Snakes are vertebrates. They have a spinal cord that manages their nervous system and an internal skeleton that protects their organs.
The main characteristics that separate snakes from the invertebrates group are their internal skeletons, highly developed sensory organs, and muscular coordination. Snakes are also vertebrates because they have a backbone running down their bodies.
Also, their vertebrae allow for similar body functions as other vertebrates. These include respiration, circulation, and reacting to heat, cold, and pain. Other vertebrates also have these same body functions.
How to Tell a Vertebrate from an Invertebrate
To understand whether a snake is a vertebrate or an invertebrate, we need to know what the two terms mean!
What Is A Vertebrate?
A vertebrate is any animal that has a backbone (aka spinal cord) and a central nervous system that sends signals through the spine to the brain.
The spines of vertebrates are nearly always a series of separate joints (this includes the human spine) that allow for some degree of flexibility.
All vertebrates are thought to share a common ancestor who had a spine that is connected to their brain and other organs.
Despite their enormous differences, most fish, amphibians (like frogs), mammals, and reptiles (including snakes) all classify as vertebrates.
What Is an Invertebrate?
Invertebrates do not have a backbone or spinal cord.
Generally, an invertebrate like a spider will have an exoskeleton that maintains the animal’s shape and form, but no internal bones like a vertebrate.
This group of animals is also very diverse and found in many different forms. For example, spiders, insects, and crustaceans all belong to the invertebrate group. On the other hand, mammals, fish, birds, and reptiles are all vertebrates.
Other well-known vertebrates include jellyfish, houseflies, and beetles.
97% of all creatures are invertebrates.
Do Snakes have Bones?
Yes, snakes have bones. Because snakes have an internal skeleton, they are considered vertebrates.
Many people think snakes don’t have bones because of their flexibility. The truth is that snakes have about 200 to 400 vertebrae in their body.
They also have many ribs attached to their body with other connecting muscles.
The snake’s backbone is made of a very flexible material that makes it easier for the snake to slither around.
You might also find a decomposed snake’s skeleton lying around in the forest sometimes. This might be the case if the snake has been eaten by birds, with its skeleton left behind as inedible scrap.
What does a Snake’s Backbone Do?
The backbone of snakes serves many purposes. Here are a few benefits that the backbones give these animals.
The first purpose is to support the snake’s body when it is moving from place to place. This means that snakes use their backbone for movement and even mating behaviors.
The snake’s backbone serves respiration purposes. It supports the snake’s lung and protects it from damage. Respiration allows the snake to breathe in oxygen and then exhale carbon dioxide.
The snake’s rib cage gives the snake a strong skeletal structure that allows for movement. It also helps with protection from being crushed.
However, the bones and rib cage can also act as impediments for snakes who want to slither through tiny gaps. They can only fit through things as wide as their rib cage.
Do Snakes have Legs?
Snakes are distinctive because they don’t have legs or arms as most related animals do. For example, snakes and lizards are closely related, yet lizards have legs and snakes don’t.
Instead, snakes use their body movement and spine to move in any direction that they want. It’s this slithering motion that creeps so many people out!
Scientists believe the lack of legs can actually give the snake an advantage over lizards because it allows it to move at very fast speeds, swim with its body, and fit through tiny gaps.
However, there are some snakes that do actually have legs!
Those species include the boa constrictor and python snake that have limbs called vestigial organs. They’re really only tiny stubs that are entirely useless.
In fact, scientists believe that snakes evolved from ancestors more like lizards, which had legs, because we can see remnants of legs in boas and pythons.
These legs are entirely pointless now and are nothing more than stubs.
Furthermore if a boa or python were to lose its tiny stubs of arms or legs, it’s believed the creature could grow them back. They still have the gene to grow limbs!
Are Snakes Related to Worms?
Despite their similar appearance, snakes and worms are not related at all. In fact, worms are invertebrates while snakes are vertebrates.
One of the main reasons that snakes are thought to be invertebrates is their physical appearance to other invertebrates.
Most people believe that snakes look like worms or slugs, but the truth is that they are not invertebrates while works and slugs are.
Another reason why people believe snakes are invertebrates is because they can move on land without having any legs. However, this is also untrue because snakes actually use their spine and body to achieve that slithering motion.
The extra flexibility of the snake also allows it to speed up or slow down depending on what they need it for at the time.
Even though snakes resemble worms and slugs on the outside, they are vertebrates just like humans. These animals do have a backbone that helps to support their body functions. The skeleton also allows them to breathe in oxygen and then expel carbon dioxide when necessary.
In addition, while most people think that snakes don’t have limbs or legs, there are a few with stubby and pointless limbs left over from when their ancestors walked the land.