Tuesday, March 27, 2007


Snakes of the World


Spare the snakes they are our friends.

The service rendered by snakes to the ecology as well as to the human beings goes un-noticed and these poor reptiles are subjected to most inhuman treatment in the hands of man, mostly out of ignorance and superstition. This article is intended to convey some information regarding the peculiarities of common snakes found in Indian Peninsula as well as other parts of the world.

Worshipped as well as hated!

Their habitat, feeding habits, size and shape, whether venomous or not etc are given along with some of the mythologies associated with snakes. Snakes are worshipped, feared, hated and misunderstood. Even in this age of scientific advancements man generally remain as ignorant of snakes as in the 18th century. Snakes are not responsible if Satan came in their shape!

Asia the paradise of snakes!

Asia with its temperate and tropical climates is rich in the varieties snake species as well as the numbers of each species. It is believed that there are altogether 2500 species of snakes in the world which are classified in to 15 families of which only 3 are venomous. The Indian sub-continent has about 388 species classified under 91 genera belonging to 11 families, of which about 50 species are venomous. There are no snakes in the arctic and Antarctic regions, New Zealand and Ireland also are said to be devoid of them. Madagascar is yet another surprise as there are no venomous snakes there.

Order, Family, Class, Genera, Species all jargons, fear not!

For scientists snakes are vertebrate animals belonging to the “sub-order” Ophidia (Serpents) which is included in the “Class” reptiles (Reptilia).Reptiles are cold blooded animals which crawls on the earth touching their ventral parts on floor. The famous dinosaurs were giant reptiles which ruled the earth before becoming extinct. Snakes once had limbs which were lost millions of years back in the course of evolution and yet they travel faster than those which crawl on legs!

Costume conscious!

Snakes cast off their skin about four or five times a year, as they crawl through the land their skin suffers wear and tear hence nature has kindly granted them this ability to get it changed periodically as if the skin is their attire! The arrangements of scales on the skin can be helpful in identifying the snake.

Wide variety!

Snakes vary widely from species to species in size when burrowing Typhlopidae (blind worm-like tiny creatures) which grow only 4 to 6 inches to the giant constricting type Boidae (Boas, Pythons and anacondas) which grow to a length exceeding 30 feet. Most of the snakes lay eggs (oviparous) as some give like vipers and birth to tiny ones!

They are just one of the five reptiles.

Reptiles in which snakes are included are classified by the scientists in to five “orders”, they are Crocodilia (crocs), Chelonia (Turtles, tortoises etc), Lacertilia (lizards), Ophidia (Snakes) and Rhynchocephalia (Tuatara) - now represented by only one species the Tuatara or “Sphenodon punctatus”.

This is the first among a series of posts on snakes to be published here at our blog. Images used in the article unless mentioned otherwise are from Mr Shibu Bhaskar - Naturalist: Coconut Lagoon. Kumarakom.

Snakes of the World - Part 1

Snakes of the World Part – 2. - Evolution in Snakes

Snakes of the World Part - 3. - Cobra

Snakes of the World Part - 4. - Viper

Snakes of the World Part - 5. - King Cobra

To be continued....

1 comment:

audenine said...

Very informative series. You posted in my blog about cats (and other animals), and now I have listed your snake series in another blog of mine you might be interested in - Ophiolatreia. Peace.