Snakes belong to the reptilian order squamata.
Absence of eyelids, external ear openings, and limbs distinguishes
them from their relative, the lizard. Snakes
are carnivorous, with an acute sense of sight and smell.
‘Serpentine’ (A method of progression by the lateral undulations
of the body.) locomotion, ‘sensory pits’(A sense organ sensitive to heat
radiation, thus assisting in locating and capturing of prey) and the
‘poison glands’(Modified salivary glands which secret poison, a mixture
of cell dissolving proteins. It’s
a weapon for capturing prey, defense and as a digestive aid) are unique to
Snakes inhabits paddy fields and
open sandy areas to thick rain forests, ‘mangrove’( Plants adapted
for living in inter-tidal zones. They
have a great tolerance for saline water) mountains and even seas.
They adapt to several environments in temperate and tropical
All snakes possess an acute sense
of sight and smell. Food is
smelt by the flickering forked tongue end then relayed to a highly
developed organ that inter parts this signal.
External ears are absent, and snakes can only hear vibrations,
and carried through the ground. Sensory
pits, and poison glands are also highly developed in snakes.
Shedding of skin (sloughing) is also more prominent in snakes.
All snakes are carnivorous,
depending on the size of the snake and the prey available, frogs and
rodents are the most favored. The
‘King Cobra’ is unique in that it eats only snakes.
Sea snakes eat fish and burrowing snakes eat insects larvae and
Snakes have a unique locomotion,
characteristic to the species. This
is known as serpentine locomotion, which is a method of progression
through lateral undulations of the body.
Some snakes lay eggs, while others
like the viper are ‘oviparous’(Egg laying animals. E.g. Birds)
several species of egg laying snakes such as pythons, cobras and water
snakes have been found to stay with the eggs until they hatch. The female king cobra is the only snake in the world
that birds a nest for its young.
Most snakes incubate their eggs.
The female usually coils herself even the eggs to accelerate
their hatching. Female king
cobras even prepare a nest of leaves and vegetation.
Mating usually occurs during the winter, with the eggs being laid
some 3-4 months later. The
eggs hatch about 6 weeks after being laid.
Flow ever, some snakes like the bamboo pit viper breed during the
hot summer months.
Like all reptiles, snakes too are
believed to have evolved from ‘amphibians’(Animals that can live on
land as well as in water e.g. frogs and toads).
Their ‘serpentine locomotion’(A method of progression by the
lateral undulations of the body) rendered their limbs useless.
However, many primitive snakes can still be seen with ‘vestigial’(Organs
that have lost their functional ablating over evolutionary time.) hind
About 238 species of snakes are
found in India alone. The
country’s varied climatic conditions provide for ideal snake habitats.
Actual numbers in the wild however are difficult to estimate.
But indirect estimates can be calculated, based on the fact that
10,000 snake bite deaths occur every year.
And about 10 million snake bite deaths every year. And about 10 million snake skins were traded before the
ban in 1976.
Any animal that is large enough or
quick enough to escape a snakes venom and agility are considered natural
predators. The most common
among them are raptors and the mongoose man is the only other
(unnatural) predator, who hunts snakes for their skin, meat, and as a
livelihood like south India’s ‘IRULA TRIBE.’
The effects of the skin trade can be seen in the widespread
trafficking of snake skins, which has been banned since 1976. as a result species such as the Indian rock python have
become locally extinct. However,
illegal trade continues.
Several deities in Hindu Mythology are associated with snakes, such as
‘Seshnaag and Vasuki’. Rural folk lordship as well as fear snakes
for their supernatural powers. In
India’s western state of Maharashtra, ‘Naag-Panchami’ is devoted
to the worship of cobras. This
snake worship is celebrated as Jhampan in the eastern state of West
The python is easy to identify,
because of its large size and glossy grayish yellow skin adorned with
large irregular patterns. This
giant snake can be 20 feet ling and weigh up to 90 kilos.
