Snake blood is red, like nearly every other animals on earth. However, the hue of the red will vary depending on how long the blood has been out of the body and hemoglobin levels in the blood. Due to this, some snakes’ blood has a coloration within the red spectrum from dark brown to a yellow tinge.
There is no scientific database for the various colors of snake blood. Snakes, like other animals, have hemoglobin in their red blood cells. As such, snake blood is typically red if oxygen is present and may turn dark red if the oxygen is absent. Some snakes have blood that has a green tinge because of the production of a bile-like chemical in their bloodstream, but this is rare.
Do Snakes Bleed?
If someone cuts them, snakes will bleed. Some snakes, however, have an uncanny ability to bleed deliberately.
In the scientific community, they call this phenomenon of snakes intentionally bleeding “autohemorrhaging.” In common parlance, this is called reflex bleeding.
When reflex bleeding occurs, the animal ejects blood. There are two variations of this.
In the first one, the animal squirts blood towards its predator. Why would an animal do this, knowing that the carnivorous predator likes blood? The blood contains toxic compounds, and reflex bleeding is a defense mechanism.
In the second variation, the animal slowly emits the blood from the body. Animals who do this do not have toxic compounds in the blood. What it merely does is deter potential predators.
There are three known snakes that have reflex bleeding capabilities. These are:
- West Indian wood snake – there are 13 species of this snake that emit blood from their nostrils. Their eyes also flood with blood as they squirt blood.
- European grass snake – this snake secrets blood from its mouth. And while it is doing so, it also plays dead. Some animals play dead to deter predators because predators avoid rotting animals. However, this is not a guarantee as some predators out there are scavengers.
- Long-nosed snake and Eastern hognose snake – both of these species emit blood from their cloaca (the snake equivalent of the anus).
- Plain-bellied water snake – this species squirts blood from the mouth.
Although snakes bleed, one cannot expect to draw too much blood from them. They are small in size and do not produce as much blood as mammals do.
How much Blood is in a Snake?
There is not much study about the blood volume of snakes because humans have no need for them. Their blood is not used for anything specific, so they are not farmed for it.
However, there is one specific research about gopher snakes and their blood volume. Research shows that mean blood volume is 52.8 milliliters per kilogram of body weight. That is equivalent to roughly about 3.5 tablespoons.
Human blood, on the other hand, makes up about 10% of the body weight. Adult humans have about 1.2 to 1.5 gallons of blood.
Is Snake Blood Poisonous?
Some species of snakes have poisonous blood, especially those that do reflex bleeding. They have toxic chemicals that can cause pain to their attackers. Most snake blood is not poisonous and is considered a delicacy in other parts of the world.
The blood of the Cobra, for one, is a mysterious drink. People in East Asia have long regarded this as a magical “potion,” claiming that it is a potent drink to improve virility.
There are many other claims about snake blood, such as that it can cure asthma, diabetes, and many more. In China, it is not unusual to mix snake blood with rice wine.
But what does science say?
This study shows that snake blood can be the key to treating heart damage. In humans, an enlarged heart means trouble. This condition leads to heart attacks.
The heart gets larger if it is working harder. As such, this enlargement causes scar tissue and decreases the ability of the heart to process nutrients.
What scientists found out is that Burmese pythons displayed an enlargement of the hearty after a meal. However, the heart enlargement did not cause any problem. As the heart doubles in size and pumps recently digested food into the body faster.
The heart enlargement also enabled the heart to process fats faster and also resulted in faster metabolism. As such, snakes have the capacity to burn cholesterol, an ability that humans can benefit from.
They realized that this is due to the blood plasma in the snake. The scientists tested if this blood plasma has any effect on other animals, and they found out that there is. They injected this blood plasma into mice, and the mice cells produced a protein that typically is only present if the heart is stressed.
The beauty of this research is that the heart of the mice enlarged, but no scar developed. What this means is that this fatty blood plasma from snakes can help heal damaged hearts. The next step of the process is to identify if the snake blood has positive effects on mice that have heart diseases.
How Come Snake Blood has no Venom?
Some types of snakes have toxic compounds in their blood but no venom. The venom is located in a sac and passes through the snake’s fangs for injection.
For the venom to work, it has to be injected into the bloodstream. Since the snake’s venom sac is a separate organ, it does not “spill” venom into the blood, thus making the blood safe to drink.
Also, the venom cannot get to the bloodstream through the stomach. It is the reason why humans can drink snake blood without getting poisoned.
Some snakes have an immune system that produces antibodies against their own venom. It is the reason why some snakes may bite each other, and nothing happens to them. However, this is not always the case. Some snakes are poisonous to other snakes.
Snake blood is red, but within the red spectrum the blood color can vary from dark brown to a yellow tinge. Like other animals, they bleed if someone cuts them, but some have the ability to use their blood as projectiles. Not all snake blood is poisonous, and some can even have beneficial effects on humans.
Some claim that snake blood can be beneficial to human health, but the studies are still ongoing. As of this time, there is no scientific evidence to support health claims from believers of alternative medicine.