Updated: Jul 9
Most snakes bury their eggs in soil or rotting vegetation. The eggs themselves have parchment-like shells. At the time of hatching, the baby snake slashes a hole in the shell using a special tooth and wriggles its way out. A few snakes, like boas, give birth to their young ones instead of laying eggs.
Snake worship in India
Worship of snakes is an ancient religious practice, spread across India. The serpent festival is celebrated in many parts of our country on the 'Nagapan- chami' day. There are innumerable shrines and temples across the country dedicated to snake gods.
Did you know that there are no snakes in Ireland?
Legend has it that St. Patrick drove all the snakes from Ireland. Scientists however say this is because snakes are bad sea travelers. During the last Ice, Age snakes slithered into England while it was still joined to Europe. By the time they reached the coast, however, the sea had melted, and Ireland was cut off. While lizards and tortoises crossed the sea on driftwood, snakes don't like traveling by sea, so they remained behind.
Two-headed snakes are very rare creatures, but not unheard of. Life is very difficult for such snakes. First, the two heads have to decide they're both hungry at the same time, and then they have to agree to pursue the same prey. Then they might fight over which head gets to swallow the prey. To make it even more complicated, sometimes one head will attack, and try to swallow its second head. This did happen at the San Diego Zoo some years back, and the snake died.
Snake stones are small stones made of burnt bone, chalk, horn, or other absorbent materials. In earlier times, it was believed that these stones could cure snake bites. It was thought that these stones were taken from the snake's body, and they had the power to draw out poison when pressed to the site of a bite.
Smallest. Heaviest, Most Poisonous
The world's smallest snake has been discovered on the Caribbean island of Barbados. It is only about 10 cms long, looks like an earthworm, and belongs to a group known as thread snakes. The world's heaviest snake is known to be the green anaconda. The heaviest green anaconda ever weighed was around 250 kilograms. The most poisonous snake in the world is the Inland Taipan of Australia. Just a single bite from this snake contains enough venom to kill 100 human adults or an army of 250,000 mice.
The blue-tongued skink has a blue tongue which it constantly flicks in and out. Therefore, it is known as the blue mover. The blue mover looks clumsy, but it can move quickly. The blue mover gives birth to live young.
Australian brown snakes coil around each other until they look like strands of a rope. The seven-foot-long lizards called goannas go for a kind of freestyle wrestling. Male goannas attack each other with teeth, claws, and tails. The tail is a key weapon. A lash of the tail can bring a man down in a heap, or break a dog's leg. Male monitor lizards stand up on their hind limbs and wrestle with each other. The weaker animal gives up before it gets injured.
Cold Blooded Heroes
Snakes seek shade to escape from the heat. The diamondback rattlesnake keeps cool by lying in a burrow, while the glossy snake buries itself. The sidewinder, the horned lizard, and the sand lizard dig in part so that they absorb just enough heat. The sand diving lizard holds its feet up in the air to cool down. Other lizards shuttle back and forth between sun and shade to maintain the right temperature. Desert tortoises spent 90% of their time in burrows. The red racer can tolerate higher temperatures than most snakes. It runs down its food even in the hot sun.
Kronosaurus was a snake-necked giant which swam in the sea 100 million years ago. The kronosaurus was the largest flesh-eating sea reptile. The kronosaurus was longer than a school bus - it had a total length of thirteen meters. The head alone was three meters long. Fossils of the Kronosaurus have been found only in Australia.
Structural troubles of Turtles
Imagine living inside a shell! That is what the turtle has to do. Its backbone has been fixed to its shell, and the ribs are widened and flattened to give maximum support. The shoulder blades and hips are inside what would ordinarily be the chest of an animal with a backbone. The neck has become so flexible that it can be bent into an 'S' curve and folded neatly inside the shell.
Three eyes are better than two eyes. Many reptiles have a third eye - a light-sensitive area on top of the head. They cannot see with the third eye. The third eye acts as a shortcut to the brain and some actions that depend on light are controlled by it.
Smallest and Biggest Reptiles
The dwarf gecko is the tiniest reptile. It is shorter than your little finger! Even when fully grown, it reaches a length of only six centimeters and over half of this length is tail. Like all geckos, they feed on insects. The reticulated python is the longest reptile, and reaches a length of over six meters. The heaviest reptile is the salt-water crocodile. It may weigh as much as 1,000 kilograms.
Snakes hiss. Crocodiles can roar like lions - they are the noisiest of the reptiles. Some reptiles grunt or bark when they are up and about at night, to keep in touch with each other. However, most reptiles are very quiet.
Herpetology is the study of reptiles. 'Herpeton' is the Greek word for reptile and the word herpetology originated from Greek, early in the 19th century.
