the tongue is inside, the air particles go to the Jacobson’s organ, which decodes the particles and tells the snake what it is. The snake can identify if the smell is coming from prey or predator and take the appropriate action.

5. Body Built for Hunting and Defending

Many snake species adapted differently, but all of them evolved to advance their capabilities to hunt, hide, and survive.

For example, the cottonmouth is called that way because the inside of the mouth is white. They use this to warn predators to go away. Rattlesnakes, on the other hand, shake their rattle to warn predators that they are feeling threatened and are ready to strike.

Boas and pythons have super strong muscles. Once they wrap their bodies around the prey, they have the power to squeeze the prey so tight that it dies of asphyxiation.

6. Prehensile Tails for Gripping

The tail of a snake is powerful and can grasp objects such as tree branches. While not all snakes have prehensile tails, many of them do, and they use them to survive.

Snakes hang on branches to find food, particularly arboreal snakes. They also use their tails to balance and anchor themselves on the ground. One good example of this is the cobra, which coils its tail on the ground for support and balance while it strikes.

7. Flexible Skull and Jaw

Snakes have flexible bones in their skull and jaw. It is whymany snakes can swallow prey bigger than their heads without a sweat.

It is a myth that python jaws can dislocate jaws. The truth is that the python has a jaw structure different from human beings. The jaws have two pivot points; snakes have ligaments that allow for muscle movements. These ligaments are stretchy, plus they have no chin. 

8. No Legs

Snakes used to have legs, but they let them go in favor of slithering. As it turns out, snakes realized that slithering is more beneficial to them than crawling or walking.

What happened with snakes is that they redistributed their weight on their bellies to concentrate their friction on specific parts of the ground, making them more agile. As they did this, they lost their limbs, and they were able to travel faster.

The contention in this evolution is that the snake first lost its limbs to be able to swim like an eel. Later on, some snakes stayed on land.

9. Teeth and Fangs

All snakes have curved teeth that make it easier for them to hold on to their prey and drag the prey inside the mouth. Once a snake bites prey, the poor animal cannot escape.

Some snakes also have venomous fangs. What this means is that the snake’s teeth have grooves or canals that help them drive the venom into the victim.

10. Slow Metabolism

A snake’s metabolism is slow. Because of this, the snake does not have to eat all the time, making it capable of surviving long periods without food.

Because of this, snakes also can get energy from the sun rather than by burning food. As they cool down, their metabolism also slows down—then they bask under the sun to regulate their temperature instead of burning calories to stay warm.


Snakes are formidable predators even if they do not have legs. Perhaps the only adaptation failure of snakes is that they cannot survive in extreme cold. It is why there are no snakes in Antarctica. Snakes can also be helpless as biting is the only way they can protect themselves. If the bite fails, a predator can kill them. It is why owls, eagles, mongooses, and other animals prey on them.

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