Snakes slither around and move differently from other animals. But how do they do this? Do snakes have bones that help this movement?
Because snakes seem to be so flexible, it is easy to believe they don’t have any bones. Many people presume they’re invertebrates because of how they’re able to move and wrap their bodies around different objects.
Do Snakes Have Bones?
Contrary to what you might think, snakes actually do have bones. Snakes can have hundreds of bones based on their size and species. However, unlike mammals, snakes have just a few types of bones, including the skull, jawbones, and backbone with the vertebrae and ribs.
Due to their unique body shape, the internal organs of snakes are a bit different. In these reptiles, one-third front part of their body is occupied by the throat while the other organs, including the kidneys, liver, lungs, and stomach, are elongated in shape in the rest of their bodies.
We have been studying snakes for years and are aware of every little detail about these amazing reptiles. In this article, we will clear up the structure of an average snake, including the bones they have and how their bodies help them in the wild.
A Snake’s Basic Structure
There are essentially two types of animals – vertebrates and invertebrates. Vertebrates have a backbone, while invertebrates do not. While this might be hard to believe, snakes, like all other reptiles, birds, mammals, and fish, are vertebrates.
The inner skeleton is present in all of these species. Bones give our bodies structure and support. Our muscles are connected to our bones, allowing us to move when we contract them. Snakes require a large number of bones to be both flexible and strong.
Number of Bones in Snakes
Snakes only have a few types of bones compared to mammals and other animals, but those bones are high in number. The total number of bones a snake has varies depending on its species.
For instance, a short-bodied viper, like the puff adder, will have around 180 vertebrae in its backbones. On the other hand, a long-bodied snake, like the mamba, can have up to 400 vertebrae. These vertebrae are connected to a pair of ribs.
Ribs and Vertebrae
Snakes have elastic backbones composed of ribs and vertebrae and skulls and jawbones containing teeth. Excluding the tail, which has no ribs, every vertebra has two ribs. The end vertebrae are held in place by bony extensions on the front and rear extremities of the backbone, providing flexibility yet keeping the backbone from sliding out of position.
Zygapophyses are bony protrusions placed in the front and back of each vertebra as with most reptiles, but a snake possesses an additional set in the front and back of each vertebra. This implies that each vertebra in the snake’s vertebral canal articulates with the subsequent vertebra in five locations, resulting in robust joints.
A solitary snake joint isn’t elastic in and of itself, but the snake’s incredible flexibility is due to the increasing amount of them.
The ribs of a snake do not unite and have free ends. This enables both expansion and contraction when eating prey that’s much bigger than the snake.
For example, when a cobra builds a hood, it is drawing its upper ribs up. As a defensive technique, the hognose snake draws in its ribs and straightens itself. The snake’s absence of a breastbone also makes it easier to eat prey.
The ribs of a snake are bent and flexible, with forks on the terminal ribs. The snake’s viscera, which are long and skinny like the reptiles, are protected by them.
Because snake ribs aren’t attached to a sternum like human ribs, they can stretch to accept enormous prey, just like the snake’s jaws. The king cobra is unique in that it can raise its front ribs and expand them into a hood to convey its danger.
The Skull and Jaws
A snake’s dilemma is that it is a predator with a slim body and no appendages with which to grasp and retain prey. Even if a snake had the type of teeth seen in the jaws of lions and leopards, this would make consuming prey challenging. So how does a snake, which has no legs, eat?
Snakes must paralyze their prey somehow, so they crush or envenomate it to death. However, some snakes gulp their prey while it is still breathing. The snake’s elastic skull bones come into play here. The jaw stretches depending on the size of the prey.
The upper jaw comprises distinct bones held together by extraordinarily elastic ligaments. Because these ligaments are so supple, they can draw the bones up and out.
The lower jaw is made up of two long bones that are connected at the sides by flexible ligaments connecting to the rear of the skull. These bones can open downwards and out because the higher bones can move up and out.
This permits the snake to eat prey that is up to three times its own size.
The snake’s fangs are strong enough just to hold the prey, but they are incapable of chewing. The snake’s fangs grab the prey and push it down the snake’s neck by moving back and forth. Because this can take a long time, the snake extends its windpipe from its mouth to inhale.
Snakes also have to replace their teeth regularly.
Vestigial Limbs of Snakes
Snakes descended from lizards, and centuries ago, some lizards with shorter legs discovered that they had an advantage in specific settings. As a result, the legs of this group became shorter and shorter.
The characteristic was passed down through the generations until snakes finally started being born without legs. Although modern snakes lack limbs, several python and boa species maintain pelvic spurs’ vestigial back legs.
Why Is It Beneficial to Have So Many Bones?
A snake’s large number of bones increases its flexibility. A vertebrate with substantially fewer bones, like a human, would be unable to twist and turn in the same manner as a snake. Snakes have a lot of bones, which help reinforce their spinal column and protect their spinal cord.
Composition of Snake Bones
Snake bones are structurally and chemically similar to those of other vertebrates. They are made up of various distinct tissues that work together to create a light and robust structure.
Bones are largely made up of the protein collagen, giving them flexibility and preventing them from breaking. In addition, mineral salts, such as calcium phosphate strengthen bones.
Is It Possible For Snakes To Break Their Bones?
Yes. Although snakes are highly robust, they are susceptible to damaged bones. Snakes have thousands of ribs that can be fractured or damaged.
Unfortunately, snakes in the wild cannot receive treatment to help heal their bones. However, they will eventually recover on their own.
Is it Possible to Eat Snake Bones?
Snake bones are theoretically edible, but only because they aren’t venomous or toxic. However, as you might expect, snake bones, like every sort of animal bone, aren’t particularly tasty! Not to mention that snake bones are small and skinny, making them prone to splintering.
If they create any ripping or damage in your digestive system, this could cause complications for you, so it is best not to consume them.