Snakes and Lizards
Snakes and Lizards are quite different, even though they belong to the same order of reptiles. Lizards walk on their legs, while snakes wriggle on their bellies. They hear differently. Lizards hear sounds in the air through two external ear openings, while snakes hear vibrations in the ground through their skull bones. Lizards have eyelids while snakes have none, which is a reason why most people are frightened of snakes.
Walking on Water
The Central American basilisk runs over the surface of the water at breakneck speed. When the enemy attacks, these lizards rise on their hind legs and run so fast that they take several steps on the surface of the water before falling in and swimming. Their hind legs have widespread toes to help them run on water.
Have you seen a snake charmer? Even if you haven't, you must have heard how snake charmers hypnotize their snakes and make them dance to the plaintive tunes that the snake charmers play on their pipes. The truth is that the snake is not dancing at all. It is responding to the movement of the pipe and sways as it prepares to attack.
Some reptiles lay about 100 eggs at a time. A good example of this is the Ridley Sea Turtle. Every year, about 200,000 of them nest along a five-kilometer strip of beach in Orissa, India. Each female digs a hole in the sand lays her eggs and then returns to the sea. This mass nesting is a yearly phenomenon.
Always on Top!
How wonderful it would be to spend all our time in the trees! The Emerald tree skink does just that. It almost never comes down from the trees. The Emerald tree skink lives in the trees of Indonesia.
There are more than 900 kinds of skinks. Most live on the ground or underground in the tropical regions of the world such as Australia, Africa, and the islands of the Western Pacific ocean.
Testing the Air
Snakes and lizards constantly flick their tongues out of their mouths. Have you ever wondered why? They actually taste the air for particles of chemicals that are present all around us. These particles are then transferred to a special organ that these reptiles have on the roof of their mouths called the Jacobson's organ. This organ helps the reptile to partly smell and partly taste the particles, so as to detect prey, a mate, or an enemy.
New Skin for Old
When a snake starts to moult, it rubs the side of its head along the ground, to turn the skin back. It then crawls out of the skin, turning it inside out and leaving the entire old skin intact. The whole process takes no more than half an hour, and the snake emerges out of its old skin in its shiny glistening new skin. Isn't that marvelous?
Crocodiles have stomachs only as big as a basketball. As a result, when a Nile crocodile kills a large animal like a water buffalo, it cannot eat it all at once. So, the crocodile will leave the carcass or dead body in a particular place, and come back later to finish it off- just like humans store leftover food in a larder or refrigerator!
Mammals have two sets of teeth the milk teeth that are found in babies, and the permanent teeth that replace them. Did you know that crocodiles shed their teeth throughout their lives, and grow a new tooth each time an old one falls out? All crocodilians have replaceable teeth and can go through at least 3,000 over the course of their lifetime! Each tooth is hollow the new tooth grows inside the old one in order to be ready once the old tooth is lost.
Enemy Number One!
Amongst animals, the mongoose is the greatest enemy of snakes, particularly the king cobra. Though the cobra looks fearsome, it moves much more slowly than the mongoose, which is very fast. The mongoose will dart in and bite the back of the snake's neck or head... and hang on determinedly until the snake gives up the struggle and dies.
Mugger crocodiles are the most alligator-like of all the crocodiles in both appearance and habitat. They are fair-sized crocodiles, and have the broadest snouts of all the crocodiles, giving them the appearance of the American alligator. A mugger's mouth contains 66-68 pointed teeth These teeth are what distinguish mugger crocodiles from alligators. The fourth tooth on either side of the bottom jaw is larger than the others and fits into a notch on the upper jaw, making these two teeth visible when the mouth is closed.
Rikki Tikki Tavi
Rikki Tikki Tavi is an exciting and touching story from Rudyard Kipling's famous Jungle Book'. The hero is a brave mongoose who makes friends with a little boy and his family and becomes their protector. The mongoose kills a dangerous krait snake and then a cobra that lived in their garden. The garden becomes a safe and happy place where no snake dares to enter because of the valiant Rikki Tikki Tavi.
The tuatara is famous because It is the only survivor of an ancient group of reptiles that roamed the earth at the same time as dinosaurs. Tuatara once lived throughout the mainland of New Zealand but rats and people drove them to extinction there. They are now found only on remote offshore Islands, and they are good friends with the sea birds found here such as the petrels. In fact, the tuatara sometimes shares its burrow with the petral. The petral's droppings, in turn, help the growth of the insects that are the tuatara's favor ite food.
