Many species of snakes have skulls with several more joints than their lizard ancestors, enabling them to swallow prey much larger than their heads with their highly mobile jaws. To accommodate their narrow bodies, snakes' paired organs such as kidneys appear one in front of the other instead of side by side, and most have only one functional lung. Some species retain a pelvic girdle with a pair of vestigial claws on either side of the cloaca. Lizards have evolved elongate bodies without limbs or with greatly reduced limbs about twenty-five times independently via convergent evolution , leading to many lineages of legless lizards. Living snakes are found on every continent except Antarctica, and on most smaller land masses; exceptions include some large islands, such as Ireland, Iceland, Greenland, the Hawaiian archipelago , and the islands of New Zealand, and many small islands of the Atlantic and central Pacific oceans. More than 20 families are currently recognized, comprising about genera and about 3, species.
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Photos courtesy of Sean P. Bush There are many species of rattlesnakes in the United States. Rattlesnakes are the largest of the venomous snakes in the United States. They can quickly and accurately strike one-third or more of their body length from any position, whether coiled or stretched out. Rattlesnakes may use their rattles as a warning when they feel threatened, although they do not always rattle before biting. Rattlesnakes may be found sunning themselves near logs, boulders, or open areas. These snakes may be found in most work habitats including the mountains, prairies, deserts, and beaches.
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It's spring, and warmer weather brings more blooming flowers — but it also means snakes are becoming more active. Snakes play important roles in ecosystems, but they also terrify some people. That fear has led to many myths about snake behavior. To get to the bottom of some of the assumptions about snakes in the United States and separate fact from fiction, Live Science talked to several snake experts. Here are some commonly held beliefs about snakes and whether they're true or false.
Contrary to popular belief, the bite of a baby rattlesnake is almost always far less serious than the bite of a larger adult rattlesnake. See this excellent paper by the esteemed rattlesnake venom researcher Dr. Bill Hayes for evidence of this fact:.