Usually sluggish, they have a peculian method of locomotion
termed ‘rectilinear progression’ (body moves in a straight line,
pushing forward with its ribs). Two races, the Indian rock python and the reticulated
python are common throughout India.
Eggs vary in number from 8-100 and are laid from March-June.
The eggs hatch about 58 days after being laid.
The oldest python recorded in captivity was 22 year old!
third largest snake in India, the king cobra is also one of the most
courageous, poisonous and aggressive snakes.
Their hood is relatively less inflatable than that of the Indian
Cobra. The body is blackish
brown with 32-43 lighter bands running throughout its entire length king
cobra have a voracious appetite. And
their staple diet is snakes, poisonous as well as non-poisonous.
They usually eat the lizards and rats also.
Mating has been observed in March, with capulation that lasted
for about an hour. The eggs
are laid 5-6 weeks after mating. A
maximum of 51 eggs have been recorded!
One of the most notorious and
poisonous snakes found in India, the cobra’s most distinctive features
is its hood. There are
three races mainly the spectacled cobra, the monocellate cobra, and the
black cobra. Cobra feed
principally on rats, frogs and toads, but can also take in lizards and
snakes including other cobras! They
have a weekness for ‘invertebrate’ (organism devoid of a backbone.
E.g. earthworm, ants, cockroaches etc.) eggs.
Mating occur in January, and the eggs are laid in April-May.
The eggs between 12-22, hatch within 45 to 69 days.
Hatchlings have active ‘poison glands’(Modified salivary
glands which secret poison, a mixture of cell dissolving proteins.
It’s a weapon for capturing prey, defense and as a digestive
PIT VIPER (Trimersurus
vipers give birth to live young which get hatched inside the mother’s
belly. They can be
distinguished from all other groups of snakes by the presence of the
loreal pit (Modified sensory pit present as a facial gland in vipers.
It is heat sensitive, enabling the snake to locate and capture
its prey). This beautiful,
but poisonous snake has a glossy green back and yellowish white bottom.
It is usually sluggish during the day.
But when it is provoked anchors itself firmly by its ‘prehensile’(Organs
other than limbs that can be used to grasp and climb) tail to branch and
strikes with an open mouth. It
prefers hilly forests above 450 meters in southern India.
And has a weakness for bamboo forests.
It has 7 to 15 live young at a time.
SNAKE or FASCIOLATED RATSNAKE
harmless, olive-brown snake is beautifully.
Ornamented with black and white cross bars that gradually disappear
along the mid body. This can be
plucky and aggressive if irritated but temperaments very. It feeds on small mammals and amphibians.
It is found throughout India, although it is fairly common southwest
India. In Maharashtra’s
konkan region, it is believed to be the female cobra.
Little is known about breeding habits.
And enacting possibly occurs in January with hatchings being born in
SNAKE or COMMON INDIAN BRONZEBACK
This harmless snake prefers the tree tops to life on the ground.
It is perfectly camouflaged among the leaves because of its
uniform ruddy brown skin. This
active snake is restless and a quick, both on the ground as well as in
the trees. It springs on
its prey. And feeds largely
lizards and tree frogs. It
also occasionally raids birds. Generally
lively and plucky snake, its disposition varies from snake to snake.
It is found in southern India and the Himalayan foothills in
south India this perfectly harmless snake is considered fatally
poisonous. This oviparous
(Egg laying animal e.g. birds) snake lays its eggs between
September-February. The 6-7
eggs in a clutch (number of eggs laid at a time given time) hatch 4-6
weeks after laying. And the
gestation period is 4-6 months.
SNAKE or GOLDEN TREE SNAKE
This beautiful and
harmless black snake has narrow pale greenish-yellow cross bars.
It is acute during the day, and prefers trees.
But it is also frequently spotted in the grass and on low bushes.
It feeds largely on geckos and other lizards.
The 6-12 eggs are laid in May while hatchlings have been recorded