The alligator is a typical reptile. It is cold blooded-it gets its body heat from its surroundings. It lays eggs with shells, and though it cannot chew, it has a very efficient digestive system. Its brain is highly developed, and its heart has four chambers, though some reptiles have only three. Its lungs are also well developed, unlike the lungs of snakes, which are quite primitive. It differs from the crocodile in that its snout is broader and u shaped, and when its mouth is closed, you cannot see any of its teeth. On the other hand, a crocodile's teeth are visible even when its mouth is shut.
The African dwarf Crocodile is the smallest living crocodile in the world. The average length for adults is 1.5 meters and the largest known specimen was no bigger than 1.9 meters. The massive saltwater crocodile is three times its size!
Deinosuchus was one of the largest prehistoric crocodiles that ever lived, attaining lengths of about 10.5 meters and weighing around 4500 to 9000 kilograms. Ancient crocodiles were constantly growing...in the case of Deinosuchus, at the rate of about thirty centimeters per year. So, it's hard to know exactly how long the longest-lived specimens were.
The Crocodile's Mouth
Alligators and crocodiles have ferocious-looking jaws that can snap shut with tremendous force. However, the muscles for opening the mouth are quite weak. In fact, you can keep a crocodile's mouth shut by just snapping an elastic band around it! Amazing, isn't it?
Do you know what a mummy is? A mummy is the body of a person or an animal that has been preserved after death by a special process called mummification. The Ancient Egyptian God Sobek was depicted as a crocodile, a mummified crocodile or a man with the head of a crocodile. The Egyptians mummified both infant and mature crocodiles, and even buried crocodile eggs with a dead person in order to enlist the protection of Sobek in the afterlife for that person!
The American alligator is a noisy animal. Its call is like the roar of a lion and so loud that it can be heard over 150 meters away. Alligators grumble or roar when they are aggravated. During the breeding season, male alligators roar loudly, lifting their snouts and tails out of the water to warn away other males, and to attract females. Their body reverberates to such an extent during this behavior that the water dances on the alligator's back in a spectacular display!
Crocodile -Bird Synergism
Do you know what synergism is? It is a relationship in which two parties help each other, and mutually benefit from each other too. For example, crocodiles allow several birds like the Egyptian plover to feed off the bits of food stuck between the crocodile's teeth. In return, the bird gives a shrill alarm cry when it senses danger approaching, giving the crocodile plenty of time to slip into the water and escape.
Reptiles that live in saltwater like the crocodile, turtle, and sea snake have special salt glands that excrete the excess salt that is absorbed through their skin and food. In turtles, the salt glands are former tear glands. In the marine iguana, the salt glands are in the nose, and excess salt is sprayed out. Crocodiles have salt glands under their tongues and strangely enough, even freshwater crocodiles have them, though they really do not need salt glands.
When someone pretends to cry without feeling sad, we say they are shedding 'crocodile tears. Do you know why this phrase is used? It is because when a crocodile looks as though it is crying, it is actually not crying at all. It is only getting rid of the excess salt in its body through its tear glands.
Cuvier's Dwarf Caiman
The Cuvier's Dwarf Caiman is a small crocodile, but it is just as ferocious as its bigger cousins. It is usually around 1.2 meters long and found in cool, fast-moving rivers in South America, and sometimes in waterfalls and rapids. Even with its small size, a dwarf caiman eats birds, fish, other reptiles, and even some small mammals. Though it is so small, it has very few predators thanks to its armored, jagged skin.
Schneider's Dwarf Caiman
The Schneider's Dwarf Caiman prefers freshwater, particularly shallow forest streams. Adults often spend much of their time in burrows away from water, traveling overland between burrows and water to forage. The Schneider's dwarf caiman has a rather long snout, about 1.7 to 2 times as long and broad at the level of the front corners of the eyes. Its surface is smooth, without the ridges of other caimans. It is also called the smooth fronted caiman.
The American crocodile is one of the largest species of crocodiles. It can grow to up to 7 meters in length. It is basically lizard-shape in appearance, four squats but with powerful legs ending in sharp claws. American crocodiles are found in the southern tip of Florida, including the Florida Keys. They are also found in Central and South America, and the West Indies. American crocodiles prefer saltwater and are found primarily in saltwater swamps and marshes, sometimes swimming into the ocean.
The Philippine Crocodile is found only in the Philippines. It is chiefly found in freshwater environments, such marshes, ponds, small lakes, and small riverine tributaries. Compared to most other crocodile species, the Philippine crocodiles have a rather broad snout. It feeds chiefly on aquatic invertebrates and small vertebrates. This species of crocodile is one of the most severely threatened species around. Only about 500 - 1000 of these wonderful animals are found living outside of captivity.