8 Reptile Myths Debunked

Only venomous snakes have teeth right? Today, we are going to debunk some common reptile myths. Since you’re now thinking of it let’s talk about that first myth, which is only venomous snakes have teeth. This is not true. The only species of snake that doesn’t have teeth is the egg-eating snake because it swallows eggs. But all other snakes do have teeth. And not only do they have some teeth, but they also have a lot of teeth. Six rows to be exact. Snakes have four rows of two on either side of their upper jaw or maxilla, and they have two rows of teeth on their lower jaw or mandible. One row on each side. That’s a lot of teeth. And their teeth curved backward like hooks or fangs you could say, they’re fang shaped teeth to assist in eating. Those teeth help guide the prey item down the throat of the snake. In addition to those teeth, truly venomous snakes and mildly venomous snakes, like giant Madagascar hognose. Have enlarged teeth, or specialized enlarged teeth known as fangs. Not only do the venomous and mildly venomous snakes have teeth but all snakes do. With the one exception of the egg-eating snake.

Our next myth is that vertical pupils mean the snake is venomous. That is also not true. The shape of a pupil only indicates at what time of day the snake is active during. Vertical slit-shaped pupils mean the snake is nocturnal, or active at night. Whereas round pupils mean the snake is active during the daytime, or it is diurnal. For example, if you think of ball pythons, they have vertically oriented pupils, but they’re not venomous. Right then there that myth is debunked. They are just merely a nocturnal species of snake. Where is a snake-like this giant Madagascar hognose has round pupils? Which means they are active during the daytime or is diurnal. There is a third type of behavior called crepuscular. Meaning that the animal is awake, or most active during dawn and at dusk and for these, I’ve found that they typically have round pupils. Garter snakes are a great example of a crepuscular snake. Since they are most active at dawn and dusk.

The next myth is that all snakes are slimy. If you’ve ever touched a snake you that this myth is not true. You just have to briefly touch one to realize “No, that’s not slimy”. I think the myth originates from people thinking frogs are slimy and so they assume that snakes must be too because they’re the same thing right? When working with kids, I usually tell them that snakes feel like basketball. Because they honestly feel like basketball. They’re not slimy in the least.

Our next myth is that snakes sting with their tails or their tongues. I don’t quite know where this one originated from other than their tongue has forked ends to it, and their tail does come to a kind of a sharper-looking point. People may have assumed that those were stingers but they’re not stingers. The end of their tail is just another scale and their tongue is just a tongue that’s used for smelling purposes. Although on some species of snakes like bull snakes, I have found that at the end of their tail. They do have kind of a sharper feeling scale? So maybe that’s where people think it might be a stinger, but there is no stinging involved with their tail. It’s just another scale at the end of their body.

The next myth is that snakes will measure up potential prey items. There’s a lovely story out there. That explains how there was a woman once who owned a large Python, and it stopped eating when she started allowing it to sleep in the bed next to her. She noticed that it started lining itself up lengthwise against her body and so she talked to her vet and the vet said that it was sizing her up to eat her and it wasn’t eating because it was waiting until it had enough room to fit the human. This is completely false. That is not a true story. I have no idea where that story originated from, but it is kind of amusing if you think about it though. Snakes as cute as they are, are not very bright animals. They’re not going to go up and measure themselves alongside their prey to see if they can handle it. They are ambush predators and opportunistic feeders, which means if a potential prey walks by them and they notice that they can handle it. They’re just going to eat it right then and there there’s no thinking or contemplating involved and if you think about it. They’re not going to go up to say a rabbit and say “hold still rabbit, I want to see if I can handle you first by aligning myself up next to you, and if I can, then eat you.”. You know to pray isn’t gonna sit still to allow a predator to determine whether it wants to eat it or not. It’s gonna take off. For both of those reasons. That myth is false. That whole story is false.

Our next myth is that snakes don’t have bones. You’d be surprised when you ask people if snakes have bones how many of them say, “No, they don’t have bones. It’s just cartilage”. That’s not true. They do have bones. They are vertebrates meaning they have a vertebral column down their back and they have between 200 and 400 of those back vertebrae each with a set of rib bones attached to it. That means they have between if my math is correct 600 and 1,200 bones just in their backbone and rib bones alone. That’s a lot of bones. That allows them to be able to move and have the flexibility that they do. Let’s mix it up a little bit and talk about turtles. If a turtle gets rolled onto its back, it will suffocate and die. Now, it is true that they have a tough time breathing if they are on their back since their diaphragms aren’t meant to support the amount of weight on their shell when they’re in an upside-down position. However, the fact that they get stuck on their back is the myth. Turtles have a very long neck that they use to stretch out and push with their snout on the surface to just flip back over. They also rely on their back feet to help kind of give them that extra nudge but tortoises are able to do the same thing.

Our last myth for today. That big snakes only need to eat once or twice a year right? That is also not true. Although some species of large pythons can go long periods of time without eating. They prefer not to. Snakes should be eating once every week to every four weeks depending on their species, their size, and their meal size. A snake should feed them more frequent, but smaller meals rather than less frequent but larger meals. It keeps their metabolism going at a better rate, just like it does with humans. That will be the last myth for today.

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