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Animal Behavior of a Snake

Snakes are a widespread species that can be found in almost every part of the planet. While many people find them dangerous and even have phobias associated with snakes, they are interesting animals worthy of researchers’ attention. Due to the snakes’ inaccurate portrayal in media and culture, the general population lacks a comprehensive understanding of their nature. This essay will focus on the description of snakes and their animal behavior, specifically their nutrition, hunting, life cycle, and reproduction.

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Appearance and Anatomy

Snakes are a part of the Serpentes family and have more than three thousand various sub-species that differ in appearance, life cycle, nutrition, and predation. However, they all share common characteristics that mostly determine their animal behavior (Nafus et al. 83). For instance, as apparent from the snake’s body, they lack any limbs and rely on their body movements for relocation called locomotion (Nafus et al. 85). While some species have organs reminiscent of front legs, they are either not functional or not used.

Externally, snakes are covered in dry scales that facilitate their movement. This feature also helps them sustain body heat since snakes rely on the environment to maintain the needed temperature (Nafus et al. 89). As per the snake’s internal organs, due to their unique body structure, they have been shrunken and placed in a linear way to sustain a snake’s life. For example, most snakes breathe only through one lung (Nafus et al. 94). Another peculiarity is that their bones are flexible and aided with several ribs throughout the body to support their movements.

Behavior between Species

Concerning how snakes interact with each other, the animals prefer solitude and seldom can be seen in groups. The only social events that snakes have during their lifetimes are the mating and, rarely, sheltering (Wallach and Peters 5). Except for these occasions, snakes prefer to be alone, especially during hunting and protecting the newborn eggs. While they may rarely share the hiding spots, this factor is mostly reliant on space availability rather than a need in social interactions (Wallach and Peters 5). Thus, it can be concluded that there is no social hierarchy, structure, dominance, and territoriality among these animals.

Predation

All snakes are predators regardless of their size and appearance. Snakes of a relatively small size hunt on insects and smaller prey while bigger creatures feed on larger animals. The snakes’ jaws are not designed for chewing but merely catching and holding their prey (Wallach and Peters 3). Therefore, the ways of hunting differ tremendously across different types of serpents: some catch other animals by wrapping their body around them and crushing the victims. Other snakes pin smaller animals to the ground and kill them (Wallach and Peters 9). Lastly, the most infamous way of predation among snakes is their poison (Dehghani et al. 1207). Snakes can develop venom in their salivary glands and then inject it into the prey (Dehghani et al. 1209). Once snakes capture an animal, they swallow it whole and then begin the process of digestion (Wallach and Peters 9). Venom is not only used for hunting but also when an animal feels threatened or alarmed (Herr et al. 89). In these cases, one can either suffer from an injury or die from intoxication.

Lifecycle

Another essential aspect of examining snakes and their animal behavior is their lifecycle. Snakes across species live two to four years on average. However, it is vital to note that some snakes can live up to forty years in the absence of other predators and external human interventions (Do et al. 583). After developing to a needed stage inside a leather egg, a newborn snake escapes by cutting it open with their tooth and then losing it (Do et al. 586). After being born, their continuous nutrition by small animals is ensured by the mother. Eventually, the snakes shed their skin for the first time and continue as fully developed animals. Throughout their lifespan, they mate, hunt for survival, and, depending on the climate of the environment snakes inhabit, they can also go into the dormant periods for cold seasons (Krohmer and Jurkovic 1127). Due to the fact that they cannot control their body heat, low temperatures do not allow snakes to live actively during winter.

Reproduction

The reproduction behavior of a species is essential for their survival, and snakes are not an exception. All serpents have a universal reproduction method by mating after hibernation and then laying eggs of their offspring (Do et al. 586). After the dormant period described in the previous section ends, both female and male counterparts are the most susceptible to conceiving offspring (Do et al. 583). Before mating, the snakes perform the courtship dance, which is debated to be either an interaction between opposite-sex snakes, a warrior dance to intimidate the male opponent, or a homosexual encounter (Glaudas et al. 998). During the event, the snakes become intertwined with each other and stand up on their tails to eventually fall back onto the ground (see fig. 1). After breeding with a chosen partner, a female snake begins to form eggs and lay them in a secure shelter when they are developed enough.

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Snakes’ mating dance
Figure 1. Snakes’ mating dance (Swarts).

Conclusion

In conclusion, it can be stated that snakes are unique animals in terms of their appearance and behaviors. As predatory serpents with a peculiar linear body structure and lack of limbs, they hunt in a specific way by physically strangling or poisoning their prey. There is no social need among snakes except mating dances, which are the source of animals’ reproduction. Depending on the climate of the environment, snakes’ lifecycle can be disturbed by the periods of dormancy.

Works Cited

Dehghani, Rouhullah, et al. “Fungal Flora in The Mouth of Venomous and Non-Venomous Snakes.” Comparative Clinical Pathology, vol. 25, no. 6, 2016, pp. 1207-1211. Springer Science and Business Media, Web.

Do, Min Seock, et al. “First Observation on Courtship Behavior of Short-Tailed Viper Snake, Gloydius Saxatilis (Squamata: Viperidae) In Korea.” Journal of Asia-Pacific Biodiversity, vol. 10, no. 4, 2017, pp. 583-586. Elsevier, Web.

Glaudas, Xavier, et al. “The Intensity of Sexual Selection, Body Size and Reproductive Success in A Mating System with Male–Male Combat: Is Bigger Better?” Oikos, vol. 129, no. 7, 2020, pp. 998-1011. Wiley, Web.

Herr, Mark, et al. “Stressed Snakes Strike First: Hormone Levels and Defensive Behavior in Free Ranging Cottonmouths (Agkistrodon Piscivorus).” General and Comparative Endocrinology, vol. 243, 2017, pp. 89-95. Elsevier, Web.

Krohmer, Randolph, and Jenna Jurkovic. “Neuronal Plasticity in The Forebrain of The Male Red-Sided Garter Snake: Effect of Season, Low Temperature Dormancy, and Hormonal Status on Dendritic Spine Density.” Physiology & Behavior, vol. 215, 2020, pp. 1127-1189. Elsevier, Web.

Nafus, Melia, et al. “Behavior, Size, And Body Condition Predict Susceptibility to Management and Reflect Post-Treatment Frequency Shifts in An Invasive Snake.” Global Ecology and Conservation, vol. 21, 2020, pp. 83-94. Elsevier, Web.

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Swarts, Rick. “Snake.” New World Encyclopedia, 2018, Web.

Wallach, Van, and James Peter. “Snake.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2019, Web.

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