Snakes, just like other reptiles, are exothermic. This means that they do not possess sweat glands, and therefore, do not sweat.
Sweat glands are found in endotherms such as mammals and birds. Sweat glands are the organs that produce sweat in the body, and without them, an orgasm can’t sweat.
Sweating is a metabolic function of the body that enables an animal to get rid of excess heat. For instance, humans emanate 15% of their body heat through sweating in a neutral setting.
Sweating allows animals to get rid of heat to maintain a state of homeostasis, which is the optimal condition for the body to function correctly.
So, this begs the question: how then do snakes achieve and maintain homeostasis without sweating?
How Do Snakes Achieve and Maintain Homeostasis?
Being ectothermic, the internal body temperature of a snake mirrors the external temperature of its surroundings. So, if it is hot, the snake will be hot, and if it is cold, the internal body temperature of the snake will also be low.
Since their bodies function correctly at a moderate temperature, snakes can’t survive in extreme hot or cold environments. Therefore, they have survival mechanisms to ensure they stay alive when the external conditions get too harsh.
Considering that snakes are found worldwide, save for Antarctica, they exist in a wide range of ecosystems. Some areas are warm, and others are cold.
Still, they have mechanisms to maintain homeostasis and thermoregulation in whichever environment they are in. The following are ways through which snakes regulate their temperature when the temperature is too high:
How Snakes Cool Off When It Is Too Hot
Typically, snakes do well when it is reasonably warm. This is because their blood attains the optimal temperature for food digestion, proper blood flow, and the smooth running of other body systems.
However, when the external temperature exceeds the optimal body temperature of a snake, it interferes with body functions. In such situations, snakes will do the following to survive the heat:
1. They Migrate
Snakes migrate to a cooler location where the temperature is cooler and optimal. Snakes set off to places with more favorable climates when a particular habitat becomes too hot for survival.
These reptiles will stay there and return when the heat dissipates. If it happens that a snake is trapped in a hot environment and can’t move to a cooler area, they are pretty much toast. This is because, on top of not being able to sweat, snakes can’t pant either. So, they have limited ways to get rid of excess heat from their bodies.
2. They Stay under Shade
They lounge in the shade during the day when the sun is too hot. If their habitat has vegetation or residential areas with garages and other shaded areas, snakes will seek refuge here when the sun is scorching hot. When it is hot, they spend the day in shades and roam during the night; they lead nocturnal lifestyles when the climate is hot.
3. They Hide in Caves
Snakes also seek refuge in caves where the temperature is cooler than on the earth’s surface. When it is too hot, snakes such as rattlesnakes and bull snakes look for tunnels and burrows that are inhabited by rodents. They kill the animals and occupy the burrows until the heat dissipates and it is safe for them to emerge to the surface again.
4. They use Thermoregulation
They practice thermoregulation to control the flow of heat in the body. The concept of thermoregulation involves bodily functions that control and maintain internal temperature. In the case of snakes, they thermoregulate through vasodilation, where blood flows close to the skin surface to lose body heat.
Why Snakes Don’t Sweat
Snakes lack the secretory glands that are responsible for producing sweat. Thus, they can’t excrete what they don’t create.
Also, the type of skin that snakes and other reptiles have would not support sweating.
Unlike mammals with supple and porous skin, snakes are covered in special skin that is made up of scales, bony plates, or a combination of both.
This makes it almost impossible for sweat or any other excretions, for that matter, to penetrate the skin. Even so, the scaly skin has a certain degree of permeability that enables both reptiles and amphibians to absorb moisture and oxygen from the environment.
Is Snake Sweat Poisonous?
The simple answer to this is no; snake sweat is not poisonous. This is because snakes do not produce any sweat.
They are ectotherms and, therefore, lack the glands responsible for making sweat. However, you still ought to be careful when dealing with serpents.
Some are really venomous, and coming into contact with them could mean a lot of harm to you. More so, snakes tend to be irritable when it is hot, so they are relatively more aggressive during hot climates.
How Do Snakes Lose Water from Their Bodies?
While snakes lack sweat glands and have low body metabolism, they lose considerable body water through vaporization.
Water in reptiles is vaporized through the skin and the lungs, and it has been shown to reduce the animals’ body temperature.
If you are conversant with the conversation of the states of matter, you know that the rate of evaporation is directly proportional to the amount of heat available. Therefore, the amount of water vapor lost from a snake is relatively much higher at high temperatures.
Thus, vaporization is one way for snakes and other cold-blooded animals to cool off when it is too hot.
Snakes do not sweat. Unlike endotherms such as mammals, they do not possess sweat glands. They are cold-blooded animals whose internal body temperature changes with that of the environment.
Also, they are covered in special dry skin that is covered in scales and bony plates. Snakes have adapted tactics to maintain homeostasis to survive very hot or very cold external temperatures. These include seeking refuge in cool areas when it is too hot and going into hibernation when it is too cold.
Joe is a freelance writer for FaunaFacts. Joe has written extensively about snakes for the site, but also contributes content about a range of animals.