Snakes

Did you know?: 

The wavy serpentine motion is just one of four ways that snakes can move. Species of snakes may also use the concertina method (bunching up and throwing themselves forward), sidewinding (moving sideways like an inchworm) or the rectilinear method (a slow, straight creep forward).

At the EcoTarium

We have a variety of snakes living at the EcoTarium. You’ll find Onyx, our Eastern Rat Snake, in the Animal Corner building on the museum’s Lower Courtyard.

By special appearance: Our Royal Python, Kyle, and our Corn Snakes, Kernel and Zeek, are not currently on exhibit, but you may see them during our programs.

About Snakes

Snakes live almost everywhere in the world, on the land, in the water— even up in the trees! That’s pretty amazing for a reptile with no legs, claws, wings or anything else to help it get around. Snakes use their muscles to climb, slither and spring. They’re flexible because they have between 100 to 400 vertebrae, depending on their species. (Humans have just 33.)

A snake’s body is covered in scales, which helps it to grip surfaces and also protects it. Snakes shed that scaly skin periodically from head to tail. While they have poor vision compared with humans, their senses of touch and smell are strong. Snakes can feel vibrations through their bodies, allows them to sense the movement of other animals.  They also smell with a sensory organ called the Jacobson’s Organ on the roof of their mouth, collecting scent molecules from the air on their tongues. Snakes eat eggs, but will also ambush, suffocate or poison mammals, birds, amphibians and insects. Since their jaws are not fused, they can open their mouths wide enough to swallow everything they eat whole. No chewing needed!

The Eastern Rat Snake (formerly called the Black Rat Snake) is native to New England and one of the longest snakes in North America. Adults can reach 8 feet long. They are constrictors and frequently hunt for birds and eggs in the trees during the day. They are black with a light underbelly, unless they have a condition like leucisim or albinism that makes them white. When adults feel threatened, they may coil up and shake their tail under leaves to simulate a rattle, pretending to be poisonous.

Corn Snakes (also called Red Rat Snakes) are secretive and prefer to hide in burrows or in abandoned buildings, but are good tree climbers. They are constrictors and mainly hunt rodents. Females lay eggs, but do not incubate or protect them. Like many reptiles, the temperature of the eggs determines the sex of the young (warmer temperatures favor males, while cooler temperatures favor females). Normally, they are a mottled red, but may also be many shades of yellow and white.

Royal Pythons live near the equator in trees or caves in Africa and hunt the largest prey they can as constrictors.  Many consider them to be the most beautiful snake species for their brown patterning.  They have heat pits (temperature sensitive spots) on their ‘lips’ which help them aim their strike.  They are also called ball Pythons for their tendency to coil up into a ball when threatened.  Royal Python mothers protect and warm their eggs, coiling around them and “shivering” to heat its body up.