Snakes: Venom vs. Constriction

Snakes are complex predator that have unique ways to catch and eat their food. While most people think of snakes as being venomous, only about 20% of all snakes in the word are venomous.

Venomous Snakes

  • Store their venom in their fangs, which are hollow. Some snakes have their fangs in the front of their teeth and others have them in the back
  • Can use their venom to immobilize prey or for defense from predators

There is no one family of venomous snakes, they come from many different families

  • Atractaspidinae (Mole Vipers, Asps and Stilleto Snakes)
  • Colubridae (Mostly non venomous, but the boomslang is a highly venomous snake)
  • Elapidae (sea snakes, coral snakes, cobras)
  • Viperidae (rattle snake, pit vipers and cotton mouths)

Snakes carry different kinds of venom that can affect their prey differently. This includes

  • Blood hemorrhaging
  • Heart failure
  • Trouble breathing
  • Failure of the kidneys and other organs


Constricting Snakes

  • Are far more numerous than venomous snakes and are generally harmless to humans
  • Wrap their body around their prey, cutting off blood flow to the animal’s brain, killing it.
  • The snake can monitor the prey’s heartbeat and won’t begin to eat it until it can tell the animal is dead

Families of snakes that constrict include:

  • Pythonidae (More commonly known as pythons. Found in Asia, Africa and Australia, they include some of the largest snakes in the world, like the reticulated python)
  • Boidae (More commonly known as Boa Constrictors, Found all over the world, they are similar to the python except that they are viviparous meaning that they give birth to their babies alive)
  • Lampropeltis (Include the snake-eating king snake, and the milk snake)


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